Community pulls together at Red Bay

By Bart Moss

For the FCT

Not many things unite a school and a community like sports, and nothing gets a school and community as excited as chance to play for the state championship.

Friday afternoon, 13 girls took marched onto the arena floor at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center to play for a state title. Not only did they represent themselves and their families, they represented Red Bay High School, the city of Red Bay and Franklin County.

Although the Tigers didn’t win the state championship, it doesn’t erase the feelings and the excitement of the journey to Birmingham.

“It feels great,” Red Bay mayor David Tiffin said.

“Communities are known for a lot of things. Red Bay is very fortunate. We have some national and regional business located here that put us on the map, but for the last 25 years or so, Red Bay has become known statewide for girl’s basketball.”

And basketball is something the whole town has thrown their support behind.

“A lot of our businesses have decorated their windows and stores,” Tiffin said.

“Many of the workers and business owners have ties to the team through relatives or friends or their own children and grandchildren who are playing. It’s just an exciting time.”

Red Bay principal Kenny Sparks said the student body and the faculty have been very enthusiastic and have played an integral role in the girls title run.

“Our student body has been very positive and outgoing,” Sparks said.

“Anytime you are winning students are excited. We have had great student sections and our fans are very encouraging. The teachers are excited for their students. It’s all been very positive.

“The players say they feed off the energy of their fans and love the support they get from their fellow students.”

Jarod Massey, agri-science teacher at Red Bay High School, echoes his senior administrator.

“Our students have done an outstanding job,” Massey said.

“We have been able to take student busses and our students have filled them up. They have had a lot of fun dressing up and being a part of the excitement and atmosphere.”

Mike Shewbart serves on the Franklin County Board of Education and represents the Red Bay area. He believes title runs strengthens the community’s bond.

“I think this has brought our school and community together,” Shewbart said.

“Our fans have really turned out to support this team. When you have the number of fans we have to come to Birmingham at three o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon and one o’clock on a Friday afternoon, that says something about your fan base.

“Many have to take off work and juggle their schedules around. They love Red Bay High School and love these girls.”

Shewbart, who also runs the Red Bay Park and Recreation Department, says state title runs also excite the younger kids and give them something to shoot for.

“Many of the girls playing in the state championship game came up through our park and recreation program,” Shewbart said.

“I’ve coached a couple of them [Morgan Pierce and Allie Kennedy]. What these girls have accomplished doesn’t go unnoticed by the kids. We tell these younger players that if you work hard, play with heart and make good grades, it might them playing for a state championship some day. It’s a morale builder.”

Jack Ivey has broadcast over 30 of Red Bay’s games on his local television and radio station WRMG and says that Red Bay has one of the best fan followings he’s seen.

“[Last] Tuesday in Birmingham there was a sea of orange,” Ivey said. “There was even more here on Friday. Red Bay really supports their team.”

The Tigers didn’t win the state championship, but they left an indelible impression on their school and their community.

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