HOUSTON — March is madness, or something like that, right?

Well, it’s a lot more than alliterative catchphrase bandied about to sports landscape at this time of the year … including at the Toyota Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament.

It is a season worth of ups and downs crammed into three or four games in a week.

It is a test of wills for the players, the coaches and fan bases.

It is the range of emotions expressed on the faces of those we’ve come to watch.

To sum it all up, it’s pure. As pure as pure can get. You know those clichés: loser goes home, Cinderella, bracket busters and heart of a champion.

This week, it is more of the will and spirit of the survivor.

It’s Jackson State guard Paris Collins — one shoulder wrapped in a neoprene support and the other laced with strips of kinesiology tape — screaming fiercely Thursday from the bench, urging teammates to ratchet up the intensity against Prairie View. It was the screams Collins belted as he writhed in pain on the court as one of his shoulders popped out of the socket during Friday’s semifinal game against Mississippi Valley State. Collins returned and finished with nine points and 10 rebounds in the Tigers’ 74-68 win over the Delta Devils.

“Paris Collins is what this team is built on,” Tigers men’s head coach Wayne Brent said after the Valley game. “The kind of guy that I like to recruit. Tough guys. Guys that get hurt … they’re selfless. That shoulder pops out pretty much every game. It’s going to come out every game. We stop play. He comes back out there and gives it everything he’s got.”

It’s Alcorn State’s Norianna Haynes figuratively making a blood sacrifice to the basketball gods as she laid on the court bloodied after taking an elbow late in the fourth quarter against Southern. The conference women’s player of the year dusted herself off with the help of coaches, playing valiantly in defeat.

It’s also the look on Haynes face — complete with a roughly quarter-inch scar near her right eye — a mixture of complete pain and anger as she spoke in the postgame interview after being eliminated by Southern 61-57.

“We wanted it (the win) real bad, but it wasn’t coming to us,” Haynes said.

It’s the combination of resiliency and defiance in the voice of Mississippi Valley State men’s head coach Andre Payne as his team won their second game in as many days. The coach and players wrapped in a symbiotic relationship, feeding off each other’s energy as they launched a run toward the conference tournament semifinals.

“Excuse my grammar. I always tell them ‘I ain’t got time to be tired’,” Payne said after the Delta Devils’ 64-61 win over Alcorn State in the quarters.  “They’ve worked themselves to this point here.”

Just think … there’s one more day, and two more games — the men’s and women’s tournament championship games.

Two teams cut down the nets Saturday as champions.

The other two ponder what could have been.

Doesn’t get any purer than that, doesn’t it?


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