The University of Montana Lady Griz and Florida Atlantic University Owls weren’t the only ones to square off at Dahlberg Arena on Saturday.
During halftime, two teams of girls from the Missoula Family YMCA’s youth basketball league faced each other on the court in a scrimmage in front of the crowd at the game.
Katie Grutsch, director of youth sports at the YMCA, said the scrimmage is an annual traditional between her organization and UM. All youth basketball players who wore their team jerseys received free admission into the game.
“It’s great to let kids see the game they’ve been playing at a higher level,” she said. “The Lady Griz have so many great role models for them to look up to.”
Saturday’s halftime scrimmage was played by two teams of second- and third-grade girls from teams sponsored by Montana Rail Link and Missoula Bone & Joint. They were given the opportunity because they displayed outstanding sportsmanship over the course of their season, which wrapped up the same day, Grutsch said. UM also partnered for a similar mid-game YMCA scrimmage during a women’s soccer match earlier in the year.
Mike Size, coach of the Missoula Bone & Joint team that was nicknamed the “Blue Bandits," said the girls are in their first and second years of playing team basketball.
“The whole point of the Y is all the girls learn to play, then they get to come back the next year and be a little better,” he said. “We’re mainly working on dribbling and passing. Shooting is a bonus.”
Saturday’s scrimmage lasted seven minutes, with both of the girls teams playing the full length of the court with the hoops set at their normal 10-foot height, as opposed to the shortened courts and rims they were used to playing with in their games.
“We can do it,” Annie Smith, one of the Missoula Bone & Joint players, said before the teams took the court. “One of the places we practice uses 10-foot hoops.”
Her teammate Sloane Coen said she had never played in front of a crowd anywhere near as big as the 2,365 people who attended Saturday’s game.
“Usually it’s just our parents that watch us,” she said.
Griz mascot Monte took an active role in the scrimmage, starting by simply racing up and down the floor with the teams, but eventually helping to set up screens for the Montana Rail Link girls after they fell behind by a basket. The scrimmage ended in a 4-0 win for the Missoula Bone & Joint team.
While the scrimmage was going on, the remaining girls waiting to substitute in and the coaches of the teams each sat on the players chairs. Montana Rail Link team coach Lori Quinn said her team chose to sit on the same side the Lady Griz do.
“I was sitting there, going 'I’m in Robin Selvig’s seat right now,' " she said.