At Thursday evening’s middle school basketball contests, the boys from Baggs came across the Colorado-Wyoming border to take on the Bulldogs from Craig Middle School.
Before the high school or college basketball seasons have even begun, I may have caught the best game I will see all winter.
The Craig – Baggs matchup is an entertaining one at the middle school level, because it features the Rattlers trying to overcome a pretty significant size disadvantage with their shooting and dribbling skill.
For most of the game, size was winning out in a big way. The Bulldogs led 21-12 after three quarters, and had shut Snake River down on offense the whole game.
But then the three-balls started falling for the Rattlers, at the same time their defense picked up. All of a sudden, they took an inexplicable lead late in the game.
It needs to be said that without a lapse from the Craig players in the fourth quarter, the game would never have reached this point. Kudos to the Rattlers for exploiting the opportunities they had and making a run, but the Bulldogs didn’t play their best basketball in the fourth quarter.
But the game did get to that point, which is all that matters. From then on, it was awesome.
A crowd that had only been partially invested in the game for three and a half quarters was all of a sudden competing to cheer for its team the loudest. Most people stood for the final few minutes and overtime, cheering through timeouts and for every bounce of the ball.
Across the court from the crowd, the intensity picked up big-time in both teams’ huddles during timeouts or heading into the overtime period. Instead of seeing players going through the motions of a game that felt like it was over 10 minutes ago, we had guys scratching and clawing for everything they could get on the court.
The energy in that small gym picked up in a way only sports can bring. Parents were stomping their feet in the stands as they cheered along, while teammates on the bench screamed for the teammates doing the smallest thing the right way. The entire gym held its breath when the ball went up for a shot.
If you were at the game or have read about it in the newspaper, you know CMS lost by a point after being unable to find the hoop on some good chances. That result was secondary to what transpired, at least from a spectating perspective. Everybody in the gym forgot about the other stuff going on in their lives. For a short amount of time, it was all about the basketball being played in front of them.
The best part about this game ending the way it did? The teams play again next Thursday in Baggs, and you can bet both teams will be approaching that game with a do-whatever-it-takes mentality. Should be another good one.
Nate Waggenspack is still fired up. He can be reached at 970-875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org.