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Basketball healthy in the Valley

Upon my arrival at The Valley Times-News in January, I was told of the area’s rich basketball tradition.

The Chambers Academy boys had won an AISA state title in 2014; the Springwood School girls had broken through in 2016, and the past three AHSAA Class 2A state boys championships had been claimed by either LaFayette or Lanett.

The streak lives on.

The Panthers claimed their third consecutive crown last Friday by beating St. Luke’s Episcopal at Legacy Arena in Birmingham. A blue map will reside in Chambers County for another year.

There’s no telling if it will leave anytime in the near future.

Lanett drops to 1A next season and should, theoretically, face an easier path to a fourth championship. The team will lose a few key players, but I would be shocked if the departures were enough to derail the Panthers’ program.

The LaFayette boys, meanwhile, may find themselves in contention in 2A.

With the talent they will return from this year’s roster, I would not be surprised to see the Bulldogs competing for a title next March.

The same goes for the LaFayette girls. Although they graduate a large senior class, they will bring back a corps of young players who could take the program to new heights.

I make these prognostications fully aware that much could change in a year’s time. But I feel comfortable enough to put them in print.

Over the course of the winter, I covered more high school basketball than ever before.

I watched our local teams battle against one another, and I also watched them square off against some of the best opponents from other parts of the state.

On the whole, there wasn’t much difference in the caliber of competition.

Basketball is healthy in the Valley and, in the coming years, I foresee continued success.

There are numerous local players and coaches who possess the skill, experience and drive to achieve great things.

Many of them will be honored over the next two days as The Valley Times-News reveals its coaches of the year, players of the year and All-Valley teams.

I hope you take a look. Those selected deserve the recognition.