The Bartow 10U rec basketball team gathered Monday at Hamilton Crossing to celebrate their GRPA state championship, won on Saturday.
As coaches and parents sat in the stands, the kids raced back and forth across the court in their blue camo uniforms.
“They just love to play,” coach Thomas Pullum said. “They love to run.”
The team won four games over the weekend to take home the title.
“With the work they put into it, and the practices, they deserve it,” coach Terry Hames said. “We’ve been practicing for a good two or three months.”
The kids came from all over Bartow County, and all 10 of them contributed to the win, the coaches said, which came in useful for a team that liked to press for the entire game.
The roster included Kaden Baldwin, Joseph Boatman, Zantavian Brown, Jayden Foster, Jonathan Gough, Tyrek Hames, Ja’Kavian Harris, Kevin Henderson, Zach Postell and Jamarian Pullum.
With almost all of the roster moving up to middle school ball next year and starting to go their own ways, this was a special season for the group.
Pullum knew from the outset that they had a chance.
“I’ll tell you, probably the first week of practice,” Pullum said. “We talked about it after our first week of practice and I knew we had a special team. Anytime you’ve got 10 strong kids that you can interchange and not really fall off, you’ve got a good team because you can play at a high level.”
Even with that confidence, the result wasn’t guaranteed. After beating Powder Springs, Rome and South Cobb to win the single-elimination district tournament, Bartow headed down to state.
The team had to play a doubleheader on their first day in the state tournament, beating hosts Griffin and Fulton County.
On Saturday, they beat a team from Savannah to make it to the championship against a team from College Park.
After walking off with a win in that game, the young hoopers had accomplished their goal.
“I was so happy. I didn’t know what to do during the state tournament and I’m so proud,” guard Kaden Baldwin said. “I thought that we went down there, we worked hard, and we did good.”
“I was really happy. I didn’t know we were going to win the state championship but I’ve always wanted to do it, always wanted to win the state championship when I was young,” guard Jamarian Pullum added.
The win was a long time coming for the Bartow program, which had struggled at state in recent years.
“We’ve won district four years in a row in 10U, so we’ve had a strong group, we just haven’t been able to get over the hump in state,” Thomas Pullum said. “That was the biggest thing. We kept getting there, but just weren’t able to get over the hump when we got there.”
With that streak finally busted, the coaches were able to relax and reminisce Monday, holding the championship trophy while watching their kids zoom up and down the court.
“The biggest thing was just that clock hitting triple zero and you looking up there and understanding that your kids got something that they can talk about for a lifetime,” Pullum said. “Just me knowing when they get older, they’ll be able to look back at this and know what they did.”