MICHIGAN CITY | Region football fans used to praise, glorify and pump up the old Andrean-Griffith rivalry. Even though it was vicious. Hateful. And certainly not politically correct.
To be honest, I miss those days, blood and games.
Why then do fans look at the Merrillville-Michigan City girls basketball rivalry in a different manner? Is it because it's a different game. Or gender?
Here's why this showdown is so heated. The Wolves and Pirates have had the best two teams in the area the past three seasons.
Playing twice in the regular season and usually, again, in the sectional makes for fiery fatigue.
There were 50-plus fouls called in the first game between these two teams. On Friday in Michigan City, it was just a basketball game.
Yes, Michigan City came back from a nine-point deficit to win 60-57 as Tica Murphy's late free throws sealed the deal.
The win snapped Merrillville's 39-game regular season winning streak.
But there were no cheap shots and little jawing, unlike last year's sectional game. In that game, won by the Wolves 70-56 in the sectional semifinal, Merrillville freshman Victoria Gaines fell hard to the floor and tore her ACL.
The Pirates believed there was celebration by some Wolves players after the injury. Perspective depends on what color sweater you wear.
Merrillville coach Amy Govert refuses to talk about last year. She just knows her team played awful, with 31 turnovers and still could've won. Or should've from her point of view.
“We gave this game away,” Govert said. “This doesn't hurt us. We played bad and still should've won. I'm just glad to get out of here without any injuries.
“That usually doesn't happen.”
Was this a veiled reference to last year?
The word on the street is Govert and City coach Mike Megyese don't like each other. But the two did chat it up for awhile during the JV game.
I believe I saw a smile or two.
But Megyese seemed to take a shot at the Pirates after the game, all while “praising” them.
“They're a great basketball team,” Megyese said. “That's why they're 18 (long delay) and one.”
The smile said it all.
It is somewhat reminiscent of Griffith's Russ Radtke and Andrean's Brett St. Germain. There was no doubt where the passion was for those two.
What happened last year I do not know. Wasn't there. But many have told me it was cheap.
The good thing about this Friday night is it was a great basketball game between two great teams. Period. There was nothing ugly or uncalled for.
“I think that was great,” Govert said. “Merrillville always comes to play basketball and play as hard as we can and nothing else.”
Megyese hopes the IHSAA will start seeding the sectionals. He hopes Sunday's draw will pit these two powers in opposite sides of the bracket, hoping for a shot at a historic sectional final.
I agree. But more important I hope when these two teams play again, and they will, it will just be about the hoops.
That's where greatness lies.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.