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March Madness comes around once a year, grasping the hearts and souls of basketball fans.
For the Grant County Braves it came a few weeks early as they clinched a spot in the regional tournament this week, with an upset win over Walton-Verona 55-50, Feb. 22 in the 32nd District Tournament.
The atmosphere was like nothing I had seen, except on few occasions, like the comeback win the Braves had at Williamstown High School in December.
Not only do I write about the basketball team, I shoot photos to capture the moments in the game that give the resemblance of what happened. With the help of Denise Schork this past week, we snapped shots of the emotion of the team, the fans and the game.
As Braves senior Trevor Hunt dribbled down the court each time, his father would stand up and as the ball would go through the iron hoop, excitement filled the crowd.
Taking photographs underneath the basket records the moments on the floor in a fashion no fan can get from the sidelines, as sometimes the players are flying right in front of me for the basket. Sometimes it’s difficult when taking photos not to root for the team you’re covering.
Looking back on the three previous matchups between Walton-Verona and Grant County, I knew it was going to be a close game, but with Walton-Verona having won all three games, something inside of me, a gut feeling, that the Braves were going to pull this one out.
Last year, I was watching under the basket at Simon Kenton High School as all four local teams, fell to Simon Kenton and Walton. I didn’t want to see that happen again this season.
The Braves had a 10-point lead at one point in the game and just as quickly as they built that lead, Walton-Verona steamed right back to a two-point deficit to Grant.
Watching Braves coach Jim Hicks pace up and down the court, eyes glaring at the scoreboard as the clock wind its way down to zero, the bench standing on their feet, the score 52-50 with just 9.1 seconds to go, Hicks calls a timeout.
The bands for both schools playing the noise ear-piercing, the Grant County crowd wanting to see the boys advance to regionals for the first time since 2009.
A couple of fouls to extend the game by Walton-Verona, only increase the lead for Grant County, as the student section swarms the floor like bees on honey. Braves advance.
Even though they weren’t able to win the district championship, the Braves will get the taste of regionals and for the seniors, it is something they are looking forward to.
“I don’t want this to end,” Hunt said.
As the team gets on the bus, I will be joining them for the hour-long trip to Henry County, getting to know the team a little bit more, grasping the excitement and anticipation of the regional tournament.
It’s March Madness baby!
(Matt Birkholtz is the sports writer for the Grant County News. He can be reached at email@example.com or 859-824-3343.)