MADISON- An eight-on-eight boys basketball event like no other is set to showcase the magnificent talents of 16 teams from two of the state’s four area codes. Bryant Bank, in conjunction with the Alabama High School Athletic Association and Knight-Eady, a Birmingham-based sporting events agency, is hosting the first 256-vs-205 challenge.
The battle between eight selected teams from each of the area codes will face teams from the opposing area code in matches from January 16 to February 16. 2. The teams will represent the Huntsville area against Birmingham Metro. Over the course of two weeks, the teams will compete to try to earn points for an overall city score victory. At the end of the two weeks, one city will be crowned champion.
“We got this idea from last year’s border battle which was held in one location because we like the idea of a city against a city because we think these games are best played in high schools,” Knight-Eady’s Summer Hall said. Meanwhile, Michael Eady, President and Owner of Knight Eady, said: “We have staged similar battles, but all have been fought at a neutral site. This year, we’re going even further and bringing games back to schools, because there’s nothing quite like having your community and student body behind you as you battle it out among some of the best programs in the world. State.
“I’m excited to know that we’re going to be playing at a Birmingham school and I’m up for the challenge,” said Will Hawkins (G, 6-4, 160, Sr.) of Sparkman High who will host Ramsay High from Birmingham on January 1. 24.
The full challenge schedule includes: January 16 – Vestavia to Muscle Shoals, Grissom to Oak Mt.; January 17 – Huntsville to Pinson Valley; Jan. 20 – Haleyville in midfield; January 24 – Ramsay to Sparkman; January 28 – Shades Valley to Gadsden City; Jan. 30 – Spain Park to James Clemens; February 2 – Thompson in Florence.
“It’s a great situation for all the teams involved as some say Birmingham have the best basketball in the state, but we have something to show them in this challenge and I’m in for the idea of giving people what they want to see,” said James Clemens head coach Frankie Sullivan. “It’s always been a football state and it’s a chance to show that it can also be a basketball state- ball.”
The Jets narrowly missed out on a Class 7-A state title in a last-second 66-64 loss to Enterprise in the state championship game of the 2021-22 season. A chance to redeem against the visiting Jaguars will be the order of the day on Jan. 30 as the Jets have two starters and eight total players returning from last season’s runners-up team.
“Spain Park will be well trained as they will be tall and very athletic, but I feel we will be up for the challenge,” Sullivan said. “Our players feel like they want to finish the job. They’ve been great in their conditioning and off-season training. They all understand that it’s the little things that count and they’re excited about this game against Spain Park because they want play against the best possible opponents and Spain Park will be one of them.
For the Sparkman Senators, 24-9 a season ago, the Challenge game against the Rams (5-A) is the chance to play a different seeding and school they normally wouldn’t face.
“I like the idea of playing against someone new and I feel like our team can rise to the challenge,” said Kahleel Green (G, 6-4, 170, So.).
“I know Ramsay is a great team, but it’s a chance to represent our region because it’s important to us and a source of pride for me personally,” added Hawkins, the only returning starter for Sparkman.
Chase Bell (G, 6-4, 170, Sr.), one of Sparkman’s three seniors, added, “I feel like I’m filling the void in rebounding and other areas for our team and the game against Ramsay in the Challenge will come to whoever wants it. I have the fight in me for this game.
Jamie Coggins, Sparkman’s head coach, believes the caliber of Huntsville-area basketball (256) can play with any Birmingham-area team (205).
“Anything to promote our sport is what I love about the Challenge,” said Coggins, in his 11th season as head coach of Senator. “I like the idea of seeing different teams and players and I’ve been happy with our squad throughout the summer and can’t wait to be there.”
The 16 teams involved have signed a two-year contract for the Challenge as the teams will play a home and away series.
“Ramsay better bring his A-game and be ready,” Hawkins said. “We will be ready.”