UNION TWP. | It's been going on for 103 years. A century-plus of the same thing.
Elvis' drummer often was more important than the guy with the mic.
On Saturday nights in March in Indiana, a high school basketball championship isn't won by the marquee players. Usually, almost invariably, the stars cancel each other out.
That's what happened Saturday night in Union Twp, as Class 2A No. 4 Bishop Noll took on No. 7 Bowman Academy in the Wheeler Sectional championship game.
In the first half of this game between two programs that have advanced to Indianapolis the last two seasons, Noll's Jalen Hord – yes Jalen Hord, check your program because his name is there – played huge in the opening half.
The 6-foot-4 junior scored eight points as the Warriors let everyone know that last year's blowout wasn't going to happen again.
And Noll's Matt Sandoval was unbelievable in the first quarter, hitting all four of his 3-pointers in the frame. Noll led 38-34 at halftime.
“Bowman-Noll is a great rivalry, this is exactly what I expected,” Bowman coach Marvin Rea said. “I told our guys at halftime we needed all 12 of them.”
There were countless lesser Eagles who followed their coach's instructions. The biggest game-changer came from senior Linden Jackson nailed a 3-pointer at 6:50 of the fourth quarter to make a three-point game a six-point game.
Bowman eventually won 76-63. And yes, the Eagles stars played big.
But without the guys fans had to look at the roster twice to figure out who they were, Noll might've have won the game.
Just like a lot of teams in Indiana on this cold night.
“It's my job to shoot the ball,” Jackson said. “That's why coach put me in. I am supposed to hit big shots. Hitting that shot was amazing. Words can't describe how good that feels.”
Jackson finished with four points. No headlines there. But his trey shifted the momentum and that's all Bowman needed down the stretch.
Teammate DeShawn Franklin is another Eagle not on the top of the other team's scouting report. He scored nine points and was 5-of-6 from the free throw line.
Bowman won its fourth sectional title from the charity stripe.
Both Jackson and Franklin chased Sandoval around the perimeter the final three quarters and Noll's standout senior was unable to hit another shot.
Again, not headline makers. But game winners.
“It's unbelievable,” Franklin said. “Coach had us running and shooting free throws the last month. It's amazing we got here. We had to step it up on (Sandoval). We had to watch for him. I'm so happy to be here now. Defense is what I do, too.”
“I'm a shooter,” Jackson said with a smile, showing his braces. “But I'm a defender, too.”
Next Saturday at the North Judson Regional, this same timeless scenario will take place again. Bowman will play LaVille in the semifinal. LaVille will have its eyes on stopping Justin King, Antonio Pipkin and Davon Dillard, and rightfully so.
The winner will come from the team that has other players step up.
“You have to have 12 guys step up,” Rea said. “The stars aren't enough to win. Not at this level.”
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.