MICHIGAN CITY — A good high school basketball game wasn't seen by many in the gym stands on Friday night at Marquette Catholic High School.
Blurred eyes can hamper vision. And there were a lot of tears on cheeks as the Lighthouse Lions ran onto the court to face the Blazers.
First, as both teams warmed up, the Lighthouse fans started to clap. When heads looked to find out why, they saw the Bowman Academy Eagles boys basketball team walk in to support their friends and neighbors wearing another uniform.
"We had to be here, those are our brothers, we're a family," Bowman coach Tyrone Robinson said. "I've cried four or five times tonight already. I keep looking over there and he's not there."
Robinson was speaking of his dear friend Marvin Rea, the former Bowman coach and Lighthouse head coach who was killed in a car accident on I-65 on Tuesday.
The Marquette game was the first contest that a group of valiant and hurting young men got to play the game they love without the man they love cheering them on.
The moment of silence before the game was moving. Both teams then walked to halfcourt and joined arms in a circle, while Blazers coach Fred Mooney led them in a heart-felt prayer.
The "Amen" at the end echoed around the gym.
I do not believe there was a dry eye in the place. But I'm not sure. My vision was obscured, too.
"So far, it's been surreal," said Marvin Rea Jr., the son of the coach who led Bowman to four state championship games in five years. "I'm trying to be strong for my mother and my family. We appreciate all the support we've gotten from the community."
Tears then dripped from the eyes of the sophomore student at Purdue, who has always been known as "Little Marv" and is studying visual communication design and brain and behavioral science in West Lafayette, the same campus has father studied at.
Like all sons with a beloved father, the younger Rea's word were deep and strong, as he cheered on the Lions.
"Dad was always there for me, always there to support me," Rea said. "He lived a busy, busy life, but he always found time for me. He always found time for me, no matter what."
I got an email from Chesterton's Glenda Ray Friday morning. It made me cry. Again.
She told me a Marvin Rea story I had never heard. Ten-plus years ago Glenda and her daughter were at a new restaurant near the mall that was packed. They decided to order their food and expected a booth to open up by the time it was ready. A few minutes later they were standing there holding their food with every chair taken in the place. They didn't know what to do.
The unknown Rea walked over and asked them, "Would you like to join us?" They sat down and broke bread and talked about sports, kids, life, dreams and goals. That one encounter caused Glenda to root for Rea's teams from afar.
"That's Marvin," Tyrone Robinson said. "He loved people."
The loss stung the Lions hard. New coach Quincy Taylor said Wednesday was the toughest day of all. The following hours didn't improve much, but running onto the court on Friday night gave them some solace.
That's something thousands of people will need this morning when the Celebration of Life takes place at the Genesis Center at 9 a.m.
"Marvin's got a smile on his face and he's dancing or telling a joke up there," Taylor said, smiling. "Our kids played like he taught them."
Bowman plans to attend every Lighthouse game that the Eagles aren't playing on the same night. Some of the Lions said they will do the same thing for Bowman.
"This was horror," Lighthouse senior Jonte Morgan said. "It hurt everybody. Our teachers, the staff, the students. We have to do what Marvin taught us. We have to do this together."
Lighthouse assistant coach Kenya Stines had four state championship-game rings on, along with a piece of the net from Bowman's last state title under Rea in 2013. He said he needed it.
The fact that Lighthouse got its first win of the season with "Coach Rea" on their mind means even more.
"He was like a father to me," senior guard Davion Delony said after the 76-58 win. "He told me many times to never give up. He told me I'd never have success in life if I ever gave up. So I'm not going to."
Those wonderful words is all that we have to go on right now.
Thank you, Marvin. RIP.