I just read what I posted last Sunday, and I damn near made myself cry. Okay, I did make myself cry. Last week I wrote a blog post on how both our high school basketball teams were on their way to state tournament, and the last line was “Hopefully next week at this time I’ll be posting on how we won the championship games at the Pit”
Well, guess what. I’m here, after five days in Albuquerque and several heart-stopping quarters of basketball, after two meals at the Frontier and one evening at the dollar movies, after countless hugs from old friends who live far from Logan but who showed up for the games (my pal Tommy Scott Barber drove in from Justin, Texas for the game last night), after lots of shouting, a boo or two directed at a blind referee, after endless rounds of post-game analysis on Facebook and on Sabrina’s couch and about a hundred texts to Johanna who was on a Spring Break trip to Vegas, after phone calls back and forth to folks watching the NMAA live feed of the games at the Baptist Church and the Annex and the Legion in Logan. . .after those kids that we’ve watched for years almost sending us into cardiac arrest. . .after all that, I’m here to tell you that the Logan Longhorns varsity boys team did it. They won the New Mexico State Championship title for Class 1A.
I can say that calmly now, but last night I was speechless with (okay now I can admit it) some surprise (Cliff was undefeated! They’ve won all their games this year by huge margins. . .) and extreme pride. For the first time since my nephew Kene and his pals took the title in 1998, the Logan Longhorns are once again the state champs. I think that sentence deserves an exclamation mark – I’m just going to use so many in this post that I’ll leave it at this – We Won!!!!
I have to digress ever so slightly and tell you that the girls’ team made it to Albuquerque as well, and had they not all been recovering from a nasty stomach flu virus, I’m pretty sure they could have made up that eight point deficit and beat the Tatum Coyotes. Next year, girls. We’re proud of you as well.
Those of you who live in towns and cities larger than Logan (pop 1,054 or something close to that) may wonder what we do for fun in a place this tiny. In fact, most of my Albuquerque and Santa Fe friends ask me that question all the time.
Well, let me tell you what we do: we support our kids, even when we don’t have any kids of our own on the team. I talked to my Albuquerque friend Cynthia last week and was ranting and raving about getting to be in town for the basketball games. “Wait,” she said, “Aren’t you done with high school sports now that Johanna’s in college?”
Silly question. I let her know in no uncertain terms that just because my own children are grown doesn’t mean that I quit supporting the kids playing now. This is our life, our heart, the place where our energy and enthusiasm goes.
So, for fun, we go to basketball games and stand and stomp our feet when the cheerleaders shout “Logan Longhorns!” We follow the coach’s poll. We sit in our offices the day after a game and discuss how well Hayes Frost takes a charge or what a pretty three-pointer Rylan shoots or what a great defender Tanner Sorrels is. We buy booster club apparel so that we not only sound like crazy Longhorn fans, we look like them.
And we go to more basketball games. Sometimes we boo the refs. Sometimes we scream ourselves hoarse. And then at the end of the game we wait for the team to come out of the locker room so we can tell our players what a great game they played.
This week was no exception. We traveled to Albuquerque and took over the stands as quickly as the prior fans would get out of their seats. We had two barnburners against Capitan and Ft. Sumner in the Bernalillo High School gym, especially against Ft. Sumner. I could give you a play-by-play of those games, but suffice it to say that the Ft. Sumner game nearly gave me a stroke. Thomas Garcia did a great job covering it for the Quay County Sun here. When that game was over, after a desperation 3 pointer that sent us into an overtime that then ended with Logan winning by four, we were on our way to the championship game.
And then last night we went to The Pit. I love how NMAA has always scheduled the 1A championship right before the 5A game. We get to play on Saturday night at 6:00, at a time when excitement is high and the stands are full.
Cliff was a scary commodity. Undefeated. A known powerhouse (I mean, good grief, how many years in a row have they gone to state?). Our boys played the first half like they were frozen, frightened, and just a little uncertain as to why they were there.
I talked to Coach Perales this afternoon and he told me he went into the locker room at half yelling, telling the boys they were basically beating themselves, that they were a better team than Cliff, that the second half was going to be their’s.
Perales was also quick to say that this team was ready for that state title. This is his first year coaching at Logan, but he told me that these boys have been well coached before by Coach Burns and that their incredible talent and work ethic was easy for him to step right into and take over.
His halftime speech worked. They did it. The Longhorns came out and got their confidence back, playing an amazing defensive game. And then they started hitting, and then Cliff started flailing, not knowing how to play a game in which they weren’t 20 points ahead.
At the final buzzer, we were up 10 points. Logan was once again the state champs.
So, yeah, that’s what we do in a small town. We go crazy when our kids play like they did this past week. We stand in the bleachers at the pit and cry when they give that blue trophy to our kids.
Here’s something else we do. We put together an escort for the boy’s activity bus so that they receive a hero’s welcome back into town. Lucky for us, the New Mexico State Police decided to get involved and led them not only into town but into Quay County. They met the bus at Montoya and escorted them all the way to Logan. Our local police force, firetrucks and ambulances met them out on highway 54 and joined the escort.
The entire village lined the streets, cheering and honking as they arrived, and then followed them to the school where the booster club had celebratory cakes waiting. We all cried again when they lined up behind the cake and smiled for the camera (after which they got into the cake icing and smeared each other’s and both coaches’ faces. . .).
So, what do we do for fun in a small town? We support our kids and we cheer for them whether they win or lose. It’s especially nice when they win, but what we want most of all is for them to do their best and play with all their hearts and treat their teammates with respect. Some of these kids have been playing together since 3rd grade. They love each other like brothers. And we love them all like they’re our own.
That’s what we do for fun in a small town. I gotta tell you, it works for me. And I think it works for these kids.