INDIANAPOLIS | It's not like the complaints and harsh words about Bowman Academy's boys basketball program have been stated in a vacuum.
Since the Eagles entered the IHSAA state tournament in 2009, they have been one of the most disliked programs in “Da Region.”
The small public schools didn't like them. The Gary schools didn't like them. Very few liked the perceived advantage the charter school in the basketball-rich city of Gary enjoyed.
And after Saturday's 86-73 win over Linton-Stockton in Indianapolis that gave Bowman its second state title in four years, the region's only state qualifier will be bumped up to Class 3A next year.
“People are going to hate us anyway, they always have,” Bowman junior Justin King said after scoring 16 points in the win.
“It might be a little less,” said sophomore Davon Dillard, who had a team-high 24 points and played his best game in Bowman's biggest game of the season.
It was good to see. His ceiling is higher than the one in Bankers Life Fieldhouse where he was the best player on the floor.
“Now that we're 3A the complaints will go down,” Dillard added. “It will get better.”
Bowman had a great season, starting slow and working together to get where they did on Saturday. The Eagles' listened to their coach, Marvin Rea, and played a smart, athletic game against a solid Miners' team.
Rea has also heard to complaints through the years. The worst was in Class A. It was still bad in 2A. And it probably won't go away next year. It will be different voices chatting.
“Maybe we do have an advantage?,” Rea said. “But we're not an all-star team from Gary. Maybe the other teams need to work hard. Do they know how hard we work, how much time we put in, to achieve what we have?
“If they worked harder they could do what we do.”
You could see the look on faces around the press room when senior Antonio Pipkin spoke about this program. It brought a nervous energy into a joyous room.
“A lot of guys will want to come to this school to play basketball because of our legacy,” said Pipkin, who was phenomenal in the fourth quarter to seal the deal.
You could hear the screeching breaks outside on Delaware Street after the sentence.
The Eagles will likely be placed in the 3A sectional with Lew Wallace, Roosevelt and Hammond next March. Maybe Andrean, too? The IHSAA hasn't released sites yet.
I would be nervous, too, if I had to play this team next year. Pipkin and Linden Jackson are the only graduating Eagles.
Bowman lost three Division I players after losing to Park Tudor in the state final, DeJuan Marrero (DePaul), Steve Hawkins (Robert Morris) and Elijah Ray (IUPUI).
And they played better this year than last. Rea will not have an empty cabinet next November when this starts all over again. It will be locked, stocked and ready to explode.
The 2013-14 Eagles will not start the season 2-7 like these state champs did. Guaranteed.
Also, they have a group of talented players ready to shut up the critics and prove everyone wrong again.
Sometimes a chip on the shoulder is a good thing.
“Same thing,” King said. “We'll continue to play as a team, with the same outcome. We'll work harder.”
“We know the competition will be better,” Dillard said. “In my mind we can do it again and we will do it again.”
“We'll get back here and win again,” King said.
Bowman sat a state record by being the first school to win two state titles in two different classes. No one, obviously, has won in three different classes.
Don't count these guys out. It's likely to happen. Again.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.