HILLARY SMITH: Local semistate good for region, great for teams

2014-03-02T18:30:00Z 2014-03-02T20:39:35Z HILLARY SMITH: Local semistate good for region, great for teamsHillary Smith Times Columnist nwitimes.com
March 02, 2014 6:30 pm  • 

The Crown Point High School gym seats approximately 3,800 fans in the top and bottom bowls.

It can exceed 4,000 when area coaches hoping to glimpse the Class 4A North Semistate on Saturday are forced to stand for nearly two hours along the stairs and anywhere they can peek through two sets of shoulders.

Last season's Crown Point Semistate, handed by the IHSAA to the Bulldogs athletic administration, was a disappointment in attendance.

Fort Wayne Canterbury, a Class A school last year, passed by the other semistate site — Warsaw — on its 131-mile trip to Lake County. Lafayette Central Catholic, which returned this season, had the second shortest drive of any team in the 2013 field at 81 miles. Benton Central came from 70 miles away, and neither team brought fans to fill the gym.

By 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oregon-Davis had already staked out its claims to space at Crown Point and it reached nearly to the rafters. The Bobcats, who played four region teams in the regular season, filled one side of the gym with fans and the noise never died down.

Logansport, whose team was playing in its first-ever semistate, had the furthest drive at 93 miles, and easily brought the most fans of any of the four teams there. Berries faithful had spilled into space that was supposed to go to Penn. The administration sold out its allotted 500 tickets, then sold 300 more before Saturday.

Senior Whitney Jennings, who scored 23 of her team's 41 points in a three-point loss to Penn, is on the short list for the Miss Basketball award determined later this month. She's a draw that can't be denied, and part of what brought casual fans to the gym. 

Would Logansport have traveled to Warsaw (the semistate site that hosted the Class 3A and 2A games)? Sure. But they came west, instead.

What did this mean to Crown Point? Immediately, not much.

The teams that play in the semistate split the gate, so of the more than 4,000 tickets sold, Crown Point doesn't see the money. If all of those 4,000 people ate nachos, drank sodas and snacked on candy, then the Bulldogs athletic department sees a profit. If anyone stopped at Arby's or McDonald's on their way down Main Street to the school, Lake County will see the taxes.

The economic impact isn't astronomical. 

However, those coaches standing along the railings and sitting in whatever spaces they could find in the stands have votes for the Indiana All-Star team and for Miss Basketball.

And everyone makes noise.

"It's nice to have this here," athletic director Bill Dorulla said. "It's just great to see your gym full and the noise.

"I think that our gym is just so big anymore, it's hard to fill it. And there's so many other things now, the other sports that have grown, it makes it difficult to get a big crowd to basketball games anymore, it's not the only thing in town."

In the past, a drive to Elkhart Memorial or as far as Warsaw meant that fewer local coaches would make the trek.

The region has 44 girls basketball coaches with teams that play in the IHSAA. Any one of them that hadn't played against Penn, Logansport, Oregon-Davis or Lafayette Central Catholic this season just saw what each player can do.

Those 44 sets of eyeballs is an advantage for visiting teams that is not seen at Warsaw or Elkhart Memorial.

The last two years that the semistate has been at Crown Point, the area was one game away in two different classes from putting a team on a Lake County floor. Prior to Crown Point hosting the semistate last year, no Lake or Porter County school had ever thrown the semistate party in 38 previous editions of the girls basketball tournament.

Crown Point is happy to take the call again. The region should be happy, too.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach her at hillary.smith@nwi.com.

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