Malone, FL---The trip is on for Coach Steven Welch and his Malone Tigers, who Tuesday packed the bus and headed south in advance of their semifinal tomorrow at noon against Chiefland.
The Tigers gunning for their 14th state championship. Already they're number two in the state in terms of titles collected, behind the 18 of Miami High.
Coach Welch, a player on the '91 Malone championship team, so knows all too well what it means to be leading the Tigers to Lakeland, and the tradition they carry with them.
"This is something we talk about a lot." says coach Welch. "Any time you put that Malone on you're representing a lot of people that's played a lot of good basketball through the years. We've got kids who's uncles and daddy's are state champions. Just that legacy, that tradition, I mean they never get away from it. They go home to hear it, they walk the street, they walk the barber shop, the gas station. And what that does it makes the kid more accountable to the program and to the team. Because you just don't let yourself down, you let all your teammates. Plus the whole community who really has a lot of stake in this program."
Malone won five straight championships from '94 to '98. They made it back to the finals in '99, that was their last trip there.