The game was over.
The final buzzer had sounded and most of the fans had filtered out of the Marshall High School gymnasium after watching the hometown boys' basketball team extend its winning streak to nine games with a convincing 81-65 victory over a Sioux Falls Lincoln (S.D.) team that had entered the contest unbeaten.
It certainly wasn't the most impressive of performances by the Patriots, who are currently ranked No. 2 in South Dakota's largest class with a 6-1 record. But before they left the grounds of MHS, the Lincoln players left those who remained at the school in absolute awe.
Following the basketball game, the members of the Marshall gymnastics team, their parents and the MHS custodial staff worked to prepare the main gym for the team's annual invite that was set to begin the next morning. That meant hauling heavy equipment across the hall from the gymnastics room to the gym.
The Lincoln players were waiting in the hall after showering and changing out of their uniforms, and when they noticed what was going on, they jumped right in to help out.
After suffering what is still their only loss of the season in a physical ballgame, there was no hesitation from the Patriots to step in. First it was a couple of team members who shared their strength, and soon Marshall activities director Bruce Remme said there were 20-plus players (varsity and junior varsity) who were lugging mats, bars and beams across the hall and into the gym.
"It was one of the neatest things I've been able to experience as a part of high school sports," Remme said. "When I saw that, that really put a smile on my face. That was a bunch of kids who get it.
"Too often in society today we let those opportunities to help out pass us by. Here's a group of kids who seized that opportunity and really pitched in and they were a huge help to us."
Remme said the Patriot players helped out for a good 10 to 15 minutes, saving those who had started setting up at least a half hour. Before they left to head back to Sioux Falls, Remme thanked the players and relayed praise to the Patriot coaches about the group of kids they lead. He also sent them off with a couple of cases of sports drinks from the concession stand.
The next morning Remme sent an email to John Millea, the media special for the Minnesota State High School League, explaining the incredible scene he had witnessed. Millea quickly posted the email to the MSHSL Facebook page. As of 5 p.m. Friday, the post had received 901 "Likes", was shared by 229 people and was commented on 59 times.
The game was over. The Patriots had lost. But in the grand scheme of things, those players showed sports fans in at least two states their true character and that there's much more to being a high school athlete than wins and losses.
"It's something people really enjoy hearing about because I think it captures the essence of what you like to see high school sports be about," Remme said. "Sometimes those things are larger than the results on the scoreboard. Those kids may have left town with a loss on the scoreboard, but they made a lot of people think twice about what's really important. It was certainly a valuable trip and a learning experience and that's what we hope all of our kids learn, that it's about more than just the skills on the court."