I love basketball season.
Don't get me wrong, football and baseball are two of my favorite sports. In Columbia County, it doesn't get much better than a Friday night football contest or a Saturday afternoon baseball game.
That is, as long as the weather is nice.
That's why I love basketball. It's indoors.
It can be raining, sleeting, snowing, gusting, hailing or meteorite showering. It doesn't matter. Basketball has a gym.
Of course, the speed, finesse and teamwork of a good basketball team is impressive on its own. Still, when it's 36 degrees outside with freezing rain and a strong wind, I'll take an indoor hoops game any day.
Fortunately, there's plenty of indoor action around Columbia County.
I've had the opportunity to experience game-day atmospheres at five of the six high school basketball gyms (Evans has yet to play a home game). I'll admit that I've been impressed.
For one thing, these gyms seem to have the uncanny ability to produce and consistently sustain 100 degree-plus temperatures. It can be 30 degrees outside with flurries and a wind chill in the teens, but as soon as you step into a Columbia County basketball gym - summertime.
Hundreds of fans battled the heat in the Turkey Tip-Off Tournament just before the Thanksgiving holiday at Lakeside High School.
"The Pit," as the Panther faithful call it, was rocking with fans from all four public schools, including two Evans and Greenbrier student sections with cheers and even a few taunts flying back and forth during the boys' championship game.
Greenbrier's gym was subdued for their scrimmage against the Academy of Richmond County before the season started, but I heard that the Wolfpack fans were in midseason form for their home opener against rival Lakeside two weeks ago.
I know I've only been here three months, but I have a feeling that half the county would turn out for a knitting match if it knew it was the Lakeside knitting club taking on the Greenbrier knitters.
Harlem played host to Evans last Tuesday, and it was obvious that the Bulldog fans knew how to support their team. The Harlem folks cheered their girls team to a win, and then gave the officials all they could when the referees blew the whistle 44 times in the boys contest (an average of one foul called every 43.6 seconds).
Augusta Christian's gym has quite possibly the most uncomfortable seating in the history of modern gymnasiums, but the Lion faithful still packed the stands for their home opener Thursday night.
The Augusta Christian gym does have an upside. The far wall is almost completely covered with state and region championship banners. Soon, some alumnus will have to make a huge donation to build a bigger gym with more banner space and better bleachers. As much as I'd love to get that started, my budget can only afford a donation of one seat cushion. It's the thought that counts.
At Augusta Preparatory Day School, construction on a new gym is under way. It doesn't take much to fill the one-sided bleachers in the current gym, but the new athletic facility, tentatively scheduled for a grand opening of Aug. 1, 2006, will increase seating by more than 50 percent. The extra space will be a welcome relief when nearby rivals Westminster Schools of Augusta and Augusta Christian come knocking.
Could a newer, larger facility also bring a Georgia Independent School Association region or state volleyball or basketball tournament to the county? There's nothing concrete, but stay tuned. It's in the works.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.