State champs: JV Patriots knock off Morgan Academy 37-35

Published 9:05 pm Monday, January 28, 2019

The Pike Liberal Arts junior varsity Patriots preached all season long about the importance of discipline and hard work. On Saturday night, they got to see both important traits pay off when they took home a state championship.

The Patriots knocked off Morgan Academy 37-35 in overtime in the finals of the JV State Tournament in Auburn.

“I am really excited for our players,” said head coach Brandon Matthews. “Anytime you can see discipline and hard work pay off, it’s a good thing. These guys, really from the beginning of the year bought into our standards. To see them trusting that standard and to see it pay of is really cool.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Leadership and creating a culture was also a goal for coach Matthews in year one.

“The important thing is seeing them grow and develop as leaders,” Matthews said. “I can tell you and list off every player and tell you how they develop individually as a leader. Really it was just an all-around exciting experience.”

The Patriots and Senators ended regulation in a 34-34 tie. The Patriots outscored the Senators in overtime 3-1 to secure the win.

“It speaks to the character and leadership of our team,” Matthews said. “Really throughout the entirety of the game there were so many momentum changes. Morgan was a great team and were really well-coached. To see our guys remain steady was really cool to see. We responded well and embraced adversity well.”

Drew Nelson finished with a game-high 24 points. Jayden Jordon finished with six points.

For his efforts, Nelson was named the tournament’s most valuable player. Tre Holmes, Peyton Jacobs and Nelson were named to the all-tournament team.

The Patriots were forced to play in three games on their way to a championship. They began the tournament at 8:30 on Saturday morning when they took on Macon East. After getting past round one with a 46-7 win, the Patriots matched up Tuscaloosa Academy. The Patriots defeated the Knights 40-29 to advance to the championship game.

“I think our players maintained discipline throughout the day,” Matthews said. “There were six- hour waiting periods, so our players had to stay off their feet and they tried to stay hydrated. I trusted our conditioning and I believe mentally we were prepared and I think physically we were prepared as any team there.”

The win for the JV Patriots continues a current run of success on the hardwood. The varsity Patriots recently racked up an area championship and a number one seed in the upcoming state tournament.

“Coach (Alan) Ponder and I talk all the time about basketball is often seen at Pike Liberal as a time in between football and baseball,” Matthews said. “We are trying to create a competitive culture there. With the success that we have had in JV and varsity, I think it elevates our entire athletic program. We just want to be an athletic program that is thankful for the ability to compete day in and day out.

“I’m really excited moving forward. I think it’s going to be huge for us, not only in basketball, but for the entire athletic department.”

Members of the Pike Liberal Arts state championship team include Cade Renfroe, Drew Nelson, Tre Holmes, Jayden Jordan, Andrew Adams, Parker Adams, Cannon McClain, Houston Gunter, Bryant Swindall, Frankie Jeffcoat, Davis Kilcrease, Kase Chirico, Slade Renfroe, Bubba Dean, Peyton Jacobs and Jace Calhoun.