Friday, January 4, 2013

Pikeville's Bart Williams Looking for Consistency in 15th Region All A Classic

The 15th region All A Classic starts tomorrow at the Pikeville Expo Center and the first game is a 59th district matchup of Pikeville and East Ridge at 6:30pm.

I recently spoke with Pikeville head coach Bart Williams about the matchup with their district rival and his thoughts on the 15th region All A Tournament field and how anyone could win the region's birth in the All A state tournament in Frankfort.

"The All A has turned into something different now, with 13 of the 16 teams in the region and it is a pretty big deal, especially playing at the Expo Center. I think both brackets have 4 teams that could come out of that bracket. With Johnson Central not in this tournament, there are probably 8 or 9 teams that could win this tournament."

The only teams that aren't in the 15th region All A tournament due to their enrollment being too large are Belfry, Pike Central, and the aforementioned Johnson Central Golden Eagles.

As mentioned earlier, both Pikeville and East Ridge are in the same district and will have to play two more times in the regular season, Williams knows his Panthers will have to be ready for a fired up Warriors squad and also knows he will have to play the same team two more times in the next 20 days.

"We drew for the region back in spring, and when the draw came out, I thought it was not good because we have to play them two times anyway. It really wasn't that big of a deal then, but with Ray Kasongo transferring into Pikeville, now all of a sudden it is a huge game and has gotten a lot more media attention and  it gets a lot of people hyped up in this area."

The 6'8" Kasongo, who transferred from East Ridge to the Panthers, was first ruled ineligible by the KHSAA but won an appeal and was ruled eligible to play right before the season started. As you might think, the Pikeville big man has made a big impact, averaging 13.8 ppg, 9 rbg, and blocking 58 shots while playing in 10 of 13 games.

Williams knows Kasongo will be the focus of attention for his former team Friday night.

"I am just going to tell Ray that we don't know what to expect when you leave a district rival, and you go to another school in your district, sometimes it ends up not being a pretty sight." "It has been a little harder for Ray since he has gotten some statewide attention, things like being in the top 25 in the state preseason, so it is a little added hype."

Williams knows East Ridge head coach Randy McCoy will be ready for the Panther big man and has an idea of how they will try to stop him, since he was trying to stop Ray Kasongo last season.

"It was kind of the same things we did against him last year. We didn't have any size to match up with him so we had to do some things, like staying low, keeping him pushed out of the lane, and keeping him frustrated. It worked for us last year as we beat East Ridge three times. We are seeing the same things this year.."

The Pikeville Panthers have been in some very tight games this season, losing 4 by a total of 9 points, and Coach Williams knows that having a good run in the All A could be the springboard his team needs to get back on the winning track in a region that is considered to be wide open.

"It could be a huge turning point in our season, we are 6-7, we have played a tough schedule with no cupcakes. We are just looking for some consistency, Ray got stuck at home in Canada because of snow and we played Spencer County and Middlesboro without him in the PIT and it is tough to have him and then we don't."  "We are just looking for some kind of consistency, and this is no knock on anyone in our region, but there are a couple of games we thought we should have won in Betsy Layne and Magoffin County on our home floor, and I think that was part of a growing up process for our team."

Williams also spoke about how young his team is and how they are learning to trust each other on a game by game basis.

"I think it comes with trust issues and our kids trusting Ray and Ray trusting our kids that have been here. We play about 7 kids and 4 of them are freshman, so a lot of times we play like freshman. That kind of explains how we have blown some leads and kind of explains how we lost 4 games by 3 points or less. We are just looking to grow up and our freshman to keep getting better. I told them it is January now so you can't play like freshman anymore and hopefully this All A will give a chance to put a string of games together and gain some consistency and finally start to put together a streak we have been looking for."

The Pikeville Panthers will have a big test ahead of them Friday night in the 15th region All A Classic and it sounds like their coach is trying to do what any coach is trying to do at this time of the year.

Bring his team together and make a push on the Road to Rupp.

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