My 9-year-old daughter played in her first AAU basketball tournament over the weekend. The tourney drew about 10 teams from all over North Central Washington. As a parent, it was an eye opener.

This wasn’t city league basketball, where you often see girls on opposing teams chatting and smiling during stoppages in the game. This AAU tournament experience was … the opposite. At times, it felt more like a scene from “Battle Royale.”

Prior to one of my daughter’s games, I watched half of a game that pitted two teams of fourth graders from two neighboring towns from up north.

There’s no way to sugarcoat what I saw. It felt like the deciding game of the WNBA finals, with little girls contesting every pass, every drive, every rebound. If a player stopped dribbling, at least two or three pairs of hands from the opposing team would immediately start clawing for the ball.

At times, it looked more like a rugby match, not a basketball game. There were a season’s worth of jump balls called in this game. The girls would sometimes continue fighting for the ball after one of the referees had blown his whistle. At one point, eight of the 10 girls were on the floor fighting for the ball.

My daughter plays on Wenatchee’s B team, comprised mostly of girls with a lot of determination but not a lot of experience. At times during this tournament, the girls cried and had the look of lambs being led to market. But they never gave up.

I give a lot of credit to the Wenatchee coaches for putting in a lot of time over the weekend coaching two teams. Not only did they do it, they did it with class, never raising their voices at the girls or losing their patience.

My daughter’s team played five games over the span of three days, losing all five games. Their closest game was Friday night, when they lost by a single basket. They walked off the court that night with smiles on their faces, though, after inbounding the ball with 1.7 seconds left on the clock and scoring a hoop as the final buzzer sounded.

At this age, sometimes it’s the little things — not the wins and losses — that make it worthwhile.