Chip Scoggins
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Malcolm Jones' phone buzzed at midnight. His older brother Robert was calling from another state to wish him a happy birthday as the clock flipped to a new day, Malcolm's 20th birthday.

The two talked for nearly an hour about basketball and life. Basketball, mostly, and with good reason.

Earlier that evening, Malcolm helped the Minnesota State Mankato men's team advance to the Division II Final Four. Robert had his own stories to tell as a starting forward on Iowa State's men's team that earned a spot in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division I basketball tournament.

"Both of us being successful right now is a good feeling," Malcolm said by phone Wednesday.

March Madness is a special time of year for basketball players. A special time for parents and families too.

For the Jones family of Prior Lake, March Madness is double the fun — and a logistical challenge that occasionally makes them feel like air traffic controllers.

"You should see our calendar," mom Laura said.

Circumstances dictated that Laura and her husband, Kenderick, take the divide-and-conquer approach this week. Both sons played tournament games on Thursday — Robert in the Sweet 16 in Boston, Malcolm in the Final Four in Evansville, Ind.

Kenderick traveled to Indiana to watch Malcolm; Laura flew to Boston to watch Robert.

It turned out to be a day of mixed emotions.

Minnesota State defeated West Texas A&M 79-72 to advance to Saturday's Division II national championship game. But Iowa State lost to Illinois 72-69 in Robert's final college game.

Basketball is a family affair for the Joneses. Both parents played collegiately — Laura at Concordia College in Moorhead and Kenderick at Gustavus Adolphus.

Robert, the oldest child by three years, and Malcolm played at Prior Lake. William, the youngest son, just completed his junior season at Prior Lake.

The parents prioritize being present for their sons' careers. They tried to have at least one of them at every one of their sons' games this season. They missed only four games total between the three kids. That's home and road games.

"Family comes first," Laura said.

Kenderick works from home, and his travel schedule occasionally puts him close to his sons' road games. Laura is a middle school teacher who is done by 2 p.m. but has early mornings.

Juggling three basketball schedules is a job in itself. Kenderick credits his wife's planning.

"I planned a calendar," she said, "but we kind of take it one day at a time."

Some days are easier than others. On Jan. 27, Iowa State hosted Kansas in the morning. Minnesota State hosted MSU Moorhead in the evening. The start times allowed the parents to attend both games together.

"And they both won," Kenderick said.

The parents go in different directions on many game days. They alternate so they get to see both sons. And they make sure to be home to watch William's games at Prior Lake.

Asked for the mileage accrued on the family cars this season, both chuckled.

"I couldn't estimate," Kenderick said.

They cut corners when possible. They didn't stay over in Ames after Robert's games, putting them back home after midnight after a three-hour drive.

"You always have to take your son out to dinner after each game," Kenderick noted. "There is some requirement there as well."

One exception: those 8 p.m. starts that TV now loves. Their sons were on the hook for their own dinner with those tip-off times.

The parents watch games on TV or on their phone when at home or at their other child's game. Neither likes to text updates during games because they want to focus on the action. A synopsis comes after the game.

The parents say they haven't had time to reflect yet on how cool this March Madness moment has been for the family.

"We need to take a breather and realize that," Laura said.

That will have to wait. Laura and William have another flight to catch to get from Boston to Indiana to watch Malcolm in the championship game Saturday.