Tonight, Grace played in the first round of the sixth grade girl’s basketball tournament. Her team lost 29-19, but much fun was had by all. Their opponents, the Rye Middle School Girl’s Team, played excellent. They are an excellent team and it was obvious they’d played together for a while (Rye is much smaller school, and this was their only team) and that the coach had them playing at a very high level. They had nine players on their team. Our team, on the other hand, was one of three Portsmouth Middle School Girl’s teams, and we only had six players, none of whom had played together before a few months ago. The game started with Rye up 12-0. At halftime, they lead 18-3. What I really loved about watching the game, however, was the real heart our girls showed against a team that was obviously the better team.
I’m not one to care about winning. Our culture’s fixation with winning, to be blunt about it, annoys me. But I also don’t like to watch blow-outs. They annoy me too. I’m a fan of good, hard-fought, competitive games. I’d rather see my team lose by a point than win by thirty. I love to see gritty and scrappy teams play up to the level of their competition. For instance, I loved watching Seattle outplay the Saints this past football season–something about the small team taking the big man down I find very appealing. Or even if they don’t take the big man down, but give him a run for his money, scare him a little but come up short. I’d rather see that any day than some blow out.
So, in the second half, when our girls kept fighting (outscoring the Rye girls 16-11), but came up short, how could that not be awesome? Grace was right in there, fighting for rebounds, stealing a couple of balls, nailing one shot. The season’s over and she just started to “get it.” Just started to get confident, to take a pass now and then and try to drive to the basket. She’s still struggling with getting the dribble down, so sometimes she’d lose the ball, but it was still pretty awesome. She was playing hurt, too, a little bump on her knee, a little strain in her shoulder. I watched her on the bench for a few moments after she came out for her shoulder. She rubbed it a bit and then stood and walked over to the coach, ready to go back in. Heart. I know, I know, she’s my kid and I’m supposed to say things like that, but it wasn’t just my kid. It was all of them, on both teams really. I guess I’m feeling grateful that I was able to be there, to see them fight back, but come up short. It felt like what sports are supposed to be about. Solid competitive play.
Our girls had a lot of shots tonight, but they couldn’t get many of them to fall. But even with two minutes left, they played with urgency. Grace scored the last two points–both free-throws after a foul–to bring the game within ten. I think I could have watched all night.