And I wrote in my notebook, "This is what high school basketball SHOULD be."
It is what high school basketball used to be in Indiana, where I grew up. Except for brief sabbaticals in Wisconsin and Illinois, I spent my life in Indiana, and I was as basketball-mad a Hoosier as you will ever find.
I remember shooting baskets in the driveway when I was 9 years old. In the play-by-play running through my head, I was Oscar Robertson, the great college and professional star who led Indianapolis Crispus Attucks High School to consecutive Indiana State Championships in the mid-50s.
The game may have been invented in Massachusetts, but Indiana considered itself the game's true home, and the annual four-week high school boys' tournament was its pinnacle. The tourney drew hundreds of thousands of fans and generated literally millions of dollars.
Schoolboy stars from Johnny Wooden to Oscar Robertson to Larry Bird to George McGinnis became hometown heroes and lifetime celebrities because of their exploits in Indiana high school basketball.
There were no classes, no size divisions, and that was a big part of the appeal. All schools, regardless of size, played in the same tournament. Sure, the big schools usually won, but every once in a while, a little school made it all the way to the final four, and that's what Indiana high school basketball fans lived for.
In 1954, tiny Milan High School upset mighty Muncie Central in the final game, a victory that inspired generations of Indiana players and fans and was the basis for the movie "Hoosiers."
In 1990, when Indiana schoolboy legend Damon Bailey led his Bedford-North Lawrence Stars to the state championship, the finals were held in the RCA Dome in downtown Indianapolis and drew 50,000 fans.
But in 1997, in a misguided attempt to give small schools a greater chance at glory, the board of directors of Indiana's high school athletics association voted to eliminate the all comers tournament and crown state champions in four classes every year.
It has proven to be the single most idiotic decision ever made about high school basketball, in Indiana or anywhere else. A state thatprides itself on having nine of the 10 largest high school gyms in the nation now can barely draw 500 people to a 2A sectional final.
Natural rivalries have lost all meaning because, if the two teams are in different classes, they'll never face each other in that most dramatic of all showdowns, the high school tournament.
And not just attendance has plummeted. The once highly lucrative tournament now barely takes in enough money to cover expenses.
What Indiana high school basketball used to be ran through my mind Thursday as I watched what Kentucky basketball still is. In a gritty performance, a tough GRC team beat Christian County in overtime. It was as exciting a high school basketball game as I've ever seen.
When I moved here 18 months ago, folks told me they would turn me into a Kentucky fan. They meant UK, of course, and that still may happen someday, but you've already turned me into a Kentucky high school fan. The Sweet Sixteen is amazing, a spectacle every 9-year-old boy pounding a beat-up basketball on any gravel driveway in Kentucky dreams of experiencing.
So if you don't mind a little advice from a Hoosier and a fervent fan of high school basketball, it's this: Don't let anybody change it.
Don't give it up.