By April, high school sports fans are going to be well-versed in the term "tradition factor."
It is a simple formula the IHSAA is using to value success and lift teams of continued success up a classification.
Teams are given points based on how far they advance in the tournament: one point for a sectional title, two for a regional title, three for a semistate win and four for a state championship. Any teams that receive six points over two years will advance a classification during the next enrollment reclassification.
The next enrollment reclassification is now, and the realignment will take place next month.
The city of Merrillville offers a great example of how it should be used.
Let's start in football, where we already know the outcomes.
Andrean popped the bubble on its regional curse and reached the Class 2A football semistate. It was a longtime coming for the 59ers, who had appeared in a regional game four times between 2004 and 2012, the last two title wins.
The football team seemingly had the game in the bag in the first half, then needed five overtimes to win the regional.
Down the road, Merrillville High School was capturing its own piece of the regional football puzzle. The Pirates followed their first sectional title in three years with their first regional title in three years.
Their road to the semistate was fraught with a postseason that included beating Chesterton, a team that had gotten the best of them in the regular season.
Now, four months later, the traditions are about to factor in.
Andrean boys basketball held a lead in the fourth quarter Saturday, about to win its first regional championship since 2000, when host Plymouth started to creep back into the picture.
The Pilgrims have their own tradition. They hadn't allowed a Lake County team to win a regional championship in their gym since 2003. A decade of turning teams away in the finals and advancing to the semistate was on the line when Plymouth's Joe Knapp hit a 3-pointer with a second left to send the game into overtime.
It didn't take five, but in just the one extra period, the 59ers bucked tradition. A 70-60 win was about as dominant as they could be in staking their claim on the regional plaque.
To the west, in Michigan City, the Merrillville boys basketball team was trying to mimic its football team. The Pirates had to find a way to top Munster, a team that had beaten them in the regular season, before reaching the regional final.
In a down-to-the-wire semifinal, Merrillville relied on old faithful, BJ Jenkins, to hit a 3-point shot to send them to the championship game.
This is the same Jenkins that scored two touchdowns and had 132 yard receiving in the football regional title game.
In that 1.5 miles between the two schools, there's a simple formula: this is how traditions start, and they instantly become a factor.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.