Winter has finally arrived in northern Indiana.
And while that means cold and snow, it also means warm nights inside packed fieldhouses of Indiana as high school basketball season heats up.
Over the past few weeks, that action has turned up the temperature locally with several holiday tournaments: Bethany Christian’s boys and girls, the Goshen girls and the Northridge girls have all hosted their own holiday hoopfests.
Goshen’s girls won their tournament, while Northridge’s girls came up just short in the Bankers Holiday Classic Friday night with a loss to NLC rival NorthWood.
For me, getting out to cover these tournaments is one more reminder of the joys of my job: Getting paid to cover high school sports — and here, specifically Indiana high school basketball.
Hoops in the Hoosier state is just special.
We Hoosiers take pride in not just the sport, but the spectacle surrounding it.
The atmosphere at the girls’ games is a bit more subdued, and the crowds are smaller. That’s always been a bit of a source of disappointment to me, that the girls’ games don’t draw as much attention as the boys.
The girls put out just as much effort, in practice and on game night. They deserve to look up in the stands and see more than a few more cheering faces.
Meanwhile, the boys teams of the NLC and the NIC locked horns this weekend in the NIC-NLC Challenge, a holiday hoopfest featuring two of the better boys conferences in our area.
Saturday night, I got a chance to apply two pieces of my skill set, heading over to Dunlap to cover and shoot photos of a showdown between Mishawaka and Concord.
The atmosphere at the boys games is something different entirely, to be sure.
But at the end of the night, no matter where you go in northern Indiana, you can be sure of a few truths.
You’re going to see high school basketball at its finest, played at its purest level.
You’re going to see young athletes giving their all on the court for 32 minutes, fighting tooth-and-nail for every possession, scrambling around on the floor for every loose ball, contesting every shot, leaving it all on the floor in the quest to be on the right end of the final score when all is said and done.
You’re going to see coaches who have their heart in the right place, who have devoted much of their life to teaching young people not only a game, but life skills.
You’re going to see officials who are just as dedicated to the game as the coaches and players, who don the zebra stripes not for a paycheck, but for a purpose: Being a part of our state’s favorite pastime, and making sure the court is level and that the rules of sportsmanship and fair play are honored always.
You’re going to see (usually) spirited fans who also have their heart in the right place, cheering their team on with pride and class.
But most of all, you’re going to see young people who are living a dream: Getting to put on a uniform and represent their school and community in the athletic arena.
It just doesn’t get any better than that.
Kudos to these young people for putting themselves out there not just to compete on the basketball court, but to learn the valuable life lessons basketball — and sports in general — have to offer.
Lessons that will endure and be relevant many years from now, long after the sneakers have been retired and the uniforms come off for the last time.
When you get knocked down, get back up.
Play hard, but play fair.
Work well with others.
And finally, know that sometimes you will put forth your best effort — and it won’t be quite good enough. The scoreboard may say you lost, but in the game of life, you’ll be a winner.
Contact sports editor David Vantress at 533-2151, ext. 325 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.