Archive for Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Chinstraps and Mouthpieces: Tonganoxie substate atmosphere perfect

March 7, 2007

No matter how many times I watch the movie, my eyes start to well ever so slightly.

The movie is "Hoosiers" and it likely will be my No. 1 sports movie of all time.

Perhaps it's the nostalgia of players competing in the 1950s, about the time my father played his high school ball. Or maybe the underdog storyline will forever pull me in.

It's an era I certainly didn't live in real time.

But listening to my father talk about some of those famed "crackerbox" gymnasiums and how they were built made me long to play basketball during that period.

Well, let's be honest.

"Play" and "basketball" haven't really joined each other in a sentence to describe me since junior high. And even then, it was a stretch.

Either way, I'd gladly set the time machine, hop in a DeLorean and transport myself back to the 1950s.

Luckily, last week I tasted nostalgia and didn't need to mess with the flux capacitor.

The Class 4A Tonganoxie substate seemed a journey into the past.

Players and fans weren't wearing nostalgic garb, but the seasoned gymnasium, coupled with many energetic fans, became a special place for basketball.

The gym itself was built in the 1960s, so it has its share of history. And, when the gymnasium was remodeled last year, it didn't detract from its character. That additional balcony seating on the north side came in handy for the large substate crowds.

I've been to dozens of games in the THS gymnasium during my six years covering Tonganoxie sports, but this was a different story.

There have been some good crowds the past six years, but nothing can compare to a substate tournament.

Fans packed into the balcony wrap-around seating. And across from the team benches, at court level, student sections congregated -- side-by-side -- to cheer rabidly for their respective teams.

On a normal game night, the THS student section sits across the court from the visiting bench, while the THS band is positioned across from the Tonganoxie bench.

During substate, the band set up shop in the northwest corner of the balcony seating.

It's always great to hear the band front and center when you're on the floor, but there was something special about the configuration during substate, with peppy tunes floating down from the rafters.

And then there were the fans.

The Tonganoxie vs. Basehor-Linwood girls semifinal game Friday had an electric feel. The THS-Eudora championship game Saturday certainly had its intensity, but the two archrivals facing off seemed to add a little something.

For the boys, it clearly was pandemonium in the championship game between Baldwin and Piper.

Baldwin clawed its way back and had a chance to tie or win, but Piper escaped with the substate crown and its second consecutive state berth.

There was a certain energy in the gymnasium Saturday night. One could tell by stepping inside from an adjoining hallway. The temperature was drastically higher in the gymnasium -- the joint definitely was rocking.

Don't get me wrong, new gymnasiums have their perks. And it's likely I'll be covering a substate tournament in a much newer gymnasium next season, as teams don't normally play host to substates in consecutive years.

Even so, last week's tournament offered an enjoyable step back in time -- without altering the time-space continuum.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.