(MARYVILLE, Mo.) Northwest basketball was in St. Joseph this weekend, leaving Bearcat Arena open in Maryville.
But, it was filled to the brim Saturday as hundreds of special needs athletes hit the court.
"The love of the sport, of being involved, of doing normal things is awesome for them," Northwest head athletic trainer Kelly Quinlan said.
37 teams and over 300 athletes competed in the annual Northwest Area Basketball Tournament, put on by the Special Olympics Missouri Committee.
They met with a warm welcome from the folks that make up the town's athletic scene.
"The staff and the university want us here and we can really feel that," associate area director Katie Hrenchir said. "On the evaluation sheet last year, all our coaches put that they love Northwest and they wanted to come back. That's why we brought it back here."
The athletes felt the love not just from the college, but from Maryville High School as well.
It's also the first year the Spoofhounds floored a team for the tournament.
"Their whole high school's gotten on board. They held the pep rally yesterday and the whole school was involved. Our athletes were showcased just like regular athletes would be from Maryville."
"It's just an opportunity for kids to really showcase themselves," said Benton athletic director Mike Ziesel, whose son, Matt, competed in the event. "That's fun to have that excitement."
For folks like Ziesel, the event carries special meaning with a family member competing.
That's also the case with Hrenchir, whose brother got her to get involved.
"He's been in the program since he was nine and he's now 30. I've volunteered, I've coached, and our athletes wait for this. They've been practicing for months. This is their first basketball tournament of the year and they're ready to go by the time the day gets here."
The planning process begins about three months before for a hectic day of running around the facilities at Bearcat Arena, but volunteers say it's worth it to see what it does for those competing.
"It hits your heart a little bit just to be able to watch these athletes that are out there just having a blast and competing like everybody else," Quinlan said. "It's awesome to see the excitement they have for the day and the event in general."