Pelham Lady Pride are AAU state champs

The Pelham Lady Pride are Alabama AAU state champs and will represent the city of Pelham at the national championship tournament in Orlando, Fla. July 3-11.

Last year a group of third and fourth grade girls got together to improve on their basketball skills outside of recreation league ball.

They decided to play in the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union), a highly competitive league.

Their goal was to improve enough to &uot;make&uot; the Riverchase Middle School basketball team and to get enough experience in the meantime to be successful when they got there.

The first year of AAU was a rough ride, to say the least.

Many of the teams in AAU are comprised of all-stars from different communities while all of the Pride girls are from Pelham.

While the Pride girls didn’t win a tournament game all year, players and parents never got discouraged. When the season was over and most teams disbanded to pursue other interests, the Pride decided to stay together and continue improving.

In AAU there are three major tournaments. The first is the sub-state tournament where teams in the same region compete for the right to advance to the state tournament.

The second is the state tournament where the best teams from the north, central and south regions get together to see who will earn the right to represent the State at Nationals in Orlando, Fla.

The Pelham Lady Pride entered the sub-state tournament in 2002 with only hopes of advancement.

They found themselves playing well and advancing into the championship round against the odds-on favorite to win the whole tournament, the Alabama Twisters. And the Twisters won the 10-under state tournament the year before.

The Pride girls played well, however, and were down by three points with only minutes left in the game.

Kelsey Burleson hit a big shot to narrow the lead to one.

With 48 seconds to go in the game Rachel Hester stepped to the line and made both free throws to put the Lady Pride up by one.

With eight seconds left Burleson missed at the free throw line, but Melanie Short was

there for the rebound and the put-back. That put the Pride up by three and saved the victory.

David had met Goliath and won.

Next, it was on to the state tournament in Alabaster. The Lady Pride won their first game and advanced to the semi-final round against the Twisters.

The Lady Pride played an outstanding game behind the 14 points of Short and advanced to the championship game.

In the meantime, the Twisters had to win another game to earn the right to play the Pride in the championship.

The Twisters beat the Pride that afternoon, setting up a sudden death championship game for the state title.

Both teams were neck and neck at 14-14 at

the half and 24-24 at the end of the third quarter.

But the Lady Pride was ahead 32-31 with 14 seconds to go in the game with Burleson on the free throw line.

She made both free throws and a desperation three-point shot by the Twisters came up short.

The Lady Pride team will appreciate and recognize any and all monetary gifts to help with expenses. To make a donation,

contact J.J. Mauk at 807-0586