SOUTH PRAIRIE, N.D. - Sometimes in life, sports is about much more than a game.
This past weekend, girls basketball teams from across the state took over the gyms at South Prairie to honor the life of ten-year-old Haley Sundsbak.
Hundreds of young athletes took to the courts at South Prairie, but everyone's thoughts were on the one person not there--at least not physically.
“Sometimes she was smiling in the middle of a game, and we know that right now she's smiling every time we take the court,” said Sheila Green Gerding, the tournament organizer.
The players competed in the inaugural Haley Sundsbak Memorial Tournament.
The 10-year-old daughter, sibling, student, teammate, and friend lost her life in a boat accident last summer.
“Just wanted to do something to honor Haley. She loved basketball, so it was a chance for us to just do something in her honor,” said Gerding.
The games mean the world to Haley's parents.
“She was one of a kind. She loved her friends, she loved basketball, and having a tournament dedicated for her, and it to go to such a great cause, she'd be more than happy,” said Ashley Sundsbak, Haley’s mother.
And, her teammates, who fondly remember their times together.
“It was really fun. We played a lot together. We were both kind of the same thing. We were both posts,” said Ava Brown, her teammate.
Teams grades 3rd through 8th from 36 different schools visited South Prairie, some as far as Divide County.
"It's just fun to see North Dakota and the whole community for lots of miles away, really supporting how good North Dakota friendly is, and we all support each other,” said Kami Wehrman, Divide County coach.
The proceeds will go to a graduating senior at both Des Lacs-Burlington and South Prairie school.
“I know for sure she's looking down at us with her big, beautiful smile, and her big, blue eyes, and she is smiling down on all of us right now,” said Ashley.
Carrying on a young girl's life, legacy, and love of the game.
Haley's team won their level this weekend.
The organizers say they plan to hold the tournament again next year.
Photos courtesy: Ashley Sundsbak