There are many reasons that the Pike Red Devils (17-7) have been enjoying their run so far in the IHSAA Class 4A basketball tournament. From the thrill of winning the program's first Regional since the Red Devils' undefeated State championship run in 2003, to the excitement they must be feeling as a group to band together through the sweat and hard work to finally achieve their basketball goals.
But for all the motivations of good feelings that come from winning, there is definitely three reasons that stand alone as the sweetest. They just happen to come in the form of M&M, snickerdoodle, and oatmeal, or better known as Head Coach Bill Zych wife's cookies.
"Man those snickerdoodle cookies," said Pike Senior Warren Gordon with a smile on his face. "We get them after every big win. Coach's wife Mrs. Zych makes them, and we love them, we just take about ten at a time."
Gordon isn't making an understatement when he claims they players take ten as a time as Mrs. Zych had an entire pan that was emptied out in a matter of seconds after Pike's practice, but to say the Red Devils haven't earned them would be an understatement. This past Saturday Pike advanced out of the Hinkle Regional with a 74-68 victory over Lawrence Central in the morning session, capped off with a 66-48 victory over Terre Haute North in the championship game.
"It was our transition offense," said Junior Zavier Turner about the championship game. "I think they had trouble guarding us and our main thing was to push the ball on them and we got guys open and got good shots."
Turner led all Pike scorers with 14 points, while sharp-shooter in Junior R.J. Hunter finished with 12, Junior Taishaun Johnson finished with 11, and Senior Johntae Alexander finished with 9 points and five rebounds. It was the typical all-around performance that Pike has been bringing to every game so far this tournament, with each game bringing a role player stepping up and making a name for himself.
"That's what my type of philosophy that we are trying to bring here to Pike and it's been quite evident," said Head Coach Bill Zych.
"Even back in the Sectionals we had some kids like John Roberts, a sophomore that hadn't played any varsity minutes, he played some key minutes in the Friday night sectional game (four points in a 84-68 victory over Avon). We know who are our consistent players are, and we know the other guys are going to step up. That's a tribute to them because every game it seems to be someone new."
Zavier Turner talked about how the team had to learn to play together to make up for the loss of Kentucky Freshman Marquis Teague, and the results have shown to be impressive so far on the court. But Saturday brings a new challenge for the Red Devils in the form of Castle (20-4), who defeated Bloomington South 66-52 behind 6'5 small forward Blake Simmons' 23 points.
"It's a little bit different from a Marion County team because their strength comes from the inside game and not necessarily their guards," said Zych about Castle. "Now their guards are good, but their main scorer comes from the inside which is a little bit different from Marion County basketball. They are big and strong inside, tough physically, and they have won 20 games so you know they are going to be very good."
The belief between the Pike basketball players though is that as long as they play Red Devils basketball, shoot and defend consistently, they believe they have a strong chance to pull off a victory. But that doesn't mean they don't realize the magnitude of what's at stake on Saturday.
"I told my dad (Georgia State Head coach Ron Hunter) that these next two games are the biggest games of my life," said Pike Junior R.J. Hunter. "And I'm going to treat them like that."
Hunter, who has been averaging 20.5 points per game on the season, says his father told him to just stay focused on these next two games so he and the Red Devils can get the patented IHSAA State championship ring.
But first if they get a victory on Saturday, they can get some more of Mrs. Zych's cookies.