Pride Basketball Rolls Past Apex in Season Opener 

Deon Daniels, senior, gets air in the opening tip off of the Pride’s 2019-2020 basketball season. The Pride won their season opener 84-61. (Photo courtesy of Matt Wiener) 

On Nov. 25, the Pride played an intense back and forth game with the Panther Creek Catamounts.

There were several lead changes in the final quarter of play, but with just ten seconds left of a tie game, 65-65, Alex Daniels of the Pride made a key steal on a breakaway, and was fouled.

Daniels then hit both free throws to win the game for the Pride, as Panther Creek just missed the buzzer beater attempt to keep the game alive, and Leesville finished with a final score of 67-65.

Daniels then hit both free throws to win the game for the Pride, as Panther Creek just missed the buzzer beater attempt to keep the game alive, and Leesville finished with a final score of 67-65.


It only took 56 seconds for Leesville to kick off their season, with a lay-in by Scott Martin, junior guard for the Pride. Going into an 11-5 scoring run less than 3 minutes into the game, Leesville got the lead and never lost it during the game.

Occasionally, Apex chipped away at Leesville’s lead with a few three pointers but never got to within single digits of the Pride since halfway through the first quarter. Leesville performed three lineup changes in the last minute of the first quarter, which confused the Apex defense and resulted in a run for the Pride.

As the game drew further and further away from Apex, Aaron Zemonek, senior forward for the Pride, kept getting hotter. Zemonek took over in the post and used his size the keep the buckets flowing with every field goal attempt. 

“We were moving the ball around well, which led to a lot more open opportunities,” said Zemonek. “I got a lot of passes and then went straight in for the lay-ups,”

The Pride’s student section stayed lively during the game, chanting at and heckling the Apex players , whenever there were airballs or missed free throws. Their overwhelming energy supporting the Pride is a distinct advantage Leesville has over other schools. Opposing teams should keep in mind that the Pride’s student section may have a few words for them. 

As expected with a season opener for any sports team, Leesville was not particularly good with shots from 3-point range, but with the likes of Deon Daniels, senior, Carter Whitt, junior and Chase Hakerem, junior, it’s only a matter of time before the Pride can get hot from beyond the arc. 

Practice plays a big role in the team’s improvement on the season. “I think we need to work on free throws, making one more pass to the open shooters, and work on taking care of the ball more,” said Hakerem, guard for the Pride. 

The Pride went on large scoring runs in the second half, ending any chance of a comeback early, and winning the game with a score of 84-61.

Takeaway of the Game: Pride Defense

Although the offensive side of the ball has more potential to grow over the season for the Pride, the story of the game was their effective defensive play. From start to finish, the Pride’s plan of 2-3 zone defense worked to perfection. Rarely did Leesville allow the Cougars to drive to the hoop for an easy lay-up. Every one of their 61 points was earned.

Early and often, the Pride forced Apex to take uncomfortable 3-point shots because of their tremendous defensive play inside the arc. Apex made a few threes occasionally throughout the game, but it was nothing to brag about. When the 3 ball didn’t work, the Cougars were denied in the paint, and could not rely upon on their midrange game. No matter the shot type, the Pride’s defense stayed aggressive and quickly acted upon screens to force missed shots. When Apex was not missing shots, the team had a hard time controlling the ball, and Leesville took advantage, forcing turnover left and right across the court. 

Stars of the Game:

Aaron Zemonek- Forward

Zemonek was the leading scorer for the Pride, scoring almost all of his points in the paint, and driving his way through the Apex defense. Zemonek was the reliable high pass target on offense and played well enough on defense to force Apex to pass the ball in the opposite direction of him. 

Wesley Johnson-  Center

Johnson was the biggest problem for Apex on defense. When Zemonek wasn’t sharing the court with him, Johnson took over in the paint on defense, forcing many missed shots and a few blocks to keep Apex from catching up when their 3-ball became insufficient. The 6’10” center used his long wingspan to make key defensive stops.

Chase Hakerem- Guard

Although the stat sheet might not be stuffed from Tuesday’s performance, Hakerem was a key factor to the Pride’s momentum on offense with his slick passing skills. Hakarem created good scoring opportunities for his teammates on assists and many times pass to assists, usually when he faked a 3-pointer and hit one of his teammates for an easy layup or midrange attempt.


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