''Draw blood!'' coach Bill Resler orders his Roughriders, the varsity basketball squad from Seattle's upper-middle-class Roosevelt High School. And they do. They are the ''pack of wolves'' he tells them to be. Then they're a ''tropical storm,'' a ''pride of lions.'' The scorched-earth metaphors (as effective as they are hokey) rotate faster than the bench over the seven savage seasons covered in the pulse-racing docu-rah-rah The Heart of the Game, but Resler's kill-or-be-killed philosophy remains as fixed as the pupils of a hungry predator. Why does a coach's stoking of adolescent bloodlust feel thrilling here, as opposed to, well, a little scary? Frankly, because these are girls, not boys. So might the same techniques routinely blamed for turning young males into raging, entitled pack animals actually convert self-doubting high school females into proud, sisterly she-wolves?
When such interesting questions aren't answered (or even articulated), one wishes Heart used its head a little more. But filmmaker Ward Serrill is not a social scientist. He's a gifted sports photographer, and from the moment inner-city wonder girl Darnellia Russell enters the picture becoming the reluctant star of both the (mostly white) team and the movie Serrill is just as invested in the girls' success as they are. On these terms, the film is a furious full-court press, its subjects aflame with the kind of passion only youth can furnish. Even their bruises are luminous.