KOUTS | Here's hoping my GPS is right on this one.
The Kouts gymnasium was nearly packed and extremely loud as the Class A sectional tipped off on Wednesday night. This image is exactly why the IHSAA voted in class basketball (sports), which began in the 1997-98 season.
Morgan Township has won all seven of the Cherokees sectional championships since a more fair tournament structure was put in place. Going to Valparaiso and getting drubbed by the big schools would no longer happen.
On paper anyway.
Kouts didn't go to Valpo. The Mustangs went to a better single-class enrollment sectional at Kankakee Valley. Kouts also has won seven sectionals. Four of them have come in the class era.
There is a new era in the current format. It began in 2009 when Bowman Academy joined the Class A sectional. The Eagles scored over 100 twice and 97 in single-class games before being moved up to Class 2A in 2011. That was the year Bowman lost to Morgan Township in the championship game in Gary.
That was when everyone's Richter Scale in Indiana started beeping Code Red. And probably in Upper Mongolia, too.
The Cherokees proved that a small public school can beat a charter team. The same scenario played out in snowy Kouts.
Morgan Township beat Gary Lighthouse 66-62 in a great basketball game. Gary 21st Century played a fantastic fourth quarter to upend the host Mustangs 56-49.
The second game was one of the best played in Indiana. Guaranteed. But the question about the fairness of charter schools from Gary did come out.
There was a feeling many small-school fans didn't like this new version of class. Coaches may have had similar feelings.
“I can't really say what I think,” said Kouts coach Marty Gaff, who coached his final game after 30 years in the business. “It has changed the dynamic. It's a different world than when I started 30 years ago.”
There is an understandable frustration. But there was also come good to come out of this.
The Cougars and Mustangs shook hands afterward and played with class. There was mutual respect on both sides. It could be heard in the joyous Cougars' locker room afterward.
“That is a great Kouts basketball team,” Cougars coach Rodney Williams said. “Marty (Gaff) is a great coach and he did a great job coaching his kids. We had to beat a very good team on their home floor and our kids were able to get it done.”
Tears were in Williams' eyes. The same could be said for senior Louis Brown, who finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.
“When we were freshman we were getting our butt kicked, losing 100-30,” Brown said. “But we kept working. We practiced hard. We beat a very good team. Kouts has great players and they're very disciplined.
“We had to play our best to beat them.”
Morgan Township coach Eric Braden was on the bench when his team upset Bowman two years ago. He knows it can be done. But he also knows it isn't easy, as his team will find out on Friday when they play 21st Century.
“It's very difficult,” Braden said. “You almost have to play a perfect game to beat one of these charter schools. It's a difficult question. The IHSAA is trying to give more kids opportunities.
“It's worked. They (charter schools) have good kids, and they play a much different style than what we're used to. It's a fun style for fans to watch.
“I like watching it, too.”
Morgan senior Ryan Klikus scored 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against Lighthouse. He was also on the Cherokees team that beat Bowman.
But he understands what's awaiting his team. And he isn't 100 percent sure about the fairness.
“It's made it ridiculously difficult,” Klikus said of the charter school barrage in recent years. “We had to play a perfect game against Bowman and we did. You just have to play with a high IQ, slow the game down and play your game. They can be beat with a lot of heart and desire.”
When asked who he would rather play in Friday's semifinal, Klikus had a different point of view.
“I'd rather play 21st Century,” he said. “We've already lost to Kouts by 30 twice. I don't want to go out with another blowout loss to them.”
Yeah. There was one player happy for a charter school.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.