Unchartered territory: Parrish set for first Final Four trip
by W. Brian Hale
Feb 24, 2014 | 1374 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Parrish’s Denzell Daley goes in for two points during the Tornadoes’ regional victory over Phillips last week in Hanceville. Parrish takes on Sunshine at 10:30 p.m. today at the BJCC. Photo by Jeff Johnsey
Parrish’s Denzell Daley goes in for two points during the Tornadoes’ regional victory over Phillips last week in Hanceville. Parrish takes on Sunshine at 10:30 p.m. today at the BJCC. Photo by Jeff Johnsey
BIRMINGHAM — For the third-ranked Parrish Tornadoes, today’s AHSAA Final Four semi-final matchup against the second-ranked Sunshine Tigers represents the end of one journey, as well as the beginning of an even greater adventure.

With Friday’s Northwest Regional Tournament championship victory over Belgreen, the disappointing conclusion to last season — which ended Parrish’s potential state title hopes thanks to a loss to Marion County in the Northwest Region Finals — was erased, thus opening a new chapter for this year’s Tornado squad that will take them to the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex and one step closer to the program’s first state championship.

Senior Jermichael Harris, whose double-double performance against Belgreen helped power Parrish to victory, stated that a trip to the Final Four had been the ultimate goal for the team for the past two seasons. Now that the goal has been accomplished, he and his teammates will settle for nothing less than a state title.

“We felt that there was unfinished business last season — and it motivated us to get the job done this year,” Jermichael said. “With God’s help, we’ve gotten to the Final Four and now we want a championship. Our focus is to win today and Friday — we’ve earned this opportunity and we’re going to make the most of it.”

Fellow senior Reginald Harris, who earned accolades with his defensive performance against Belgreen’s top three-point shooting threat, expressed his pleasure in the team’s accomplishments and earning the right to battle for a championship.

“We’ve worked hard to get here and we’re blessed to be in this position,” Reginald said. “Everything we did during practice and on game days was about this week — none of us wanted it to end before we accomplished everything we set out to do. Each of us realize the hard work isn’t over and we’re committed to following this path to the end.”

Junior Denzell Daley, in his first year with the team, said the team’s focus quickly shifted to Final Four preparation once the region championship ceremony ended. Daley was named to the All-Region Tournament team following his 28-point performance in the two days of action.

“We know what we have to do — every game, every tournament, every championship up to this point was intended to get us to playing in Birmingham,” Daley said. “You play the game with the dreams of playing for a title — then you work to make those dreams possible. Once we were done at the region, our eyes were on state — where those dreams and hard work will pay off.”

Jacksonville State commit Barry Hill feels his team is ready for to perform at its best on the state’s biggest stage. It’s been a banner year for the senior, who was named as the MVP of the Walker County, Area 13 and Northwest Region Tournaments. Hill is also steadily moving up the record books for the most blocked shots in a season.

“The stakes are at its highest, but we know what playing in a championship environment is all about,” Hill said.

“Regardless of the opponent, we go out to handle business, work at our best with each other and follow the gameplan our coaches have set out. We’re prepared to go out and give everything we have.”

With the semi-final battle with Sunshine tipping off at 10:30 a.m. today, the team held practice on Sunday in order to mentally and physically coordinate for the contest.

Parrish coach Heath Burns, entering his second career trip to the Final Four, said his team was extremely focused in Sunday’s practice and ready to take the court.

“We had a very good practice on Sunday — our guys showed a lot of intensity and had their minds tuned on what we want to accomplish,” Burns said. “Each of them realize that getting to this point means you’re one of the top four teams in the state — there’s no disputing it — but they want more. They’re far from finished and their eyes are on the title.”

Of the four Class 1A teams playing in Birmingham, only St. Jude had won a previous title. The Pirates won championships in 1973, 1977, 1985, 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2013..