The No. 3 Tornadoes claimed their second-consecutive Walker County Basketball Tournament championship following a 67-52 win over the Dora Bulldogs in Cordova — leading to a grand celebration among team members, coaches and fans.
The event that took place on the following day at Aldridge Baptist Church, however, was cause for even greater celebration for the team — one far beyond the scope of their play on the hardwood.
On the fateful Sunday, the remarkable happened — every member of the Parrish Basketball team were baptized, dedicating their lives to their Savior, Jesus Christ.
The decision to obtain their salvation together was not one that was taken lightly, but one that the team happily and eagerly undertook.
Senior Jermichael Harris, who returned to the team after a long absence due to off-the-court problems, said his decision reflected a new change to his life — one that he wished to share with his teammates.
“I think getting into trouble taught me a valuable lesson — I told everybody on the team to not take things for granted and that we all had to stick together. I feel that God has blessed me and has a plan for all of us — and I wanted to share that with everyone around me,” he said.
“We all as a team began a weekly tradition of going to church together after practice, which helped strengthen our bond with each other and with God. That led us to all deciding to get saved together. I, long with the other guys on the team, felt that things will be easier in every part of life if we live the way God intends us to.”
Fellow senior Reginald Harris says that the bond among the teammates, often referred to as the “Band of Brothers” due to the family-like influence that each member shares with one another, has grown even further in the wake of the spiritual event.
“We’re around each other so much, but having a connection with other through God makes our relationships even stronger,” Reginald said. “Going to church together on Wednesday night and Sundays is special — I enjoy it and I know the other guys do as well. We’ve all been close, but now it’s even deeper.”
The team’s third senior, Barry Hill, has noticed a different focus and drive within the team since he and his teammates made their special spiritual journey together.
“There’s a stronger and better connection every day — like a new focus among us that was never there before,” Hill said.
“The feeling that we have God behind us is very real — we’ve put God before us and he’s helping guiding our actions and blessing us on and off the court. Through him, I feel that there is nothing we can’t accomplish.”
The team’s commitment to a new relationship with God and the focus that it has brought has not been lost on their head coach, Heath Burns.
Burns said the decision his team made showed unity to a level he’s never seen before, as well as making changes to the way he lives his life.
“Those young men showed that they are unified. Through this decision that they’ve made, it’s allowed me re-evaluate my life and things that are important — all too often our priorities get out-of-whack and I was essentially making basketball my idol. Since then, we’ve decided not to do that and get our priority system back into where we put God first then family, education and finally basketball,” Burns said.
“When those kids made that decision, it made me a better person, it made our school, community and team better as a whole. We’ve 13 games in a row and it’s not by coincidence — it’s a God thing that going on here in our lives and it’s just a blessing to be a part of. At the beginning of the year, coming to work was something that I didn’t look forward to — right now, I can’t wait get here everyday to be around these great kids, this school and this faculty, as I believe that the decision that this team made as leaders in the school has affected others.”