JIM PETERS: LaPorte seniors have enjoyed the journey

2014-03-13T17:30:00Z 2014-03-14T01:56:05Z JIM PETERS: LaPorte seniors have enjoyed the journeyJim Peters Times Columnist nwitimes.com
March 13, 2014 5:30 pm  • 

It all began for LaPorte's senior class over eight years ago.

"We were in the fourth grade," Josh Fleming recalled. "It was a Wednesday night. One of my friend's dads called and asked me if I wanted to be on an AAU team."

Fleming said yes and while it's not so simple as to say the rest is history, it was the origin of the group's connection on the basketball court.

"Obviously, not everybody from then still plays, but we've grown up really close friends," Fleming said of classmates Gage Ott, Blake Arnett, Miles Browder, Jacob Jones and Logan Dubbs. "It's really fun, especially knowing that I get to play another week with some of my best friends."

Fleming led the senior-laden Slicers to the Class 4A Valparaiso Sectional title last week, LaPorte's first since 2006. 

"This group of seniors has been looking forward to this for a long time," Wells said. "They've been through some tough years but, I've said it before, they've never shortchanged me in terms of effort Monday through Thursday. They've got that determined look."

The dry spell was even more profound for the seniors, who hadn't experienced as much as a sectional victory during their high school careers, ending each season with more losses than wins. Fleming came up a ninth-grader, so he endured it first hand. Ott followed him to varsity as a sophomore, the others as juniors.

"Starting off as freshmen, we thought we'd have a pretty good team," Fleming said. "We thought we had a chance to win a sectional. Every year, we'd lost in the first round. We didn't want to go out like that. It was a different mindset. We played team offense, team defense. I think we deserved a sectional championship."

One of the side perks of winning was gathering at the Wells' house for Laura Wells' lasagna Thursday. Tom was looking forward to it not just because he had given up sweets for Lent, but for the opportunity to gather the gang at least once more.

"They're positive kids who love to be together and are so fun to be around," Wells said. "It keeps you young."

The moments are particularly special at this point, when finality awaits at every game.

"We're a team, not only on the court, but off it," Fleming said. "We're always doing bonding stuff outside of school. We're there for each other."

They will be again Saturday when the Slicers (16-7) face Lake Central (19-3) in the Michigan City Regional. LaPorte has nothing on the Indians in terms of seniority, facing a veteran group that's likewise come up through the ranks together.

"LC beat us by 19 in January. We weren't ready for that game," Fleming said. "Winning the sectional gave us a lot of confidence. We're coming into the regional playing at a high level. We feel like we can compete with anybody. We know we can come out with the win if we play hard enough and we deserve it."

Right now, Saturday is all that matters. After that, or whenever the season happens to end, it'll be the journey rather than the destination that will be remembered.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at james.peters@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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