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Pats give first-year coach win at last

Are you serious?

The call of Nick Brengle, a senior at Pinellas Park and the voice of the Patriots, was heard loud and often during the 79-36 blowout win by the hosts over Northside Christian Monday night.

And, yes the Patriots were serious. Very serious.

Serious about defense, forcing 27 turnovers.

Serious about execution on offense, as freshman guard Cam Carden hit six 3-pointers for a team-high 22 points.

Serious about hustle, evidenced by freshman forward Jesse Woods' full-court recovery to block a shot.

Serious about winning finally.

In a battle of winless teams, the Patriots picked up victory No. 1 of the season.

Last season, Northside Christian had a promising young team. Now it is reeling from the transfers of four probable starters after coach Chip McAlister left in the spring.

It won't be easy getting that first win, as first-year Patriots coach Allen Carden can attest.

Last spring Carden was coaching Lassiter High to the Sweet 16 of the Georgia Class 5A state tournament. But despite his success there _ he was 24-6 last season _ he says his experience at Pinellas Park this season has been surprisingly rewarding.

His young and inexperienced team has bought into Carden's philosophy that discipline on and off the court will produce champion athletes and people.

"Our motto is that nobody in the state of Florida will outwork us," Carden said.

The cornerstone of his program is what Carden calls "refense", a hybrid of rebounding and defense. Off the court, Carden is trying to build pride in a program that has struggled recently.

Team members wear dress shirts with ties for away games, and present their game jerseys to their favorite teacher on home games. Also, each player wears the team T-shirt on home days with the inscription, "I play defense or I don't play," on the back.

"He's building a good program, a solid foundation for these boys," assistant principal John Reynolds said. "There's pride in the program and he's brought spirit back to Patriot basketball."

After the victory, a parent of a player interrupted to ask Carden to stay tough on her son, making sure he arrives to class on time.

"No worries, ma'am," Carden responded, in a deep Georgia drawl, "we'll get the best out of him and all the boys."

And sometimes, they'll even get a win.