HAMMOND — In a week of chatter about sectional droughts and exciting sectional basketball, the difficulty of cutting down the nets became evermore clear for most of the teams in Indiana.
There is pressure whether your program has won six straight sectionals or hasn't won in 30 years.
Hammond snapped its 13-year absence from the sectional championship banner with a dominating 52-40 win over West Side inside the Hammond Civic Center.
The Wildcats' guards were outstanding, like they've been most of this winter. But if anyone earned the MVP it is Jonetta Moore, the wife of coach Larry Moore Jr.
She allowed the players to come over at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The team played video games. They ate Subway. The hung around like a family.
It's difficult to think about how long it's been since you climbed up a ladder in March in Indiana when you're laughing and joking around with your buddies.
Still, the empty absence lingered a bit.
"Just a little bit we was nervous," Hammond senior forward Manny Anderson said. "But we felt we were the better team. And this is our house."
Still, the Cougars battled hard and gave the 'Cats all they had. No one associated with West Side should hang their heads. There is no shame in what these guys accomplished this season, turning the program around.
Anderson is the type of player every championship team needs. He doesn't get into the headlines too often. He scored six points with 11 rebounds and three blocks in this historic win.
"We do not win this game without Manny," coach Moore said. "He's a double-double every night. He rebounds, blocks shots, gives everyone on the team energy.
"I don't know where we'd be without Manny."
Well, the Wildcats wouldn't be traveling to LaPorte next Saturday for the regional.
It was fitting that the "6-foot-4" Anderson grabbed the last rebound of the game as the clock was sprinting towards zeros. He tossed the outlet, raised his arms into the air and smiled a 13-year-old grin.
Then, he cried.
"I'm 6-4 on a good day," Anderson laughed about his height listed on the roster. More than likely he's edging 6-2. But his vertical is off the charts. I swear he jumped over Russ McCleod's historic chair in the northwest corner of the gym on one rebound.
"He plays like a guy 6-6, 6-7," Moore said. "He's going to make a college coach very happy next year."
The joy inside this wonderful gymnasium pumped up the volume immediately after the horn sounded. The Wildcats danced and hugged with the predominantly purple crowd as some classic 1980s dance music played.
After 45 minutes an announcement was made that most have heard before: "You don't have to go home but you can't stay here."
Anderson totally understood how important this night, this game, was. Saturday scissors don't come easy.
"There have been so many really good teams here who couldn't get this done," he said. "This has been 13 years of work."
And one busy day for Jonetta Moore.
"I have to thank my wife for opening up the house to the kids," Moore said. "I think that set the tone for what happened in the game."