INDIANAPOLIS | There was an interesting conversation on a school bus on January 25 in Central Indiana. Bowman Academy boys basketball coach Marvin Rea was speaking to some of his assistant coaches on the drive down to Carmel.
This is like asking which one of John Wooden's 10 NCAA championship teams was the best. Good luck with that one.
Some suggested the 2010 Class A state champs. They were the fire starters. Drove all over America to get games because no one locally would play them. They lost in 2009 in a way that was like going to the dentist without novacane.
When they beat Barr-Reeve, 74-52, to cut down the nets, it was special.
Others suggested the 2013 team. Most of those Eagles were spanked 79-57 by Indianapolis Park Tudor the year before in the Class 2A state final. But they returned and beat Linton-Stockton the following March 86-73 and all was right with the world.
For me, though, I'll take the 2013-14 Bowman Academy Eagles as the best team ever. Regardless of Saturday night's 89-76 loss to Greensburg in the Class 3A title game.
It's happened for 104 years in this state and it will happen again. Great teams can still lose to better teams in Indianapolis.
As the clock was beating down in this blowout, coach Marvin Rea walked over to junior Davon Dillard, who was sulking on the bench with his head down. Rea, who has coached in four state finals in the past five years, did what he's so good at.
He coached, regardless of what the scoreboard said.
“Keep your head up,” Rea told Dillard. “Keep your head up.”
Greensburg had an epic state final, hitting 12-of-20 3-pointers and passing the ball like an All-Pro NFL quarterback.
Down 81-64 with 3:58 left in the game, Rea coached again. During a timeout he rallied his guys and they were all clapping. They got up. They finished the game like they'd played all year.
Bowman wanted to give the Pirates 32 minutes of hell.
“We only gave them three minutes of hell,” Rea said.
Like the Park Tudor game, getting behind took Bowman out of its game. They are better being hunted than doing the hunting.
Tears filled the eyes of the seven seniors during the postgame press conference. They tried, despite the pain of the loss, to put all of this in perspective.
How many Indiana basketball players compete in three straight state finals? Few. Very few.
“My guys fought for me,” Rea said.
“We fought,” senior Justin King said. “We didn't lie down.”
“I'd rather lose with these guys right here,” Darrion Riddle said. “And my coach.”
This run has been remarkable. A school record 22 wins with an NBA-like schedule. Having beaten both teams in the Class 4A state title game, Indianapolis Tech and Lake Central. And giving a great team everything they had.
Sometimes it's better to hear what someone outside the area says. There may be more truth in it.
“You have to give Bowman credit, they are an excellent team,” Greensburg coach Stacy Meyer said. “The way they competed, they never gave up.”
Well, said, coach. Your team was unbelievable.
But, keep your heads up, Eagles. Hold them up high.