HAMMOND | Zack Novak and Stephen Albrecht looked up at the photograph and smiled. Almost laughed, really.
The two stars at Chesterton and Crown Point, respectively, were in the gymnasium at Purdue Calumet on Feb. 10, looking at a photograph of the 1982-83 PUC team.
Their fathers, Dave Novak and Chuck Albrecht, were in the photo. Few would recognize that today.
"He looks pretty skinny," Stephen said of his father. "It's weird seeing him with hair."
"My dad's got hair, too," Zack laughed. "I can't remember the last time I saw him with hair."
On Wednesday, both players will kick off their final postseason in the Class 4A Michigan City Sectional, with Crown Point playing the host Wolves and Chesterton playing Merrillville. Sectional play begins throughout the state today.
In the early 1980s, Dave and Chuck were members of a PUC team that made a deep tournament run. The friendship the two fathers have shared over the years is tested when the lights in the gym are turned on in the present tense.
Their sons have been competing for the last four years in high school. Each sharpshooting player stands in the way of the other's dreams.
"I went and saw Stephen play against East Chicago," the elder Novak said. "I like Stephen a lot. That was a great atmosphere and Stephen had a great game in a big win. It was a lot easier cheering for him when he's not playing Chesterton."
"I spent three years trying to get Dave to send Zack to Andrean," laughed Chuck. "I knew how good he was going to be. I was trying to get him out of the Duneland and our sectional."
Chuck graduated from Lew Wallace in 1979. Dave graduated from Clark in 1982.
There was a cultural divide in Lake County back then. Novak played his pickup ball in East Chicago. Albrecht played in Glen Park.
"All the guys in Gary had nicknames," Albrecht said. "So one day Dave was running with all the Gary guys. Ed Blackmon of Horace Mann started calling Dave 'Tank.' Like that, that was his name. We called him Tank all the time."
When Dave first saw the smallish Albrecht at PUC, he laughed.
"I was wondering who let this little kid in the gym," Dave said. "He must've been lost."
Like many college friends, Chuck and Dave didn't see each other for awhile. But in 1998, they met at the Southlake Tennis Club in Merrillville. Zack and Stephen were playing in an AAU game. It wasn't pretty.
"They were beating us so bad that Spike (Stephen Albrecht), a first grader, got put in the game," Zack said. "That's the only thing I remember."
Dave noticed that Crown Point's AAU program was more advanced than Chesterton's. Because he had coached Zack since the age of 5, he knew Chesterton had to change. The best players played and they started traveling around the state.
"It was crazy," Dave said. "We'd drive down to Evansville for a tourney and we'd draw Crown Point in the first game. We played them all the time."
Both players know they have a shared history that is old enough for two heads to go bald.
"It's kind of weird the way it's played out," Zack said.
"It's kind of strange that our families go back to way back when," Stephen said. "Our dads have a history together and we'll have a history when it's all said and done."