The passion of basketball was on display during 9C's opening night
It's not something that shows up in the box score. It isn't something that shows up in the finals score or in the course of a 32-minute basketball game. But it's something you'll see every day and night at the District 9C basketball tournament. It's called passion, and the kids who play in the 9C each and every year have it. High school basketball is still about kids playing the game because they love it, and there isn't any other event like a district tournament. I've been covering the 9C for eight years now, and it never ceases to amaze me when I see high school kids taking to the Havre High gymnasium floor to lay it all on the line — not because they have to or because they are getting paid. Instead, kids play their hearts out each and every day and night because of the name on the front of their jeresy. They do it because of the color of their uniform. It's about pride for their school and for their community and it's on display every day during the third week in February in Havre, This year's 9C tournament is only a day old, yet there was plenty of what I'm talking about on display during the first night session of the tournament. The Turner girls are back in the 9C tournament after a one-year hiatus. On Wednesday night, it was obvious pretty quickly that Turner was overmatched by 9C power Big Sandy, yet there were players in green and black diving on the floor for loose balls, playing defense as hard as they could and hustling on every play. The Turner girls have already exemplified everything that is right with high school basketball in just one game in the tournament. After their loss to Big Sandy, Turner players were all smiles, not because they didn't care that they had just lost their tourney opener, but because they got to play at all. The Tornado girls were excited at the prospect of competing and despite being a huge underdog, they went and gave it everything they had. That's what high shcool basketball is all about and that's what the 9C represents each and every year. Following the girls game Wednesday night, the Turner boys also suffered a lopsided loss. But in years of covering Turner basketball, the one thing I can say with certainty is that a Turner team will play hard for 32 minutes. Tornado players will never appear to be out of a game no matter what the scoreboard says because they play so hard, chase after loose balls, and never stop running. That's because Turner players, like so many other small-town hoopsters, have a passion for the game, a passion for playing for their school, and it culminates with this week in Havre. The 9C tournament is a special time in the lives of so many young basketball players. It's their shot to take center stage. It's their shot to trump professional and college basketball, and for one week, even the bigger Montana schools. Nowhere was that more evident than in the two games Turner played Wednesday night. And while both Tornado teams may have been on the wrong end of the final score, they are both a big part of why this tournament, this week is so important to fans and their communities, and why its so important to the players themselves. Turner brought out the best of the 9C on opening night, and all of us who will be there all week should be glad there's still three more days of basketball passion left to go.