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Pace aims for return to state tournament
by Greg Oshust
January 15, 2013 05:13 PM | 2798 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Samantha M. Shai<br>
Pace's Kenny Selmon works on his shooting.
Staff / Samantha M. Shai
Pace's Kenny Selmon works on his shooting.
The Pace boys’ basketball team saw its streak of four consecutive state tournament appearances come to an end in the 2011-12 season after struggling to a 10-16 record.

The Knights are seeking a return trip to the postseason this year as they enter the final month of the regular season.

Pace is 5-5 overall and 2-1 in Region 5A going into Friday’s game with Atlanta International. The Knights are ranked 19th in the latest Class A power poll.

The top 16 teams in the final power ranking will qualify for the Class A private state tournament.

Pace coach Demetrius Smith is encouraged by his team’s progress.

“So far, we’ve had some good days and we’ve had some bad days,” Smith said. “But, we’re doing some good things and we’re right there to be a good team.”

Pace entered the new year coming off a strong performance at the St. Francis Shootout Dec. 21 through 23, clinching the tournament with a 68-52 victory over Class AAAAAA team Parkview in the semifinals and a 64-59 win over host St. Francis in the finals.

“We played good team ball,” Smith said. “We had a couple of guys really step up and everyone did their jobs well.”

Coming off of a 26-4 record and a state quarterfinal appearance in 2010-11, Pace struggled last year with a team that featured a number of players who were seniors, but lacked significant playing experience.

The Knights face the same dilemma this winter with several juniors who saw little action before this season.

“Last year, we had a bunch of guys who hadn’t played much, and this year it’s kind of the same thing,” Smith said. “We have a bunch of juniors with little to no game experience and the inexperience has shown sometimes. But, we’ll be more experienced next year, so the future looks good for us.”

Six-foot-5 senior forward D.J. Diakite leads a balanced Pace scoring attack with 11 points a game, while 6-4 freshman forward Jordan Harris is averaging seven points and nine rebounds per contest and 6-3 junior guard Kenny Selmon and 6-2 junior guard Armani Lashley are each scoring seven points per game.

Pace is now ready to get into the main part of its region schedule and looks to boost itself into the top 16 in the Class A power ranking to earn a return trip to the state tournament.

“We’re looking forward to region play,” Smith said. “We’re in a tough region, and playing those teams will help make us better. We’re getting better as a team. Our goal is to make it to state and I believe we can do that.”

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