MICHIGAN CITY | It wasn't expected. No not at all. But when Valparaiso senior Adam Butterfield spoke, it was a shock to these ears.
"Yeah, I want to play Munster," Butterfield said after scoring a game-high 21 points in Saturday morning's 54-48 semifinal win over Concord in the Class 4A Michigan City Regional.
Munster? Are you kidding me?
Back at the end of January, Valparaiso went to top-ranked Munster and put the game of basketball back a few generations. It almost looked like Valpo was shooting into peach baskets. With 10-foot hand grenades.
Munster won 48-25, the lowest offensive scoring output in Joe Otis' 24 years of coaching.
"It might be the lowest since the 1920s," Otis said after the beating.
Then, he spoke about how his team could maybe catch fire at the end of the year. Valpo's regular season was irregular. Several bad losses made many wonder if this team had the courage and character to wear the traditional green of a great Indiana high school basketball program.
But if you put Otis inside the Wolves' Den, magic happens.
The upset of Merrillville in the sectional final, after trailing 22-2, was hysteria, the Hoosier kind. The beatdown of a bigger, stronger and more physical Concord team was more of the same.
And looking into the eyes of the mighty Munster Mustangs and not flinching, that's all you need to know about this Vikings' team.
"I definitely want to play Munster," Butterfield said on Saturday morning. "They're a great team. And I have a lot of friends on that team."
Munster won 40-38 and Butterfield had a 3 rim out just before the buzzer sounded.
Watching Saturday night's game in a packed gymnasium was like looking into a mirror. Both teams are extremely well-coached. All the players are unbelievably fundamental. And they play the game the right way, which is why they continue to play deep into March while others, with more raw talent, eat popcorn in the bleachers -- watching them.
This is the reason Munster coach Mike Hackett wanted to pick up Valpo in the 2005-06 season. He wanted to get his program up to where the Vikings were. And had been.
Munster played well against Valpo. The 'Stangs are the least electric No. 1 team in Indiana history. They have no high-flyers. No neon supermen. No McDonald All-Americans who play games on ESPN.
They just know how to win.
In the 101st IHSAA state tournament, Munster won one way. From start to finish the Mustangs were the best. Valpo did it another way. They struggled but never lost faith. They got hot at the right time and did what every team in the state wants to do, play its best ball at the end.
Saturday night was a celebration of Hoosier Hysteria. A tip of the cap to a very good high school team, win or lose.
Dan Hummel was a great spark off the bench. Butterfield battled Joe Crisman nose-to-nose. Jay Doane hit 3s down the stretch. And Jerrick Suiter was what he always is, one of the best players on the floor.
You took the No. 1 team in the state down to the wire. You showed how far you've come. You gave it your all and lost to a better team. There is no shame in that. At all.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.