“Playing and Winning Together in Louisiana’s Sabine Parish”
Posted by Steve Bzomowski on February 25, 2007
from The NY Times:
“After nine hours of basketball, the air-conditioning system seemed to have a nervous breakdown. Still, more than 500 fans shoehorned into the tiny, sheet-metal gym at Pleasant Hill High School on Saturday night. When the bleachers filled, some people grabbed folding chairs. Others sat on the floor along the baseline. Flashes of yellow rippled through the crowd as spectators fanned themselves with a booklet of team rosters.
All seven high schools in Sabine Parish have won boys state titles; five of the girls teams have won. They had squeezed inside to see the Zwolle Hawks, the county power that is either 43-0 or 44-1 this season, depending on the inclusion of two informal games. Some fans had arrived in the morning, sitting through six previous games of the Sabine Shootout, a tune-up for the Louisiana state playoffs that begin Feb. 23.
There are thousands of one-blink communities like Zwolle (pronounced ZWAH-lee) around the country. Some, in states like Indiana and Kentucky, have become mythic for their hoops-on-a-barn devotion. But perhaps nowhere does basketball zealotry surpass the rural fervor of the timber and railroad towns of Sabine Parish.
All seven parish high schools have won a state championship in boys basketball; five of the girls teams have. The nation’s greatest schoolboy scorer and its leading career rebounder played in this poor, racially diverse county on the Texas border in north-central Louisiana. So did the highest-scoring boys and girls teams, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
‘If it’s not round and bouncing, it don’t matter around here,’ Bradley McLaren, 24, the Zwolle coach, said.”
(Thanks to Nelson Wang for the tip!)