It’s a memorable time for dozens of high school basketball players, both girls and boys. The DIAA state tournaments are in full swing and, just like every year, heroes are born and hearts are broken and memories are made.
That final reason is really why this is such a special time for those kids, win or lose. A couple of years ago the DIAA decided to hold the quarterfinals at the Bob Carpenter Center, the best and brightest basketball arena in the state. For years, the semifinals and championship games were held at the Bob, but now more players get a chance to experience something they’ve probably never experienced before and will probably never experience again.
Some of the players in the tournament will play in college, but most won’t. Maybe they’ll play in some intramural or county or city league in front of a few family members and friends, but the seniors who made it to the quarter-finals are probably experiencing their last basketball game under the bright lights. And these lights are probably the brightest they’ve ever seen. Not that the Bob Carpenter Center is Madison Square Garden, but, hey, we live near Rodney Square, not Times Square, and in Delaware this is our premier showcase.
Even the seniors who do play at the next level will probably play at a small school that plays in a small gym in front of a small crowd. In fact, the crowds in those colleges might even be smaller than the ones they had in high school.
So this is a time to cherish. And you can tell that most of the players realize that. It’s always fun to watch them come out of the tunnel at the Bob for the first time and look around with wide eyes. It reminds you of that scene in the best sports movie of all time, “Hoosiers,” when the kids from the small school walk into Butler Field House for the first time. They’re overawed by the size of the place and one of them even yells something so he can hear his echo in the cavernous building.
And the coaches in the state tournament — just like the coach played by Gene Hackman in “Hoosiers’’ — make sure their players realize that even though the place is bigger and more intimidating, the length of the court and the height of the basket are the same. Still, the kids know that the crowds are bigger and so are the stakes.
So, win or lose, this will be a special time for these athletes, especially the seniors. Of course, it’s always more special when you win and even more so if you win in dramatic fashion. And before these tournaments are over, a game or two will be decided by a last shot or, more to the point, whether that last shot goes in or not.
If it goes in, the shooter is a hero. If it doesn’t, then the shooter can be perceived as a goat. But that’s wrong, because that player had the confidence to take that last shot and that’s the most important thing, the willingness to stand up and be counted when the pressure is on.
And the best part about this tournament is that no matter who wins or loses, those memories will get better and better as the years roll by. Bruce Springsteen called them Glory Days and not everybody gets a chance to have one or two of them. Someday these high school players will tell their kids and grandkids about the time they played in the Bob in front of a big crowd with a state championship on the line.