MATCH Strikers blaze to finals

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 20, 2002

Basketball season is year-round for a handful of Marion players. Each summer for the past 17 years, the MATCH Strikers have taken to the road to compete in various competitions, such as the Alabama Sports Festival.

This year’s Strikers team, comprised of members of the Francis Marion varsity squad, finished in the top four at the Sports Fest tournament in Tuscaloosa to clinch a trip to Mobile to compete in the statewide finals. The Strikers won three out of five games to get the title, defeating the Northport Wildcats, Birmingham Metro Express, and Hillcrest Allstars. Now, the team heads to Mobile on June 28 to try and claim the gold medal in basketball. The Sports Fest, which is patterned after the Olympics, allows amateur athletes from across the state to showcase their skills. The Strikers now hope to use that opportunity to do better than they did last year.

“We got the chance to show what our team is made up of,” said Julius Allgood, an upcoming junior and team captain of both the Strikers and the Francis Marion Rams. “So I liked that. And we’re doing better than we did last year.”

Allgood said that the variety of new teams at competitions like the Sports Fest is exciting.

“Playing against people we’ve never seen before is always good,” he commented.

The Strikers are sponsored by the MATCH program, a non-profit organization in Marion devoted to helping the youth of Perry County. MATCH stands for Members Acting to Change Humanity, and the program uses team sports as a “spark, ” or an offshoot program.

“MATCH has sponsored the team since 1985,” said Robert Turner, an organizer of the program. “And we look at it as a way for the players to grow. It’s a kind of a field trip for the players–they learn how to travel, meet large numbers of people, and present themselves in large gatherings.”

The MATCH Strikers also allow the Francis Marion Rams the ability to enjoy regular-season success in many ways, because the team provides a way for the players to consistently work out and compete during the summer.

“MATCH does claim some responsibility for the Rams’ success,” said Turner. “Many MATCH Strikers become varsity players for the team, and many are on the team already.”

The Strikers are set to heat things up at the Alabama Sports Fest’s statewide competition the weekend of June 28.