The state high school basketball championships at the Yakima Valley SunDome do not hold still for even a moment.
On the rare occasion when play on both courts is halted or sluggish, there are high school bands playing, scoreboards buzzing and fans stomping and shouting, fueled by soft pretzels, ice cream and a borderline-manic desire to see their teams win.
Of these distractions from the basketball itself, the fans are most interesting. The Class 1A and 2A tournament crowd is a dynamic mix of fans shouting for 32 different teams.
Everyone’s rooting interest is identifiable by their shirts. The Granger fans are in red, Cashmere is in orange, Chelan in green, and so forth.
And each group has its quirks. The Okanogan fans do the best choreographed cheers. The Seattle Academy fans are quiet but smart; everything they say to each other is loaded with basketball insight. And the Wapato fans are passionate, showing up in greater numbers and leaping to their feet more frequently than those of the other teams that played Friday.
Every school has at least one loud fan, and the loudest in the stands for Granger is Melissa Brown, whose son, Calvin Brown, is a 6-foot tall sharp-shooting wingman for the Spartans. She’s wearing a shirt with his picture and the words “Many Deeds” on it, which is his Native American name. The name means that whatever he does, he succeeds, she says.
“Come onnnnnn!” she shouts. “Let’s go Granger.”
Then, as a Spartan shot rims out, “Ohhhhh! Get back! Get BACK!”
Then, all within a single minute and at top volume: “Come on, you guys, gotta play hard!” “God dang, come on, Calvin!” “Why are you passing it to him again?” “Come on, play defense! Don’t watch him run right by you!”
She’s passionate, she says, because this is Calvin’s senior year, his last playing for Granger, and he’s worked so hard to get here. Ultimately, Granger loses the game to Cashmere, with Brown getting more and more frustrated.
“You feel for them,” she says. “He’s been playing since he was 4 years old. Native American teams and other AAU teams. It means a lot for him.”
Making it to state, though, was a huge accomplishment for Calvin.
“He didn’t give up,” Brown says. “He won’t give up.”
Meanwhile on the other court, the Wapato girls team is faring better. Led by Lexie Gomez and Briana Cordova, they give their impassioned fans plenty to shout about in a rout of Cedarcrest. Cordova has her own cheering section of friends and family wearing T-shirts with her name and the slogan, “The Best Never Settle.”
“We’re pretty much a basketball community,” says her father, Bob Cordova. “Everything else is kind of ‘what we do if basketball’s not playing.’”
It’s also a small enough town that all of the players’ families know each other and have watched each other’s kids grow up.
“If we’re not related, we’re really good friends,” Cordova says. “It’s not the biggest town, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
He says this minutes after the final buzzer sounds on Wapato’s victory. And, as the dark-blue clad Wapato fans file out, fans from other teams, wearing other colors, start to stake out seats for the next game.
• Pat Muir can be reached at 509-577-7693 or firstname.lastname@example.org.