With the Tigers knocked out of the boys’ sectional tournament on its opening night, I was staring at a basketball-free weekend last Friday and Saturday for the second time in three weeks.

I spent time with my family on Friday. We had a birthday party to go to and it was fun.

But Saturday, I went to the sectional final at Triton.

Why?

Because it’s Triton and Argos. I don’t need another reason.

I have written about rivalries before. There are different kinds of rivalries and origins of rivalries.

Most are built within conferences, but not all.

Almost all are born out of familiarity and proximity.

Some are pretty nasty.

Rochester and Tippecanoe Valley would fall into that category. Plymouth and Warsaw fits that. Elkhart Memorial and Elkhart Central used to be that.  

Those rivalries are marked with viciousnous and extreme intensity. Their memories and projections are used as fuel to motivate off-season workouts, shouting across parking lots and social media spouting off.

Some people would go so far as to not spit on the other’s school if it was on fire.

This is decidedly not what Triton-Argos is all about.

Be 100-percent clear—no one in Argos wants to lose to Triton, and no one at Triton has any interest in losing to Argos.

Two small communities, just a 15 minute drive from one school to the other. Some of them work together. Some of them attend the same churches.

And for over 50 years they have been competing against each other in athletics.

For schools their size, they have produced more high-quality athletes that have left fond memories and gone on to do big things in college than other schools of like-attendance totals.

They didn’t get to play in the regular season because of the weather—which denied them twice.

Then Saturday, with a sectional title on the line, these two friendly neighbors stood opposed, staring into each other’s eyes, focused on the task at hand at the highest level.

Neither coach needed to give any “rah rah” speech. No one in either locker room or anyone in the stands needed to have explained to them what was at stake and the gravity of the moment.

It was understood.

When the final buzzer sounded in the Trojan Trench at 8:20 p.m. Saturday night with Triton winning 45-39, it ended the fourth straight season that Argos and Triton had played in the sectional. These two friendly neighbors had to play knowing that one of their seasons were going to end when they were done.

Unlike previous matchups in the regular season games, I didn’t see anyone from Argos walked down the bleachers to share a hug with their friends from Bourbon, Tippecanoe and Etna Green. They got up, walked up the stairs and headed off to the parking lot to head home. They weren’t being sore losers…they just were letting the winners enjoy their moment.

No meetings at the local pizza joint or in someone’s house. Not on that night. There would be a time for that later.

And Triton’s players, coaches and fans celebrated their championship over their next-door neighbor with perfect joy. They’d beaten the team that had been playing the best in the final games leading up to the tournament. They had held them to under 40 points.

Their season would continue for at least another week.

Weeks from now, when spring sports are rolling and then when summer fun is underway, a thought or two about that game or that opponent might come up. Some will smile, some will feel pain.

But no one would expect that anyone on either side could possibly look at the other and consider them an enemy. Not these two schools. Not their communities. Not their people.

And that’s why I spent my free Saturday watching that game, between those two teams, in that gym.

I grew up in one community and spent a lot of my high school free time and broadcasting life in the other.

And I will admit, it was hard to watch the game because I knew one would lose, and I knew my heart would hurt for them.

I was right.

But that’s why it matters—this is Indiana, this is March and those are two special places.