ST. JOHN | The gym was rafter packed. Couldn't move. Or breath.
Several fans came up to this sports scribe on Dec. 13 and uttered the money phrase, "This feels like March."
Boy, were the Hoosier Hysterians right.
When Lake Central hosted Bowman Academy on the night it was special. A great game by two great teams, still trying to find their feet. But that colossal contest, won by the Eagles 63-58, set up what's happening today.
In two corners of Indiana both will be playing for a chance to get to state. Lake Central will be at Lafayette Jeff taking on Homestead. Bowman will be at Huntington North taking on Fort Wayne Dwenger.
The seeds of this region celebration were planted on a Friday the 13th three months ago.
"They are one of the best teams in the nation," Lake Central senior Matt Meneghetti remembered this week. "It was a great game. It didn't make our heads get too big. It woke us up a little."
Lake Central led 33-23 at halftime. But Bowman's "Big Game" experience paid off, forcing 32 L.C. turnovers.
Justin King led Bowman with 17 points. Tyler Wideman had 20 points and seven rebounds, while Tye Wilburn added 18 for Lake Central.
I have reported and opined that the now-dead Duneland Athletic Conference's double round robin schedule killed basketball in the DAC. It did. No question about it.
The historic run that Lake Central's on is added proof. Indians coach Dave Milausnic started toughening up his schedule two years ago when Glenn Robinson III was a senior. He played Indy powers Hamilton Southeastern, Indianapolis Cathedral and Indy Tech.
But picking up Bowman was big. He was first in line among suburban schools to go toe-to-toe with one of Indiana's top programs.
"We wanted to get our kids into an environment outside their comfort zone," Milausnic said. "I thought us picking up South Bend Adams right before the sectionals started was big. It was on the road and they were a good team.
"It was an environment outside the comfort zone. You don't want to go into a situation like that blind."
Bowman coach Marvin Rea was happy when L.C. asked for a game. A few years ago, that never would've happened. Miluasnic deserves a pat on the back for scheduling that game.
It's possible they aren't where they're at without it.
"I thought that game was great for the Region," Rea said. "People were everywhere. There was a lot of pressure in that game. It had a semistate, state atmosphere.
"For our younger guys playing a team as good as Lake Central was eye-opening. It prepared them mentally for what is to come."
Both programs are hoping to open eyes again today. I believe they will both get it done. Then, next Saturday they will be playing on the same floor again, with Bowman in the 3A final and L.C. in the 4A.
Wear Black Indians!: I was sent a message by one of Lake Central's super fans, Rory Gard, that all Indians' supporters are asked to wear black at LafYette. It is a "Black Out" event.