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Column: You gotta love the Southern B Tournament

Weather pending, the day this column is published, I'll travel to Billings to cover the Three Forks High School Boys' Basketball team at their opening round game against Lodge Grass at the Southern B Divisional Tournament.

While I have covered basketball tournaments across the western United States over the past two-plus decades, there is nothing quite like the atmosphere at the Southern B Divisional Tournament. The combination of great basketball, rabid fans, and a venue perfect for a high school basketball make it one of my absolute favorite tournaments. A few times, the roads have been a bit dicey, but once I'm at the Metra, it is a great place to spend a day or evening working.

My first memory of the tournament was when I owned the newspaper in Whitehall, and I traveled down for an opening round game on a Thursday evening. It was also my first time at the Metra, and after a few minutes, I realized this was a great for a basketball game. I was blown away by the number of fans in attendance and how loud it got when I was trying to write a story, and Lodge Grass took me to the court for the next game.

It's never wrong to be at work covering a game in the gym, but one thing I like about being at a tournament is sitting at a table courtside. Writing a story, editing pictures, or taking notes in the stands can have its challenges. Earlier this year, I was taking notes, and a kid decided to hang on one of the rims above the stands and kicked me square in the head as he was swinging. It was quite a shock and made me realize how much I enjoy the table.

On my first night at the Metra, I sat down at the press table, got my laptop out, and noticed a phone on the table. This brought back some memories. While having some dedicated phone lines at the table might seem old-fashioned, I can remember being at a state tournament in Wyoming and calling in my story to my editor. It was awkward to handwrite a story and then call it in while someone typed it up, but that's what you had to do before you could just email it.

If the phone is still there today, I might order a pizza and see how that goes.

The only downside to the tables is that they tend to get packed on the last few days of the tournament with just about every news outlet imaginable. As much as I would like to think the tables should be reserved for who covers the team more during the entire season, that's not how it works, and I must remember to show up early.

At one Divisional Tournament, I hitched a ride up on the opening night with the plan of Melissa meeting me for the final day of action. I ended up leaving my cell phone in the Uber on the way to the Metra. Trying to figure out how to get the phone back and get a hold of Melissa was a pain, and I almost had to use the phone on the table.

That same trip, I had been finishing up a story after the last game of the night, and one of the Metra workers told me I needed to leave. I was about halfway done with the story I would post online, but he kept badgering me and finally turned the lights off. That was certainly an awkward moment trying to pack up in the dark, but I was still eager to return in the morning to cover more basketball.

I mentioned earlier how loud it was the first time I saw Lodge Grass at the tournament. This was equally the case when I covered Three Forks for the first time. Whitehall fans traveled well but seeing the amount of red in the stands for a Three Forks game is quite the site. It is always amazing to see how Three Forks supports their teams. The energy from the Three Forks crowd before the recent 5B District Tournament final against Manhattan was incredible.

When Three Forks plays Lodge Grass at the tournament, it is the epitome of high school basketball, and I cannot wait for today's matchup.

Go Wolves!