For basketball fans in small-town North Dakota, the best time of the year is upon us.
Thursday's opening round of the Boys Class B State Basketball Tournament lived up to the hype, giving fans four competitive games with a couple going down to the wire.
While the basketball is the feature attraction at the State B, the sideshow is the great spirit shown by parents, students and fans in general.
Fans of North Sargent react to a play during the second half of the Bobcats first round game against North Star at the 2009 State Class B Boys Basketball Tournament Thursday at the Minot State University Dome.
If you've never been to the State B, it's sort of like watching a Jackson Pollock painting come to life in the middle of a rock concert.
There's more crazy color combinations than a tie-dyed shirt and more noise than an airport runway.
It's basically a license go bananas - and most fans take full advantage.
The first game featured some of the day's most rambunctious fans from North Sargent.
Superheroes was the theme for North Sargent, so there were fans with tights, capes, bandanas and eye masks like Batman's sidekick Robin wears.
While the Bobcats were super on the court, one group of observers dubbed themselves the superfans.
"This community is very close," said one of the superfans. "Somebody had better shut the lights off (in Gwinner) cause nobody's home."
I'm a huge fan of mascots, so well done to the person in the Bobcat mascot suit from North Sargent for pulling off a few cartwheels during time outs.
North Star didn't have any shortage of team spirit either. A number of the Bearcats fans were clad in black with red and black beads hanging around their necks.
Game 2 featured a few State B veterans - Watford City and Linton.
The Wolves were in the tournament just last year and the Lions as recently as 2005.
Both teams sport maroon as one of their team colors, but fortunately Linton fans wore yellow so I could tell the two fan bases apart.
One of the Watford City students was sporting a wolf mask along the baseline. At one point, someone from Watford City went over to the group on the baseline to pass along a serious message of some kind, probably just telling the kids to cool it a little.
Let me tell you, it's quite a sight watching a person trying to have a serious discussion with someone in a wolf mask.
The first game of the night session, Turtle Lake-Mercer sported a huge crowd. The crowd reminded me of a huge killer bee with fans alternately dressed in yellow and black.
The Trojans have a superfan of their own - Mike Axt, who is TL-M player Grant Singer's uncle.
Axt was dressed in full Trojan regalia, complete with a sword and shield. He looked like he was about ready to put Achilles in a headlock.
The Bulldogs had three fans along their baseline who looked like they were dressed in vintage hoops gear, straight from the 70s. They all sported headbands, long hair and shorts that wouldn't have even been cool in the 80s.
Extra credit to Bowman County for the Bulldog mascot suit.
The final game of the night matched Lewis & Clark-Berthold against Dakota Prairie. Dakota Prairie's fans had a bomb squad, probably set to explode when someone hit a 3-pointer or just to extinguish the Bombers in general.
Despite being the smallest school, the Bombers had a big student section that was packed with both grade-schoolers and teenagers alike. The two best-dressed in the Berthold section were superheroes dressed in purple from head to toe.
Also, props to the Center-Stanton band for an excellent job. You don't see pep bands at any other major high school tournament, but the State B wouldn't be the same without them.
While the basketball is always great at the Class B Boys, the sights and sounds are what make the tournament the best in the state.
(Chris Bieri is a sportswriter for the Minot Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)