High school basketball players have come to Billings this week for the Eastern AA Divisional Tournaments at the MSU Billings Alterowitz Gym.
Seven boys teams and seven girls teams are competing.
"This is such an exciting time of year," said Krista Montague, MSUB Athletics Director. "Everyone talks about March Madness, right? I think it really is true because it's tournament time for all levels. And really your seasons start over. Your regular season record doesn't really matter anymore at this point. It's anybody's game any night. You just got to go out and play and may the best team win. And so it makes the tournament time really fun because sometimes there's upsets. Sometimes there's not. You just never know what's going to happen."
"That's the key for kids," said Mark Wahl, Billings School District 2 activities director. "Having a tournament atmosphere is different than a playoff system where you play that one playoff game. And so that's kind of the neat thing about it. It does carry a lot of energy with it and so we're glad to have it back for the kids."
Eastern AA divisionals came back three years ago and have been played in Butte and Great Falls.
Butte is now in the Western AA, which has eight teams.
A new high school, Bozeman Gallatin, will join the Eastern AA next season for an eight-team division.
The comeback of AA divisional tournaments has given players another post season experience.
"This is a good opportunity for all of our kids to get into a tournament," said Wahl. "It's fun to do it for the kids. They enjoy it and it's not the one-and-done type playoff format. It's fun to do it for the kids."
Alterowitz holds about 2,400 people for basketball.
"Our gym is a perfect fit for this tournament," said Montague. "That's important for them and their families and their fans to be able to experience this atmosphere, have more people watch them, so it's been a great thing for the kids."
School District 2 is the host for the tournaments and is renting the gym from MSUB.
Montague said the baseline cost is $500 per day with additions for other needs, such as security and custodial services.
The championship games will be played Saturday night.
The top four teams from each tournament advance to the state tournament in Bozeman next weekend.