Molly Chapman, Clinton, Senior

Molly Chapman drives the baseline during a Jan. 8 game against Davenport West. 

The atmosphere of a high school basketball game is something that we all know and love. We look forward to walking into a gym that's already buzzing with excitement and voices, the smell of popcorn permeating every seam, some sing-along classics playing over the PA system.

We have come to enjoy the good-natured heckling from rowdy student sections, and the collective cheers when something exciting takes place on the court. The announcements of the starters and the national anthem are both nostalgic and suspenseful, building up to tip-off.

Let me stop. These are all things we see around 7:30 p.m., when the boys' games start.

In my time in the area and from my time as a high school athlete myself, it's a trend that comes to my attention every single week. The varsity girls' games lack the crowds and the enthusiasm in the bleachers that come with the boys' contests. Now don't get me wrong, it's not every school and it's not every single game, but it's a trend that is noticeable.

Last week at a Clinton twinbill, I watched a lackluster student section sit through the girls games. Just a dozen or so students, sitting and passively watching. Meanwhile, the River Queens had the No. 2 team in the state on the ropes in the first half.

Fast forward to the boys' game, the student section had filled out, had stood up, and was now actively involved. That's great, but why is it just for the boys?

I have never quite figured out the logic behind this. Is it that the members of the girls' basketball teams are great additions to the student sections and add new life? Is it that after 7 p.m. is an easier time for people to make the journey to the gym? Or is that the girls' game is a little different than the guys'?

That's one key thing you have to remember. You won't be heading to prep girls' games around here to see huge shows of athleticism, slam dunks, or long threes. It is a completely different game that you're taking in.

Instead of focusing on the physicality of the basketball game, watch the movements without the ball. Watch how the defense switches up when something isn't going right. Pay close attention to the girls who handle the ball and how they run the offense. Female players have an unbelievable amount of basketball IQ, you just have to pay attention to the game to see it.

The speed of the game is different, too. It looks slower to the spectator, which makes it more important to pay closer attention. Watch the cuts off the ball, watch the defense and look at the offensive rebounding. Although overall the game is slower, the girls show some unbelievable speed in the actions they take on the floor.

I can say from experience it can be a frustrating thing for girls teams to pull out a close and exciting game, but then see fans turn up for the boys right after. But do you know what the cool thing is? The girls still flourish without the huge crowds. They still come out, play hard, with or without fans.

That being said, they deserve the fans. If you're going out to watch the boys play, stop and see the girls game first. It may just surprise you, there's been a lot of good basketball in our area.

We have some unbelievable student sections, parents, fans and school communities in our area. I have seen moments when the entire gym rallies behind teams, girls and boys, and it really is something special. I want to see it become more common for that feeling to be a part of both varsity match ups.

Watch the girls. Just because it's a different game, doesn't mean it can't be exciting.