Wednesday, January 20, 2010

One great game

In the first two days of the 78th LeFlore County Tournament, there were already some good games.

On Tuesday night, there was a great game.

Heavener and Howe renewed their rivalry and it was like the Hatfields and the McCoys again.

Players, fans and coaches know and in many instances are friends with persons from the two towns located only five miles apart. Many of the residents work with each other and have known each other for decades. They even go to church together and would go out of their way to help each other in times of need.

But when the school with the red and white and the other featuring purple and gold meet inside a basketball gym, it is war. Howe fans hold up signs proclaiming their school to be the real HHS while Heavener fans carried around a stuffed Lion on a string.

When the two teams met Tuesday, there was an intensity and atmosphere lacking in 99.9 percent of all games. You could feel it inside the gym. This was a special night. Most of the county finals don’t find the players and fans this jacked.

The old (but refurbished) gym at CASC was packed. LTC organizers made a wise decision when they moved this game from Arkoma to CASC. There is no way Arkoma’s gym could hold this crowd.

Besides, a game of this magnitude needs to be played in the grand palace of basketball in LeFlore County, where so many county champions were crowned in years past and so many fans once played back in their glory days.

Howe is the smaller school, but basketball rules and there is a good tradition. Basketball at Heavener is important also. Plus, this was the LeFlore County Tournament. The winner gets to continue on toward a possible championship. The loser falls into the losers bracket, something nobody in these two communities want to see happen.

Plus, with no games scheduled between the two teams for the remainder of this year the winner gets bragging rights until the next time the two schools hook up.

Yes, there was a winner in Tuesday’s game. Heavener came from 12 points down in the fourth quarter to force overtime and then escape with a 78-73 win.

On this night, there was no loser, despite what the scoreboard might say. How could one team be considered a loser after its players put everything into winning and left every ounce of energy and emotion on the floor?

And make no mistake, this was the way high school basketball should be played. Both teams busted their tails from the opening tip until the final second faded off the scoreboard clock. They both wanted to win in the worst way, but there were no nasty incidents or dirty play.

The game got physical at times, but that is going to happen when you have two teams that put as much emphasis on stopping the other team as they do in scoring points.

There were big shots and exciting moments. The roar from the crowd only subsided during breaks from the action. There would be an eruption from the section containing the Howe fans followed shortly by a roar from the Heavener crowd.

Fans and players who played earlier stayed to watch this classic. Many players and fans from schools who played at other locations also dropped by to watch.

And the best thing is this might be Part 1. Heavener’s girls and Howe are the top two seeds in the girls’ bracket and could meet in the finals Saturday night at UAFS, although Pocola and Poteau have something to say about that.

1 comment:

  1. Must have been a great game. I saw your story, too, Craig, and it sounded like the Wolves had to rally to force it into OT. I'm looking forward to retirement. One of my stops will be the LCT. - Jim Patterson, Arlington, Texas