New home gives Pride's boys hoops team a new focus
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Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014

New home gives Pride's boys hoops team a new focus

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Seth Lakso -
Cody Carlson, a 6-foot-8 junior center (left), and head coach Chad Hetherman (right) stand in Pine Lake Prep's new Athletics and Community Center, which features a 1,000-seat gymnasium. After years of having to rent gyms for their home games, the Pride now have a home court to call their own.

With a record of 5-3 through eight games, the Pine Lake Prep boys’ basketball season has had the highs and lows of a rollercoaster ride this season.

However, there has been one constant throughout the season – the team’s high level of play at home.

Before this year, the Pride played 75 percent of their games on the road and rented gym time at the nearby Woodlawn School or at the Talbert Recreation Center for practices and “home games.”

But this season, the school opened its own Athletics and Community Center on campus, complete with a full-size gymnasium that seats 1,000.

A pair of menacing lions’ eyes greets newcomers as they pull into the Mooresville facility’s parking lot, while inside, a re-energized basketball team waits for its next victim.

All five of the Prides’ wins this season have come on their home court.

“We’ve got to thank our fans at home,” said Pine Lake boys basketball coach and athletics director Chad Hetherman. “Having a K-through-12 campus, our fans show up really well at home.

“With the blessing of a home court, all of a sudden, people are showing up. The pep band, the cheerleaders, the kindergarten parents that have never had a chance to see our team play. It’s been great.”

One of the Prides’ leaders this season has been 6-foot-8 junior center Cody Carlson, who has averaged 7.7 points (9.0 points per game in conference games) and 7.5 rebounds per game this season.

“I think Cody brings a lot to the team,” Hetherman said. “His attitude and work ethic, that’s where it really starts. Guys look up to him – literally and figuratively – because he works so hard and knows the game so well. He’s also a calming presence on the court.”

According to Hetherman, the team feeds off Carlson’s enthusiasm and willingness to do all the little things that don’t necessarily show up in box scores.

“My two favorite things are playing post defense and getting my guards open,” Carlson said. “I love screening because I think it's one of the most selfish things you can do because you're screening for someone who is going to get open, but then, you're going to get open, too. You're getting yourself open by helping out someone else.”

Now that the school is no longer paying for gym time by the hour, there’s rarely a moment during the day that someone’s not working on their game, and Hetherman always is willing to keep the gym open.

“Having a new gym gives us that luxury of time and space,” he said. “Before we were renting gym space at a place that wasn't ours. Cody has the drive to practice more, and with this new facility, we're able to do more. It's nice to see the guys lifting and shooting in the gym after school.”

The Pride, who introduced new jerseys – featuring a color scheme that resembles the NFL's Seattle Seahawks – for their first home game against Union Academy, walked off the court 15-point winners that night, but that didn’t prevent some pre-game jitters.

“It was pretty-nerve wracking, to be honest with you,” Carlson said. “Because we were trying to make a statement in our new gym. It was all about showing the fans what we were made of and telling them to come back because we can be exciting. As soon as that first basket went in, I was able to calm down a little.”

“It was a new game, new court, new season, and new jerseys,” said Hetherman, whose team joined the Southern Piedmont 1A conference this season. “There were a lot of new introductions and kind of a reawakening of Pine Lake basketball. They were fired up.”

The highlight of this season came in a 65-63 double-overtime win on Dec. 13 at home against Carmel Christian.

After Carlson picked up two early fouls and was forced to sit out much of the first half, the Pride rallied from nine points down to tie the game at the end of regulation.

In the first overtime, Carlson – who avoided further foul trouble in the second half – connected a big free throw to help extend the game into another overtime.

When the final horn sounded, Pride fans went wild.

“The fans rushed the court,” Hetherman said. “It was great. We had alumni that were back that didn't get to play in this building, and they were really excited that they helped pave the way.”

Seth Lakso is a freelance writer for Mooresville News. Have a story idea for Seth? Email him at sethlakso@gmail.com.

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