Most of us know Marvin Rea as the boys basketball coach at Bowman Academy, sometimes forgetting that he wears another hat, that of athletic director.
While Rea the coach likes the idea of playing more local teams, Rea the athletic director likes the idea of the expenses it saves not having to drive so far for games.
"It helps our transportation budget," Rea said. "We have had to travel many miles. It's time off the road for our kids."
The majority of Bowman's schedule is still out of the area, but the six local teams on its schedule -- Andrean, Lake Station, Chesterton, Lake Station, Hammond and E.C. Central -- represent the most Northwest Indiana teams it's ever had on its regular-season slate. As recently as 2009-10, there was just one, E.C. Central.
"It's exciting for us," Rea said. "One of the things I've always thought is that region teams are tough. They don't get enough notice from the entire state for our area. I still think it's the highest quality in the state."
The initial roadblock for Bowman was finding a way to fill out its schedule, a difficult task considering most schools are locked into conference games and have limited openings once league play tips off. Unfortunately, some hesitation also remains on the part of suburban schools, because Bowman is in Gary.
"When I first started, I had no preference," Rea said. "Whether it's breaking down barriers or whatever, change is hard. I'm not pointing a finger. We were the new kid on the block. You have to pay your dues. A lot of coaches, ADs, their hands were tied as as far as schedules."
A few years ago, Rea was contacted by Chesterton athletic director Garry Nallenweg about scheduling the Eagles in girls basketball. The schools also face each other in track. Nallenweg also expressed the desire to play in boys basketball when the opportunity presented itself, i.e., the dreaded Duneland Athletic Conference round-robin was sent out to pasture.
"Garry extended his hand to us, and we accepted," Rea said. "He's really been good to us. Chesterton's just first-class. We're happy to have the opportunity."
Bowman played at Chesterton on Tuesday, and the Trojans will travel to Bowman next season. Tonight, the Eagles face Lake Central.
"Hopefully, more (area) schools will be open to playing us," Rea said. "As time goes on, we'd like to play a couple more quality teams, pick up a Munster. It'll bring exciting games back to the region every night."
Chesterton was no match for Bowman, but Trojans coach Tom Peller knows it's more beneficial to play the most successful school in the area rather than schedule a gimme win that doesn't challenge his team. Chesterton's slate also includes E.C. Central and Roosevelt. West Side was on the calendar as well, but had to be dropped due to over-scheduling.
"It's a plus-plus for both teams," Peller said. "For Bowman, it helps them to play some bigger schools. For us, it'll help prepare us for down the road, playing the Merrillvilles and Michigan Citys. You've got to play different levels to see where you're at."
Ultimately, the big winner is region basketball. Now more of us can get to see the high-flying Eagles without having to fill our gas tanks.