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March in rural Alaska: Eat, sleep and breathe basketball

Jason EvansThe Arctic Sounder
Flickr user mcav0y via Creative Commons

It is time for March Madness all over the country. To some this means it is time to watch college basketball on TV.

But here in Alaska, March Madness is all about getting to a gym and watching high school basketball, live and in person. This is the best time of year for high school basketball fans. Our teams just finished their seasons last week with some of the most exciting basketball I have ever seen.

For players and coaches it was both filled with highs and lows. Each team entered last week's regional tournament with the promise of finishing the season on a high note. The regional 3A basketball tournament was held for the first time in Anchorage, Alaska instead of at hosted by one of our Western Conference community schools.

For the last 30 plus years, this tournament has always been in rural Alaska, until now.

It was great to watch these games at Dimond High School, which is only five blocks from my house. But I must say, there was something missing not having this tournament out in one of our rural schools. Here in Anchorage, fans could catch the games and get their shopping done. The downfall of heading out to Costco when your favorite teams wasn't playing is you might have missed some of the most exciting games.

In the village, you are somewhat captive at the gym, but that is where you get a chance to visit with folks you haven't seen for months or years. Or better, have the opportunity to cheer on teams other than your own hometown as you renewed friendships and allegiances. In the village, you seem to eat, sleep and breathe basketball for a full four days.

This regional tournament also marks the end of an era for two of our of schools, the Unalaska Raiders and the Dillingham Wolverines, who will leave the 3A basketball level and enter into the 2A brackets.

The Dillingham girls beat two of the best 3A girls teams in the state to win the Western Conference regional high school championship. They first upset the Barrow Whalers and then in a nail bitter, the Nome Nanooks.

I grew up in Nome and there was a healthy rivalry with the Dillingham Wolverines. Regionals was the one time we could really get to know lots of team and kids from the other schools as the tournament included all the ball players, not just the traveling team, the team managers, the cheerleaders and even sometimes the bands.

It will be disappointing to see Dillingham and Unalaska leave the 2A brackets, but we wish them the best in moving forward. Basketball, like many other high school sports, will build lifelong memories and teach lessons for these kids to carry them on through life.

Jason Evans is the owner and publisher of The Arctic Sounder, where the preceding commentary first appeared. It is republished here with permission.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch. Alaska Dispatch welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.