HAMMOND | This one was sold out. But it was also souled out.
Whenever Bishop Noll plays Andrean in anything, it means something. When it's boys basketball it means something else.
Noll's Senior Night took seven seconds. Matt Sandoval was the Warriors' lone 12th grader. Andrean's Senior Night took about a day and a half. The 59ers had nine 12th-graders dressed for the Diocese Championship.
The future looks brighter for Noll, who lost this intense rivalry game 61-47. Those with whiskers had too much experience for those who do not know where the shaving cream aisle is at the grocery store.
Andrean does have some hope for the future. And the play of sophomore Nick Podkul perfectly shows what this game means.
Podkul's father, Frank, is a 1972 Noll graduate. He returned home to be athletic director and coach. He was an assistant on the 1989 Warriors state championship football team.
He won eight single-class sectionals in softball and advanced to a semistate title game.
But he was in the Andrean bleachers cheering on his son, who hit the game-winner at the buzzer in the JV game to give Andrean the 43-42 win. The celebration of this JV win was more than we'll all see next Saturday when sectional champions are crowned.
That's what this rivalry is.
“My dad told me a bunch of stories about Noll,” Nick Podkul said. “It's two Catholic schools going at it. This rivalry might mean more than Munster to us.”
Podkul also hit a 3-pointer in the varsity game in the third quarter to give the 59ers their first double-digit lead. It was a lead that wouldn't be relinquished.
The fact that the younger Podkul is even on the floor is a miracle, which is something these fans absolutely believe in. He was in the hospital with West Nile virus, walking pneumonia and meningitis.
How he was able to play many minutes in the second half of the varsity game is remarkable, and proof that Andrean will still be pretty good once these seniors turn their tassels this June.
And this rivalry will not lose steam, even though my money is on the Warriors next year.
“Nick gave us some very valuable minutes,” Andrean coach Carson Cunningham said. “He's helping us out in a big way off the bench.”
Frank Podkul walked the hallways and looked into the trophy case that he helped fill in his former Hammond days. His father was there to see his grandson play, too.
“My son gave me a lot of memories,” Frank Podkul said. “I have a love for both schools. But I'm glad Andrean won.”
Podkul won two state championships as Andrean's softball coach before moving on to his current gig at Purdue Cal.
And speaking of the postseason, it starts in three days. Here is my view of what can be learned from this game.
Noll played good transition defense and rebounded well. The Warriors were not very good in their post defense. Skyler Moss scored 19 in the paint. Noll must defend the paint better at the Class 2A Wheeler Sectional. The Warriors must also shoot better from the field and hit their free throws.
“Don't get me wrong, I hate losing to Andrean,” Noll coach Drew Trost said. “But we have a lot of guys who don't have a lot of experience who got to play in an intense, emotional game.
“It was one more game to give those guys important minutes.”
Andrean's size and physical strength was another key factor. The 59ers, if they play their “A” game, should win at Kankakee Valley next week.
Nine talented seniors says so.
Andrean, too, will benefit from another game in a sold-out gym.
“We have to get better (today) and be ready to rock and roll in the tournament,” said Cunningham.
His older brother, Kirk, starred at Noll and led Lake County in scoring before graduating in 1992. Carson was planning on going to Noll before heading to 5959 Broadway.
“This was a great crowd, a great atmosphere,” Cunningham said. “I love coaching in this game.”
Like a brother-on-brother scrape in the backyard, it doesn't get better than this.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.