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Jared Pine is James Buchanan's unsung hero

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With only one returning starter, James Buchanan's boys basketball team knew it was going to be an uphill battle this season.

On Saturday, that season came to an end with a loss to Southern Fulton, and the Rockets finished with a 7-15 overall record.

Despite the backslide from last year's 13-10 season, there was one obvious improvement for JB, and it came in form of senior Jared Pine.

"When some programs go through an up-and-down season, people look for it to end," Rocket coach Larry Strawoet said. "But to be honest, because of the 11 guys in that room, I don't look for it to end. They are great young men that have worked hard every day, and they've always shown a don't give up attitude, and the guy that led that is obviously Jared."

Pine went from the sixth man off the bench averaging just 5.9 points per game to the emotional and physical leader of the Rockets in just one year's time. Pine finished the season with an average of 14.4 ppg, and scored in single figures just twice this season.

"I felt like last year got me an entrance to the varsity level, and I got some experience," Pine said. "This year, it was more of using that experience and using my speed and my other teammates to get open, and we played to our strengths as a team."

As the season progressed, Pine became one of the Rockets' biggest offensive threats, therefore he drew some of the best defenders. That was never more evident than Saturday night, when Pine was guarded by SF's Dylan Gordon. But he still managed to put up 19 points.

"You have a 6-foot-4 kid (Gordon) against a 5-6 guy, but he battled him the whole game," Strawoet said. "That's the direction we want to head in. We want a group of guys to play hard every time, and I think he has set the tone for the future of this basketball program getting back to where we want to get back to."

Pine said, "I also just tried to be more of a facilitator and get everyone else open and get them good looks."

Pine, who has committed to play baseball at Frederick (Md.) Community College, is used to having to be a leader, though.

"Being shortstop, you have to be the leader of the whole diamond and let everyone know what's coming," Pine said. "I think it comes from that, and as a senior, I tried to step up and be a leader on and off the court."

Strawoet said, "I think he's one of the best point guards in our league, because if you look at any other team, there's a lot of pieces to those teams' success. With us, he made us - a youthful type of team in a transition - better every game we stepped out on the court."

And now, he's leaving big shoes to fill.