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Patriots enter playoffs

The Pike Patriots closed out the regular season on Tuesday night with a loss to Lakeside. Now they turn their sights to the regional tournament starting this afternoon.

Even with a loss to the Chiefs to end the regular season, coach Alan Ponder and the Patriots are excited to begin postseason play.

“Our kids are really looking forward to it,” Ponder said. “They have an understanding of the amount of urgency that we have to have in order to win. We are in crunch time now. If we lose we are done; if we win we move on.”

The Patriots finished the season 7-10 and 1-3 in region play, but Ponder believes his squad is playing it’s basketball of the season heading into the tournament, which was a goal for the Patriots from the beginning of the season.

“The main goal for us last night (Tuesday) was to play our best basketball heading into the tournament,” Ponder said. “We wanted to have momentum going into Thursday and I thought we accomplished that. We played really good and hard. I think we are ready– now it’s just a matter of showing up on Thursday.”

All season long the Patriots have hinged their success on shooting from the outside. With the postseason getting underway, Ponder knows the Patriots will have to come up with more than their shooting capabilities.

“For us, we are not the most consistent shooting team out there, so we really have to bank on our effort,” Ponder said. “We really have to give 100 percent effort for 32 minutes every single game in order for us to be successful. “

One area of the game where effort is on display is on the boards, and Ponder would like to see the Patriots improve in that area.

“We have to rebound the basketball and eliminate second-chance points,” Ponder said. “We are going to take a lot of shots and on those nights when you’re not fortunate enough to be on, you have to be able to get stops.”

One player that has consistently improved all season long has been Patrick O’Brian.

“If I had to give an award to the most improved player it would be Patrick O’Brian,” Ponder said. “He has come the furthest of any player on our team. Not in terms of his skills, but because of how aggressive he is. He has been a main voice this year and not only that, but he has stepped up his play.”

The Patriots have drawn Hooper in the first round and the teams will tip things off at 1 p.m. at Fort Dale with the winner taking on Morgan on Friday.

“Our team and our focus right now has to be one game at a time,” Ponder said. “We would love to make it to Friday, but Hooper is our main focus. They have a good basketball team and they are going to shoot the ball a lot. Hooper is like a lot of other teams in this league where if they make a lot of shots, they’re going to be tough. They are going to play energetic on defense…We know we are going to have a battle ahead of us.”