JV Patriot boys and girls basketball teams gear up for State

Published 8:44 am Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Pike Liberal Arts junior varsity Patriots will begin the 2019 postseason when they participate in the state tournament on Saturday in Auburn.

The Junior varsity boys, led by coach Brandon Matthews, will head into the tournament as the number one seed after finishing the season with a 15-1 record.

“It’s really exciting for the players,” Matthews said. “You like to see hard work be rewarded. We are really grateful to be playing in it and I’m really excited for them. We are not complacent or content with just making it, but we are grateful for the opportunity.”

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The Patriots enter the tournament with an older roster, one that is composed of many freshmen. The Patriots were able to get off to a hot start at the beginning of the season and rode it all the way through.

“We have talented players,” Matthews said. “Early in the season we were very hot beyond the perimeter. Throughout the season we developed into more of a complete team.”

Matthews is new to Pike Liberal this season. During his time coaching the basketball team, Matthews has leaned heavily on the teachings of varsity head coach Alan Ponder.

“Coach Ponder with the varsity has helped me tremendously,” Matthews said. “He has a wealth of information and he has been very helpful.”

One ninth grader that has made an impact this season has been Drew Nelson. Nelson has bounced from varsity and junior varsity all season long and Matthews believes it has ultimately helped his game.

“I think him playing varsity has been tremendous for him,” Matthews said. “I think it has kept him hungry, in terms of development. He is a phenomenal athlete and I think in JV he has really grown as a leader. Our primary goal is to develop these guys as leaders. I have seen him really embrace that role.”

The Patriots will open up against eighth-seeded Macon East at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday at Lee-Scott Academy in Auburn. If they advance to the finals, they will be tasked with playing three games in one day.

“I’m confident in our abilities when it comes to conditioning,” Matthews said. “I think we will be able to do it.”

The Lady Patriots junior varsity team enters the tournament as a four seed after they finished off the regular season 7-3.

They will matchup with fifth-seeded Northside Methodist at 9:30 a.m.

“I think the girls are really excited,” said head coach Tori Peters. “We are coming in as a four seed. The other two teams we lost to are seeded ahead of us. They were pretty close losses. In postseason anything can happen, so they are very excited. It’s a big accomplishment for us. We are a younger group, so where we were last year and where we are this year says a lot about the group.”

Ball movement has been an area of strength for the Patriots this season. On the defensive side of the ball, the Patriots have shown they can be aggressive.

“They will get after it,” Peters said. “You like to see that. They are aggressive.”

The Lady Patriots are no strangers to playing in tournaments, so the potential of a long day on Saturday doesn’t concern Peters.

“We played in a tournament earlier in the season,” Peters said. “A lot of those girls play over on varsity as well and we played in varsity tournaments where we were playing four games in two days. They handled that.”