GARY — If you are a Class 2A boys basketball team in Indiana, send Bobby Cox a "thank you" letter.

It's doubtful there is anyone in the state who could compete with Bowman Academy this coming March, after what the Eagles did on Friday night at 21st Century.

The 97-52 spanking of a good 21st Century team is why 2A coaches should thank the IHSAA commissioner.

Everyone remembers last school year when Bowman was almost launched from the IHSAA for many rules violations. It was awful what was allowed to transpire at the Gary charter school.

But new leadership took over, checks and balances were put in place and the IHSAA scaled back the suspension of the Bowman athletic programs, except for boys basketball, which was the reason for all the mayhem.

"We don't even talk about what happened," Bowman coach Tyrone Robinson said after his team moved up to 4-0. "We just focus on each game. Every game is our championship."

Chinedu Okanu, a 6-foot-8 senior forward, sorry POWER forward, was unbelievable in the paint. The young man being recruited by Florida International and Illinois State, scored 18 points with 10 rebounds.

Since this Eagles squad can not play in the sectional this year, it is a motivating factor.

"We play with a chip on our shoulder, a big chip," Okanu said. "Every game is a championship to us. We're playing with vengeance. We have something to prove to the Region and the rest of the state.

"All we have now to look forward to is college."

The much-traveled Amari Sherrod was a standout on one of Merrillville's best eighth-grade teams ever. He chose to attend Andrean after being home-schooled for a year, then left for Bowman after one year on Broadway.

He arrived and had two years of postseason play swiped away by the penalty.

Does he now wonder if staying at home would've been a better choice?

"Bowman was a better home for me," Sherrod said. "I knew a lot of people there and I felt like I could be my best there."

He was a 6-3 power forward at Andrean. Now, he's playing guard for the Eagles, scoring 18 points and hitting three 3s against 21st Century. Teammates Tarik Booker and Joseph Moore also canned three 3s. That's more 3-pointers than Bowman hit in all its trips to Indianapolis a few years back.

"We've got some shooters," Robinson said.

Sherrod moved to the guard position because he realized there are no 6-3 power forwards playing D-I hoops. Lehigh is one of several universities looking to bring Sherrod in.

For Bowman's No. 4, though, he is only a junior, so he will get to play in next year's tournament.

"We still come to practice and work hard every day," Sherrod said. "For many of us all we have is college to play for because of the penalty. Everybody doubted us. Even our own people doubted us.

"Like everybody else in the state, we don't get any second chances."

Sherrod was talking about the postseason this year. Obviously, the IHSAA could've kicked the school out of the association after last year's shenanigans under former athletic director and basketball coach Migel Nunnery.

Bowman has been a Region team to watch in March since it started hoops in 2008. This year you'll have to see them before March, and I would suggest it's worth the $6.

These kids play very hard, very smart and with a togetherness that hard times have brought. It is an extremely exciting brand of ball.

That's what comes from a chip on your shoulder.

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Sports reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.