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Patriots staying course amidst national ranking

January 14, 2016

By: CHRIS PRIDE

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – National rankings can have a funny way sometimes of playing with a team’s psyche. The 2015-16 edition of the Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) men’s basketball team doesn’t seem too concerned with that fact.

Coming off a 10-2 start prior to the holiday break and a top-15 ranking in the latest NJCAA Div. II poll, the 13th ranked Patriots opened up the real meat of their schedule Wednesday with a 72-67 win over Vance-Granville Community College. How the blue and gold handle the rigors of a demanding travel schedule over the next 41 days, and the expectation of being nationally ranked, is still to be determined.

One thing is for certain, however, the sophomores don’t want a repeat of how things crumbled come February a season ago.

“Of course we’re excited to be ranked; I’ve never been ranked in anything before in my life. So it’s definitely exciting to me as a sophomore,” said guard Jerel Jennings, who leads the team in scoring at 13.7 points per game. “But our goal is to get to the national tournament, and we need to keep the intensity in practice and continue to carry it into games.”

Head coach Kenny Wade has never been one for rankings, knowing that being ranked doesn’t guarantee a berth into the national tournament. At the same time, he did acknowledged the fact that it was satisfying for his guys to be rewarded for the position they’ve put themselves at this stage of the season. The biggest difference, he said, this time there is a constant hunger to get better and a natural cohesiveness in practice and in games.

“This is a group that’s still learning, still growing and still maturing. We don’t want them to peak right now,” Wade said. “We’re working towards peaking at the end of the season and this can be a very special group.”

It’s the collective drive that has Wade excited to see what unfolds over the next 13 games, starting Saturday at Lenoir Community College. This weekend’s road trip, which includes a trip to Pitt Community College on Sunday, will go a long way in determining just how mentally and physically strong his team really is, Wade said.

“We always tend to have a very balanced league, and the team that stays the most consistent, is the team that’s going to be at the top,” Wade said. “I’m very excited to see how everything is going to shake out.”

Jennings believes this year’s team isn’t as big-headed, aiding in its ability to stay better balanced and composed in pressure situations. He added that there is a better understanding of what it takes to be there at the end.

Wade has been impressed with the quick chemistry this new group has developed, something he hasn’t experienced much in the past. As the team continues to play more consistent basketball, he said, that bond will only get stronger.

“You don’t have guys with very big egos on this team and they know that there’s no one superstar. On any night it could be any one of them that could lead them to a win and they understand that,” Wade said.

Jennings noted that some players have started to get offers from other schools. That in turn has continued to push the level of competitiveness within the team as others hope to obtain the same thing. With better all-around communication, Jennings thinks this year’s Patriots know how to handle the back end of the conference schedule and beyond.

“This time, everyone knows their role and keeps pushing their role right now. If everyone makes sure they’re on top of everything the sky is the limit,” Jennings said.

Filed under: Men's Basketball

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