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Pass Pirates head for history

March 27, 2009
Pass Christian High School

Pass Christian coach Buddy Kennedy gets emotional discussing Hurricane Katrina\'s impact on his basketball program.

As the Pirates (32-3) play Raymond for their first-ever state basketball championship tonight at 8:30 at the Mississippi Coliseum, Kennedy remembers the Category 3 storm destroying the city on Aug. 29, 2005.

The school\'s $7.5 million gymnasium was inundated by 13 feet of seawater from Katrina, and the team lost all its basketball equipment.

Kennedy and several players lost their homes, but not their fighting spirit. The battered, weary Pirates returned to school anxious to resume their hoops career.

The Pirates are the first of two South Mississippi to compete for a state championship this weekend.

Biloxi High School guns for the Class 5A boys state championship at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The Indians have won four state basketball titles, two under coaches Jackie Laird and John Pugh. Seber Windham, who played a part in those four title runs as a player and assistant coach, goes for his first title as a head coach.

"It\'s a credit to these players who stuck around when Katrina took everything away,\'\' Kennedy said. "I\'m so proud of them for getting to this point."

Seniors Demetrius Lee, Eric Dawkins, Blake Evans and Rashad Montgomery were the ones who overcame adversity to help the Pirates usher in a refurbished gymnasium. Three years later, Pass Christian is playing for a state title.

"I was happy to see everyone come back after the storm," Lee said. "We just wanted to play basketball."

Until this year, the school\'s greatest basketball moment came in the 3A State Semifinals last season. The Pirates came oh-so-close to playing for a state title, falling to Aberdeen 76-75 on a tip-in at the buzzer in the semifinals.

Supporters of the hoops program were hurt at the heart-breaking defeat, but not Kennedy and the Pirates.

"Some people were disappointed, but not me," Kennedy said. "I was proud of what we accomplished last year."

For Montgomery, the bitter defeat never left the players\' mind.

"That game motivated us to winning a state title," Montgomery said. "We think about Aberdeen all the time."

Willie James, the Pirates\' sharply-dressed assistant coach, always hoped his alma mater would reach this level of success. He played with the Pirates from 1992 to 1995 and is in his third year as an assistant under Kennedy.

"You can tell there\'s more enthusiasm in the program,\'\' James said. "The kids are working harder. We\'ve fought to be the No. 1 team in 3A."

Only Raymond stands in the way of Pass Christian making history.

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