There’s no special markings on Rod Scott’s socks, but they’re filled with victories and memories.
Scott playfully touches them, runs his finger through the elastic band and talks about the history.
The Robert E. Lee boys basketball team, thanks to Tuesday’s 75-69 win over Central-Phenix City in the Class 7A Central Regional finals, is headed to the state tournament for the first time since 1997.
But for Scott and Tommy Burton, playoff trips to Birmingham are nothing new.
“I’ve told everybody that the stage is bigger, but if we play hard, we’re going to be fine,” said Scott, who has worn his St. Jude socks for luck since the playoffs began.
“If we keep fighting, we’re going to end up on the winning end.”
After St. Jude, which won a second straight state title last year, surprisingly closed in the spring, Scott and Burton transferred to Lee. Their goal remained the same.
“Since the first day, we have all worked hard and we’ve competed as a state championship team,” Burton said. “That’s what we are.”
With their help and the emergence of other players, Lee has tied the school record for victories, set by the 1975 team that was undefeated until a state semifinal loss.
The Generals (29-3) can break it with a win over Hoover at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center.
“This is a huge moment for Robert E. Lee High School, a great moment for the entire school,” coach Bryant Johnson said. “We’re looking forward to going to Birmingham and representing Lee to the best of our abilities.”
Johnson said he expected big things out of this year’s team, before Burton and Scott showed up, though the Generals were 13-14 last year.
Kendarius Hartwell, part of Lee’s team that beat St. Jude twice last year, and Burton scored 21 points each Tuesday. Trenton Clayton added 11.
“It feels great to go to my first state tournament, and the school hasn’t been there in so long,” Clayton said.
“We’re making history again.”
The players quickly meshed. Need an example? They regularly chide each other over last year’s St. Jude-Lee games. Jonathan Wiley, who was at Evangel Christian, represents the Lions when the talk gets started.
“We all knew what each other could do,” Hartwell said. “Like coach always says, it’s not just about us, it’s about all the people around Lee and all the people who went to Lee.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”
Tied 58-58 in the fourth quarter Tuesday, Lee used an 11-2 run to take control. When Central pulled within three, the Generals hit six free throws in the final minute.
Tre Todd scored 30 points for the Red Devils (22-4).
“I know everyone at Robert E. Lee is very proud of us, but we aren’t finished yet,” Burton said. “Lee already had a bunch of good players before we got there, and St. Jude is in the past now.
“I’m a General.”
Lee’s Roderic Scott (3) embraces Lee’s Kendarius Hartwell (1) as Lee’s Trenton Clayton holds the regional trophy after Lee won the Class 7A Central Region Championship against Central-Phenix City on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015, at the Dunn-Oliver Acadome in Montgomery, Ala.