Fun is the name of the game
Justin Schuver, Sports Editor
JACKSONVILLE – In my work for both the Enquirer and Madison County Record the past week, I covered 10 regional games and interviewed 15 different teams. I witnessed interviews where the players were crying, interviews where the coaches were frustrated and interviews where the coaches and team were business-like and proper, almost as if they expected to win.
But I can say with all sincerity that I never saw a team who generally seemed like it was having more fun than the Priceville Bulldogs.
Who can blame them? After all, this is a team that shouldn't be here, if the polls of the Alabama Sportswriters Association are to be believed. Priceville was not only unranked in the ASWA's final poll on Feb. 1, but they were matched up against No. 5 White Plains in the opening game at Jacksonville Feb. 22.
White Plains entered the game with a 30-2 record, and with a fanbase that needed to only travel about 15 miles to Jacksonville State, compared to Priceville's fans who had to make nearly a two-hour trek. Nothing seemed in favor of the Bulldogs, but the conventional wisdom didn't take into account that one intangible – the fun factor.
Final score: Priceville 81, White Plains 61.
"We're just going to enjoy it while we're here," Priceville coach Darrell Haynes said after his Bulldogs shocked the Wildcats. "We'll be ready to play again Friday, but for now we're just going to have fun with it."'
Priceville's Josh Bedwell set a Class 2A regional scoring record in that game, finishing with 43 points. After the game, he and teammate Stephen Hardiman were all smiles.
"We were looking at the program before the game and Stephen noticed the record was 40 and said to me, 'You can break that, you've scored 44 before,'" Bedwell said, prompting a smirk from Hardiman – the master prognosticator.
Friday night against Ranburne, with all the pressure of the world on their shoulders, the Bulldogs once again came out and had fun.
Final score: Priceville 91, Ranburne 62. Next stop: Birmingham.
After that game Friday night, where Bedwell scored 37 points, he joked that Hardiman wanted the junior guard to break his own record.
"At the end of the game during the fourth quarter, Stephen kept telling me to get open so I could hit some more three's," Bedwell said, eliciting a smile from both Hardiman and Haynes.
Priceville's Alex Cannon tried to get in on the fun late in that game, attempting a dunk with a little more than a minute left. Although he missed the dunk, he was more than willing to take the heat from his teammates at the post-game interview.
"I can usually do it," he said sheepishly, prompting laughs from Bedwell and Hardiman. "The ball just slipped out on the way up."
It's not just the Priceville team that's having fun, either. Their fans were also into the action, coming up with unique cheers to lampoon Ranburne's fans ("We stand up! You sit down! We're on our way to Birmingham!") and showing up with signs and painted faces showing their support of the Bulldogs.
There was a party going on in Jacksonville last week, and it was the Bulldogs who were the emcees.
"These guys always have a good time," Haynes said Friday night. "There's 13 players on the varsity squad and they get along well together. They do things together outside of basketball. What you see is what you get with these guys."
Two wins away from a state championship, it's not certain yet what the final outcome of this magical season will be. But one thing is for certain – whatever the final outcome, these Bulldogs will have fun on the way there.