I’ve seen a lot of impressive things since I started covering sports.

I’ve seen Pendleton’s Dakota Sams break a late tie and clinch a conference win with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer against Redmond last basketball season.

I watched Trevor Brazile take home his seventh All-Around title at last year’s Pendleton Round-Up.

I was there when the Heppner girls basketball team won the 2A state championship by just one point in March 2019.

But perhaps what I’ll remember the most when I eventually look back on my career happened just recently.

On Tuesday, I was at Warberg Court to watch the Pendleton boys basketball crew take on the Crook County Cowboys in an Intermountain Conference rematch. The teams were neck-and-neck in the league standings, and Pendleton dropped its last matchup with the Cowboys by just one basket earlier in the season.

Clearly, both teams were eager to do battle again.

But before the tip-off, the Cowboys put the heated competition on hold for a moment as they handed the Buckaroos a big tub full of blankets to aid local residents affected by the floods that broke out last week.

The two opposing teams shook hands and exchanged embraces as Pendleton and Crook County fans alike stood and applauded the gesture.

Pendleton girls head coach Kevin Porter expressed his appreciation for the Cowgirls, who offered the same gesture in Prineville that night.

For me, it was reaffirming to see teams put aside any sense of competition or rivalry in favor of extending a helping hand to their fellow man — or community — in need.

In the heat of the moment, when your home team is down in the fourth quarter, or the referee isn’t making calls in your team’s favor, it’s easy to forget the friendly spirit of competition. But on Tuesday night, two opposing teams became one, if only for a couple of minutes.

The Crook County athletes weren’t the only ones offering a helping hand in the widespread flood relief efforts: Pendleton star javelin thrower Sam Jennings was out clearing debris from trailer parks on Sunday afternoon.

A handful of Walla Walla Community College women’s basketball players came down to pitch in.

The Blue Mountain Community College men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, and men’s basketball teams all lent their time and effort in everything from organizing donation items from the Red Cross to transporting goods to shelters, and assisting in the cleanup.

Similarly, area basketball teams came together to support Joseph Charter School in the wake of the fire that devastated their gym on Jan. 16.

Helix, Elgin, Imbler and Stanfield were among teams that donated gate receipts and passed the hat in support of Joseph.

Competition is fun, and getting swept up in the spectacle as a fan in the stands is a great way to cut loose and escape reality on a Friday night.

But when reality is impossible to ignore — like a flood or a fire — gestures from our local athletes remind us that these teams are full of young men and women whose merits extend far beyond their skills on the court.

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