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The Sparkman boys and girls basketball teams lead the local schools with the most miles expected on the 2018-2019 schedule. Sparkman girl’s head coach Patrick Delay, pictured, said he likes the idea of travels and keeping the tradition of Sparkman basketball. Photo- Bob Labbe

High School Basketball: On The Road Again

MADISON- Willie Nelson’s 1980 hit song “On The Road Again” was written about the life on the road for the motion picture “Honeysuckle Rose.” The tune was nominated for an Academy Award, won a Grammy and has taken on a life of its own through the years. The recording can easily be the theme song for the high school basketball teams in and around Madison as each of them take to the roads to fulfill their schedules.

Of the local squads, the Sparkman girls and boys combined will travel close to 2,000 miles just in the highlighted tournaments on each squad’s schedule for the 2018-2019 season. The boys will make special trips to Panama City, Fla., Jacksonville State and Birmingham while the girls will hop on bus rides to Atlanta, Alabaster and Hanceville among their scheduled stops.

The Sparkman program has annually taken highly anticipated and exciting road trips and is one of the reasons both the boys and girls squads are always highly competitive. The Lady Senators have won three state titles (2002, 2003 and 2007) while the boys have yet to win a coveted state championship trophy, but are always in the running with superb talent on the court.

“Most of us have played together since we were four-five years old, and we look up to others who played before us and we know we have that tradition to continue, especially on road trips,” said Deyanna Dodd, a senior guard for the Lady Senators.

Patrick Delay, in his seventh season as head coach of the Sparkman girl’s program, said of the thoughts of how the team seems to reload every year. “We are blessed to be in a community that really cares about girls’ basketball and that’s where it all starts starting at a young age. That’s something we don’t take lightly. We’re expected to win every year and a little pressure comes from that, but I’d rather have the pressure than the other way around.”

Rondell Cole, a 6-foot-3 senior for the Sparkman boys, and being heavily recruited for his football talents, said of the travels with the team year after year and how the point of holding up the program’s tradition is something each player thinks about. He added, “It’s great to know that and shows all of our hard work can pay off and showing teams on road trips we are Sparkman.”

The Bob Jones boys teams will make a couple treks to Birmingham, while the girls remain close to home with one scheduled trip to Hanceville.

James Clemens is also remaining close to the confines of the school located on County Line Road, but Madison Academy is looking to travel north into the state of Tennessee for some great action.

The Mustangs are setting their GPS systems to Memorial Parkway in Huntsville north to just over the state line to a stop in Fayetteville and then reset for a trip to Birmingham.

The Lady Mustangs are also hitting the roads of the Volunteer State to just south of Nashville in Brentwood. The defending Class 4A State Champions are eager to defend their title, but know at every stop on their current schedule they walk onto the court with a sort of bullseye on their jerseys with each opponent waiting to take their turn at knocking off the state’s best.

“We’re are definitely ready to defend our title even in the higher classification,” said Jaden Langford, All-State 5-8 junior for Madison Academy. “We’re always humble, but hungry to show our skills no matter where we play. We’re content, but never satisfied. We know it’s going to be hard on us to rise up to the challenge.”

Recent UAB signee Jasmine Gracie spoke of the target the team seems to wear when taking to the court in faraway tournaments. She said, “We realize it, but don’t let it bother us. We’re confident, but not cocky.”

As Willie’s song shakes the speakers with lyrics- “On the road again, goin’ places that I’ve never been, seein’ things that I may never see again, insisting that the world keep turning our way,”- look for the high school students-athletes to learn from their road experiences and enjoy being…on the road again.

Digital Version

Digital version of The Madison Record – Feb. 28, 2024

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