Patriots fall to Bessemer in semifinals

Published 4:04 pm Friday, February 15, 2019

The Pike Liberal Arts couldn’t fight their way all the way back from a double-digit deficit in their 61-47 loss to Bessemer in the AISA Class AAA State Semifinals on Friday morning in Montgomery.

The Patriots led only once on Friday morning. After trailing by 11 at halftime, the Patriots cut their deficit down to just three points in the third quarter before the Rebels pulled away late.

“It was a tough game,” said head coach Alan Ponder. “When you’re playing such a physical basketball team, you are having to fight up hill. We lost so much on second-chance points. We didn’t do a good job at boxing out and we allowed a lot of second-chance points. It makes it very difficult.”
The Patriots led only briefly in Friday’s loss. After Drew Nelson put the Patriots up 3-2 on a three-point attempt, the Rebels never trailed again.

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Nelson finished the quarter with six points, while Javon Christian scored five. The Patriots went into the second trailing by double digits at 23-13.

The Patriots trimmed their deficit back to single digits at 28-19 late in the second quarter. The Rebels closed out the first half up 11 at 33-22.

The Patriots opened up the second half on a 9-1 run and pulled to within three after Max Copeland scored the basketball.

The Patriots had an opportunity on their next possession after they forced a Rebel turnover. As was the case for much of the contest, the Patriots couldn’t capitalize on the Rebel mistake.

“We thought we could force turnovers and we did,” Ponder said. “You can’t force a turnover and then give it right back, especially to a team like that. When you have a turnover and you have a chance to cut into the lead, that’s a momentum changer.”

The Rebels scored the final five points of the quarter and went into the fourth leading by eight at 39-31.

After Bessemer scored the first four points of the fourth quarter, Ponder was forced to call a timeout trailing 43-31.

The Rebels stretched their lead to as high as 18 points in the fourth quarter before ultimately winning by 14.

“I thought we battled the entire game,” Ponder said. “I thought we just ran out of steam midway through the second half.”

With the season now over, the Patriots are forced to say goodbye to three seniors in Cody Hollis, Jade Sikes and Copeland.

“They have done it all year long,” Ponder said. “They have carried us all year long. Like I told them after the game, we are going to walk out of here with our heads held high because they have started to develop a winning program. They have a lot of excitement towards our program and we have never had that. I contribute all of that to our seniors. Our seniors get all of that credit. They set the bar high and now we have to ask the guys to come back and do it again next year.”