EAST CHICAGO | Frank Kollintzas used to stand in the southeast corner of the Baratto Center's gym. E.C. Central was a state power. The bleachers were always full.
That spot was empty Friday night.
It was an empty vacuum as the host Cardinals played Lake Central in the Class 4A East Chicago Sectional semifinal.
It is a new age as Kollintzas is now allegedly in Greece after he fled federal charges. I have no comment on that. It's above my pay grade.
But I do wonder what the old town boss would think of E.C. Central boys basketball these days. State power has shrunk to region flower.
Lake Central's 70-57 win over the Cardinals illustrated the change.
E.C. Washington won the 1960 and '71 state championships. E.C. Roosevelt won it all in 1970. Consolodated Central cut down the nets in Indy in 2007.
This program has not won a sectional since 2008. In Gas City that's OK. Is it in E.C.?
“We'll be all right,” Cardinals coach Abe Brown said. “This is one of the one or two toughest sectionals in the state.”
True dat. But the Cards are filled with one or two toughest talent as well. In big games the headliners seem to shrink.
Hyron Edwards is an unbelievable talent, which is why Indiana and Purdue are so interested in the junior. Most all of his shots came off one-on-one AAU moves with two guys guarding him. The blue-chip star scored 19 on 4-of-19 shooting. That won't win.
Same for sophomore Damien Jefferson, who scored 13 points and had 13 rebounds. But there's a reason L.C. won.
Jefferson had a great block in the first half, then got a T for jawing. In the third period Edwards knocked L.C.'s Robert Ryan on the ground, then stood over him talking smack.
You can't win this way.
E.C.'s offense was one one-on-one move after another. Nothing else. You can't win postseason games this way.
“We just didn't hit our shots,” Brown said. “It was a tough night.”
Lake Central's offense, on the other hand, was smart, efficient and team-oriented.
Coach Brown is a good man, a great family man, which means more than wins and losses. He is now 97-56. Again, OK in Gas City.
Is this his fault, the coaching staff or the city's?
How in the ever-loving world was Cardinals football coach Stacy Adams allowed to leave town to take the athletic director's job at South Bend Washington, like he did this week?
Adams actually won in the postseason. But he wasn't from E.C. And he wasn't politically connected.
Politics can put in sidewalks but it can also ruin a basketball program. Something needs to change. Somewhere. Or the mid-level postseason play will continue.
Yes, Brown was right. Lake Central is loaded with senior talent. But Game 1 winner Munster will be next year. At some point the big win has to happen.
“We'll be all right,” Brown said. “We'll come back next year and be ready.”
Maybe, but I don't know.
Kollintzas is in Greece. And so is E.C. basketball.