Patriots are hungry to take another step next season

Published 7:36 pm Monday, February 17, 2020

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Pike Liberal Arts walked somberly off the court on Saturday after falling in the AISA state championship. Even with the loss, head coach Allen Ponder and the Patriots have a lot to be happy and excited about heading into the offseason.

The Patriots and the Knights played a tight basketball game for three and half quarters on Saturday night. The Knights eventually put the game away with a 12-0 run midway through the fourth quarter.

“We knocked down a lot of tough shots during the game,” Ponder said. “We knew if there was an opportunity when we didn’t knock down a big shot they were going to have an opportunity to go on a run.”

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After trailing 44-43 midway through the fourth quarter, the Patriots were outscored 19-4 the rest of the way.

Despite the loss, the Patriot basketball team continues to make strides. After making it to Montgomery’s Elite 8 two years ago, the Patriots advanced to the Final Four for the first time last year. After making it to the finals this year, the hunger is already there heading into the off season.

“We are making strides every single year,” Ponder said. “We are taking steps every single year. We have two seniors on this team. We have a lot of guys returning that will be eager and hungry to get back here again.”

The Patriots are saying goodbye to two seniors in Nick O’Brien and Jaquavian Johnson.

“They are huge,” Ponder said. “They are the group of kids, along with a few from last year, that started this culture. We can contribute all of it to the kids that came through. They worked extremely hard and did exactly what we asked them to do and you can see the result.”

The Patriots should have a large about of players returning next season highlighted by Javon Christian, Austin Cross, Jeff Knotts and Drew Nelson.

“This is all the motivation we need,” Nelson said. “We got here this year and this gives us that much more of a reason to work harder and get back here next year and get the job done.”

Nelson finished the game with 14 points on Saturday night. Heading into next year, Nelson will be looked upon as one of the leaders of a team he should be really familiar with.

“We have the hardest working boys,” Nelson said. “I wouldn’t want to go to war with anybody else. We are going to work until we get the job done.”