Overcoming adversity: Pike County wins first-ever state championship
The Pike County Bulldogs stormed the court after winning their first Class 3A State Championship on Friday afternoon at Legacy Arena in Birmingham.
The Bulldogs never trailed and held on late to defeat the Tigers 59-45.
The Bulldogs last made the trip to Birmingham in 2016. After falling to Madison Academy, Coach Doug Holland waited for the opportunity to make the trip back. Four years later his team finally made the trip and concluded it with a state championship.
“When we got up this morning I told them no matter what I am still proud of them,” Holland said. “It’s been a great year and it was capped off with something special. It’s been a long journey. When you get here in 2016, you don’t think you’re going to get back. God had a plan of putting us back here. We had some adversity along the way and we thank God for another opportunity.”
The biggest adversity this season came when teammate Reggie Edwards passed away. Since that day the Bulldogs played for their fallen teammate and on Friday they made sure to take time to think of him.
“It’s been our driving point ever since we lost him,” Holland said. “The players and coaches came up with our warmups and his jersey stays behind our bench. Its something for our players to rally around when things get tough.”
The Bulldogs didn’t face much adversity on Friday afternoon. Behind the trio of Andres Burney, Ian Foster and Omar Cumberbatch, the Bulldogs led from the opening tip.
After playing just 16 minutes in the semifinal on Tuesday, Burney never exited the game on Friday. The senior finished the game two block shots away from a triple-double. He finished with 21 points, 24 rebounds and eight blocked shots.
“That’s just how I play,” Burney said. “Coach tells me to play aggressive.
Friday’s win capped off what has been a special career for Burney.
“He has been special,” Holland said. “He came to us having never played basketball. A coach came running to me saying ‘Coach there is a kid on campus you need to see.’ To see him grow from a kid to a young man has been a sight. He loves basketball and he plays basketball. Never takes a lot of time off. I am very proud of him today.”
Ian Foster finished the game with 14 points. After leading the team in the semifinals, Cumberbatch finished in double figures once again with 12 points.
The Bulldogs raced out to a 6-0 lead, with Burney scoring five of the six points. Amaghie Lampley and Foster scored three points each and the Bulldogs went into the second leading 8-4.
Holding a 14-13 lead, the Bulldogs embarked on a 7-0 run to pull ahead 21-13. They went into the half leading 23-18.
After the Tigers cut their deficit to four at 25-21, the Bulldogs used a 10-0 run to go up 35-21. Cumberbatch and Foster scored all 10 points during the run. Pike County went into the fourth leading 39-24.
Trailing by 20, the Tigers went on an 8-0 run that saw them creep back to within 12 at 44-32.
“I told them (his players) they are one of the best perimeter shooting teams that we have seen in a while,” Holland said. “12 points is nothing for a team like that. 15, 20, they’re never out of a game.”
The Trio of Burney, Cumberbatch and Foster converted their free throws down the stretch to help preserve the Bulldogs win.
At the conclusion of the game, Foster and Cumberbatch were named to the All-Tournament team, while Burney was named Tournament MVP.