Plentywood boys

High school basketball is back in Montana, and if our first night was any indication fans from border to border were champing at the bit for it.

BOZEMAN — The 406mtsports.com crew produced our first “Full Court Press” highlight package of 2021 on Saturday night, and from that endeavor it's abundantly clear Montanans have been champing at the bit for high school basketball.

Early returns suggest it could be the most-read Full Court Press since our twice- or thrice-weekly roundup of games statewide made its debut on the new 406mtsports.com site during the 2016-17 season.

The numbers are a reminder that in Montana basketball is king, at least for high schools. They're also, perhaps, a reflection of arenas sitting largely vacant Saturday due to attendance restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

And then there's that gnawing sense of unfinished business.

Ten months ago, we were one night away from crowning eight state champions when the first announced cases of COVID-19 in Montana pulled out the proverbial rug, leaving us with 16 unfulfilled co-champions who to this day would agree with the old saw that a tie is “like kissing your sister."

Or your brother.

I was heartened by how many games across Montana we were able to include in Full Court Press on an opening night typically fraught with bugs and glitches.

But, we strive for perfection.

That we describe Full Court Press as “highlights” is only because we don’t yet receive every result. In truth, our goal is to include a brief write-up of every boys and girls game in the state, along with our 20-point club, regardless of whether teams reside in our traditional Lee Montana newspaper footprints of Billings, Missoula, Butte, Helena and Hamilton.

I’m looking at you Golden Triangle, Flathead and Gallatin Valley.

We’ll keep full-court pressing the state’s athletic directors and coaches until we reach our goal.

After all, as has been the case since the first sports section rolled off a facsimile of the Gutenberg press, the ball that ultimately lands on readers' doorsteps, laptops or iPads begins in the coaches’ courts.

Or, in today's world, athletic directors. Or team managers. Or any dedicated fan, whether a parent or that institutional community icon who hasn’t missed a game in 40 years.

Osmosis is a wonderful act of nature, but it doesn’t permeate our publications.

We can’t report what we don’t know. The only way to know what happens in Ekalaka, Box Elder, Heart Butte, Troy, St. Regis, Lima, White Sulphur Springs and Frazer is if somebody connected to the home and/or away bench takes a few moments to share it with us.

Which brings me back to Full Court Press, which is consistently among our most popular content items.

It's those box scores inputted into our online "portal" (or at least emailed) that enable us to write a brief result of potentially every game in the state — an ambitious undertaking no Montana media outlet has ever attempted.

Thus, we’re looking for dedicated souls connected to each school who have the time and willingness to input results into our online portal. Many coaches or their aides did just that Saturday night, giving basketball aficionados from Absarokee to Zortman instant online access to results.

As they'll readily attest, it's certainly quicker than the traditional postgame phone call.

We only need scores by quarter and individual scoring on game nights, though other key information such as rebounding and assist leaders or game-winning shots and records certainly enhances the write-ups.

Of note also is the potential depth for statistics and even mug shots of players. Each school has its own page, and some have used the site as an easy way to track complete team statistics the public can see.

If you’re a coach or athletic director and haven’t received your school’s login and password, please contact our digital sports editor Lindsay Rossmiller at lindsay.rossmiller@406mtsports.com. If you run into any technical issues, she’ll help navigate them.

We’re hoping to achieve 100% participation in the portal eventually, but in the meantime I welcome coaches — or their designated stats drivers — to at least submit images of scorebooks to me at jeff.welsch@406mtsports.com until inputting becomes second nature. And if anyone has questions, don’t hesitate to call me at 406-670-3849.

We are committed to this ambitious endeavor because we believe providing results is a valuable service. It links us and our readers with every community across Montana.

And if our first night of Full Court Press is any indication, high school basketball — and reading about it — is valued as much as ever.

Email 406mtsports.com and Lee Montana newspapers Executive Sports Editor Jeff Welsch at jeff.welsch@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @406sportswelsch

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