• 88°

Patriots ready to begin play

The Pike Liberal’s boys basketball team enters the season with a lot of question marks, but the Patriots look to make a splash with a veteran-laden group in the 2016-2017 season.

“Everyone is looking forward to it,” said head coach Allen Ponder. “I have a few guys that have been going through a preseason program for a while and they are looking forward to getting out there and playing someone else.”

Last season, the Patriots advanced to the Elite 8 in the state tournament. This season, questions are plentiful.

“We have a lot of question marks,” Ponder said. “We have some freshman that are moving up to the sophomore class that I think will help us. We have some holes that we need to fill– we had a lot of seniors last year.”

The Patriots roster this season will feature three juniors and seven seniors, five of which played for the Patriots last year. Ponder hopes that key returning starters Hunter Jones, J.T. Ball and Patrick O’ Brian will help lead the way.

“We are a veteran-oriented group,” Ponder said. “We have some spots to fill, but I believe we have the kids that can fill those spots and be productive for us.”

Last season, the Patriots relied on deep shooting led by Hunter Jones. This season, Ponder believes he will once again have the sharp shooters, but believes this year’s team will also have the ability to score inside.

“We will be able to mix it up a little more this year,” Ponder said. “We do have the guys that can shoot well from the outside. I believe this year we have a little more size and a little more bulk. Last year we relied on the three point shot, and I believe we will be able to move it in and out a little more.”

The Patriots jump into the season with a tournament at Lee Scott on Monday. The Trojans will be entered with Macon-East, Evangel, Crenshaw and Lee Scott. The tournament will be a two-day event with both the Patriots boys and girls in action.

“It’s always fun to start things off with a tournament,” Ponder said. “It’s fun to play in front of people from different schools. We will see some games on Monday and Tuesday and it will give me the opportunity to scout some teams that we will see down the road.”

The Pike girls and boys will begin play against Autauga on Monday beginning at 3 p.m. and then play again on Tuesday against Macon East beginning at 9 a.m.