|The crowd was packed for Saturday's finals of the LCJHT|
The decision to start the LeFlore County Junior High Tournament was also a good one.
Once again the junior high version was played the past week before a packed house for the finals Saturday night at Carl Albert State College.
If the Mick Thompson Field House holds around 1,200 people, there were easily over 1,000 in attendance to watch the Howe and Poteau girls along with Poteau and Wister boys play a pair of finals which were as exciting as anybody could hope to see. Throw in the ones who came earlier and left and it would have been like one of the old LCT finals.
It was an opportunity to see the future varsity standouts playing with as much enthusiasm as we will see on Jan. 21 for the finals of the LCT.
Poteau’s boys and girls won the finals, but Howe’s girls and Wister’s boys were in both contests until the final buzzer.
The crowd got loud, coaches questioned calls and the players celebrated big plays, just like in any varsity game.
There were great plays and some not so great. Play got a little sloppy at times, but that was okay. None of the older kids will play harder than these 12, 13 and 14-year old eighth (and some seventh) graders did.
The most refreshing parts were none of the players in the finals felt the need to question a call, talk trash to an opponent or try to show up a player from the other team.
Those are some traits sometimes forgotten by the older players.
We saw some familiar names like Hardaway and Brown for Poteau’s boys, a Standridge for the girls, a Gibson from Wister and a Hillebrand for Howe. All of them are the little brothers or sisters of players who will have a key impact when the LCT opens a week from today.
And who knows, four years from now we might see these same players and schools competing against each other in another finals played at a location to be determined.
The only complaint I heard was there was not an all-tournament team selected. Some said this was to save money, but it was actually done for the right reason: not to put individuals above the team. Sure, it would be nice to honor the players who deserved this award, but anytime that happens, there are going to be some who felt like they deserved the honor, but weren't selected.