LSS: Better than teamwork — the real magic of high school basketball

Title IX: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance…

Say what you will about the federal government, but some things it does take us in the right direction.

Folks around the world may call soccer the beautiful game, but in my opinion, that’s because they don’t know enough about high school basketball.

Even before I walked inside the gym last week to a local high school girls game, the sounds from afar took me back. Basketball, more than any other activity, defined my youth. Since neither of my daughters is interested in the sport and adulthood gets so full of so much, I haven’t been to a girls’ game in decades. I was happy to see that the magic was still there and the game could still matter the way it used to matter to me.

In its beautiful way, it’s still the same.

Squeaky tennis shoes on shiny gym floor.

Ponytails flying.

Scrappy scrambling.

Fans cheering.

Scoreboard ticking.

The rumble of feet up and down the court.

Collective ohs of despair.

Cheers of delight.

Coaches and clipboards.

Players buzzed in at the last possible second.

Critical free throws — made and missed.

Referees doing their best to feign indifference.

And, of course, Mamas hollering.

Aside from how much I loved playing basketball, maybe human nature plays a role in why I love watching it — especially the spectacle of high school girls. Watching any team put it all out there, full of passion and hustle, is a beautiful thing, but committed high school girls take that to a different level. Think about it. Try and name one section of the population who’s willing to emote more and play harder than high school girls!

Win or lose, team sports teach us so much about working together — from that incredible sense of accomplishment that comes with achieving something great to the consolation and camaraderie that comes with losing together.

All that said, cool things happen in high school boys basketball too. For example, just more than a week ago, two high school rival teams were playing in El Paso, Texas — a place I used to call home.

As the game was winding down, the home team, Coronado High, had a handy lead over Franklin. Peter Morales, Coronado’s coach says he would have put Mitchell Marcus in for the last two minutes of the game even if they would have been tied. Marcus, a senior student with special needs, had faithfully served as the teams’ manager for three years and never played in a game. When Marcus ran on the court, the whole crowd began chanting, “Mitchell. Mitchell. Mitchell.”

At every opportunity, his teammates passed him the ball. Marcus took shot after shot and the ball just wouldn’t go in the basket. With 13 seconds left in the game, the ball went out of bounds and was in Franklin’s possession. Jon Montenez from Franklin recognized what was going on — and in an incredible act of sportsmanship, the rivalry stopped mattering for a moment. Instead of tossing the ball to his teammate and the game ending, Montenez threw the ball directly to Coronado’s Mitchell.

Who took the shot.


And again.

And again.

And, finally, just as the buzzer sounded, it went in.

And the crowd went wild, rushed the court and put Mitchell on their shoulders.

Sometimes people don’t need rules or anything else to do the right thing.

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