Even though we're officially past Valentine's Day, I'd like to comment on what the season means to me. It's a day full of love, romance and hope.
Just kidding. There's no room for any mushiness in this column. We're talking sports here. You know, full-contact, hard-nosed, down-and-dirty, fully-hyphenated sports.
That was the situation last weekend at the 2-AAAA Region Basketball Tournament hosted by Jones County High School. Two local teams, the Evans Knights and Greenbrier Lady Wolfpack, battled against the rest of the region in four games that were anything but mushy.
Both teams excelled in the two-day event and both came home with second-place finishes. As impressive as that is, something happened there that impressed me even more.
It was on Friday, after the Greenbrier girls had won their semifinal game. The Lady Wolfpack shook hands with their opponents, then headed back toward the locker room for their usual postgame talk from Coach Garrett Black.
However, before reaching the locker room, the girls took a detour. In true Columbia County camaraderie fashion (and possibly spurred by the upcoming Valentine's holiday), each member of the Lady Wolfpack squad filed into the Evans spirit line to welcome the Knights onto the floor.
The Knights, who were coming out of the locker room for their pregame warm ups, appreciated the gesture. The next night, just before the girl's championship game, the Evans boys returned the favor and every single Knight, including the coaching staff, joined the spirit line to welcome the Greenbrier girls onto the court.
To further the Valentine's spirit, the Evans and Greenbrier cheerleaders combined squads on the championship night to help spur on their Columbia County athletes.
For anyone new to the area, Greenbrier and Evans aren't exactly the Burt and Ernie of Columbia County. Throw Lakeside into the mix and you've got three seriously intense rivalries no matter what the sport.
To see those two schools, battling for their region lives, join together against the rest of the region, well, it did this sport writer's heart good.
Billy Jackson, former Evans Knight, also saw the in-county friendship. His observation hit the nail on the head.
"It's kind of like, you can slap your sister, but nobody else better do it," he said.
So happy Valentine's Day, Columbia County. Follow the actions of your high school basketball teams and spread the love. It won't last long. Football season is only 187 days away.
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