Saturday, February 22, 2014

In high school athletics, NCISAA basketball finals as good as it gets

High school athletes in North Carolina are awful lucky.

In a 26-year career at the Observer, I've been able to see high school sports championships in seven states and seen a few more while traveling. Nothing I've seen comes close to the job that the N.C. High School Athletic Association (public schools) and the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association (private schools) do with the state basketball championships each year.

Each event is the singular highlight of the prep season, along with the NCHSAA football finals. Due to the number of schools playing for finals, the NCHSAA divides its finals into two locations for basketball and three for football. The NCISAA, like today, packs them all into one gym.

That allows the fans to see all the top players and all the top teams. All of the NCISAA officials are on hand, from executive director Chuck Carter down to former coaches and athletics directors at the school level. In some ways, it's like a family reunion for the Independent Schools. And it doesn't hurt that the basketball is always phenomenal.

Time Warner Cable is broadcasting today's finals and from the packed gym to the players from other schools watching to the incredible decibel level, this is something special, something the participants will remember forever.

And that's what high school athletics should be all about.