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The unsung heroes behind the Class C Basketball Tournament

Posted at 10:24 PM, Mar 06, 2024

GREAT FALLS — The Class C High School Basketball Tournament tips off on Wednesday, March 7th at the Montana Expopark. Fans will have the opportunity to watch high-octane, knockout, basketball through Saturday, featuring some of Montana’s smallest, yet most prideful schools. The action on the floor sells the tickets, but in order to even purchase one, hours of preparation have to go into the product to make it presentable.

“I don’t think anybody understands how much work goes into these type of events,” says Executive Director of the Montana High School Association, Brian Michelotti.

More than 50 employees of both the MHSA and Expopark worked on everything from hardwood maintenance, to food and drink vending, to making sure players are hydrated. Their work ensures the event is just as seamless and riveting for fans as it is for the qualifying teams.

“It's a once in a lifetime opportunity, for some. It'll be a memory that's cherished, and to be able to provide that to them is absolutely wonderful”, says Director of the Montana Expopark, Susan Shannon.

For public address announcer Luke McKinley, his presence amplifies the experience for attending fans. Though he’s easily heard, it’s easy to forget just how much he adds to the ambience of the games themselves. His passion can be easily heard from every starting lineup announcement to each final score. The difficulty of achieving success at the Class C level not lost on him. McKinley is also the principal at Simms High School.

“If you have an announcer that is bland, it doesn't really liven up the crowd,” says McKinley, “Making the state tournament for a class C school is huge for a town or multiple towns. As soon as I get this microphone going and I announce where they're from and their hometown, you can hear those people getting excited. The kids get excited.”

For the eight qualifying teams, from Lustre Christian to Box Elder, for all their success this season, to be able to realize it on the biggest stage it takes a true village of unsung heroes.

“The reason the tournament goes so well is all these individuals that work so hard, they put a lot of time and coordination and effort into these events,” says Michelotti, “And it shows because of the the well-oiled machine that we see when when the ball gets tipped in the air.”