Keith Christmas went along for the ride in April of 2002. The senior basketball player at West Side never received an invitation to the Hoosier Basketball Magazine's Top 60 workout.
Those went to Christmas' teammates, Brandon Cameron and Chris Hunter, the two Cougars considered to be the best.
Nonetheless, Christmas went along and took his gym shoes. When someone didn't show up for the Top 60, Christmas took the floor and dominated and was selected to be a member of the Indiana All-Star team.
Oh, how other players from Northwest Indiana should've kept tabs on Christmas' story.
The 2014 Indiana All-Star team was announced last week. Only Lake Central's Tyler Wideman made the team from our area. An area, by the way, that had three teams playing in the state championship games in late March.
The others were Trey Lyles, Indianapolis Tech, James Blackmon Jr., Marion, Grant Evans, Wapahani, Tayler Persons, Kokomo, D.J. McCall, Fort Wayne Concordia, P.J. Thompson, Brebeuf Jesuit, Bryant McIntosh, Greensburg, Jeremie Tyler, Indianapolis Tech, Zach McRoberts, Carmel, Mack Mercer, Plymouth, Trevon Bluiett, Park Tudor and Sean Sellers, Greensburg.
All talented. All deserving.
In any other year I would write strongly about the Region players who were snubbed. Bowman Academy's Justin King played in three state championship games in three years. The 6-foot-7 big man carried the Eagles to the Class 3A state title game, a loss to Greensburg.
Yes, he struggled against a very good team, scoring 11 points with 11 rebounds on 3-of-11 shooting. But one game does not cut a player's name from the Indiana All-Star list.
King would've made the Indiana All-Star team, I believe, had he gone to the Top 60 workout. But he didn't show and he did not call to let the organizers know he wasn't coming.
Bowman coach Marvin Rea did not know King didn't show until the Monday after the event.
"I would've driven him down had I known," Rea said.
So there was no Christmas in April. A young man good enough to make a great event did not get selected because of a choice. No complaining here, fans. You reap what you sow.
So let's get to Lake Central guard Tye Wilburn. If you feel like those downstate have a conspiracy against our corner of Hoosierland, the Wilburn debate is stronger. Much stronger.
In the 63-59 loss to Indianapolis Tech in the Class 4A game, Wilburn was a beast. He scored 20 points with four assists and three steals. He was the biggest spark in an unbelievable second-half comeback.
Wilburn should've been named an Indiana All-Star, period. What more could he have done?
Thank you: Last week I shared a family tragedy in my column. I wish to thank everyone who said a prayer for the recovery of my brother's health. Thanks for the calls, texts and emails. It is appreciated.
Please continue. This road looks long and bumpy, but the grace so far has been amazing.
Steve Kucer still has a gleam in his eye when talking about his days as a student-athlete and as a teacher and coach at Hammond High School.
Kucer spent almost all of his adult life at his alma mater.
"Great school and I loved it," Kucer said. "I had great teachers, coaches and I taught great students and coached some great kids."
Among them were his football coach, Karl Huffine, and basketball coach Chet Kessler. Kucer was an assistant coach in football for many years as well as an assistant in boys basketball. He was Hammond's head boys basketball coach from 1959-1962.
He said he coaches several great kids, two who stick out are the Cross brothers -- Irv and Ray. Irv went on to star at Northwestern and played for the Philadelphia Eagles. Irv is in the NFL Hall of Fame as a broadcaster as he was the first African-American to work full-time as a sports analyst on national television. He, Brent Musberger and Phyllis George teamed for the NFL Today.
"Irv was special, a cut above," Kucer said. "Ray, look at what he has done as a teacher and coach in Hammond. He has really influenced a lot of kids."
Kucer, who was inducted into the Hammond Hall of Fame in 1999, was a football and basketball standout. The 1943 Hammond grad will also never forget going into the U.S. Marines upon graduation and serving in the Philippines.
"We had someting called World War II and every able-bodied young man was called upon," Kucer said. "We weren't worried or scared of anything -- we were kids. I was in the Air Corps and was getting planes ready for battle."
He said he saw a lot, though he said he was never really in danger.
"What was sad was, we were in the southern part of the Philippines, Mindanao, and when we took Manila, they brought back a lot of civilians," Kucer said. "They were interred by the Japanese and they came to us and looked like sticks, they were so skinny. It was terrible to see how these civilians -- not soldiers -- were mistreated."
Kucer went to the University of San Francisco to play football. He said it was if Hammond headed out to the Bay Area.
"Ed McKeever, the coach, he knew a Dr. Carlo, I forget his first name," Kucer said. "He knew him from Notre Dame and Ed asked if he knew some guys from Hammond."
Kucer was just married to his wife Darlene. They were married for 63 years until she died in April 2010. He said some of the local guys who went west included Larry Andes, George Buskar, Tom Chintis, George Stefko and John Krsak.
The 1947 Dons were 7-3 and Kucer said he loved it.
"San Francisco is a Catholic, Jesuit school and we played on Sundays," Kucer said. "San Francisco is a great town and I loved it and we loved football. It was great with the Hammond guys there. Most of us were older, came back from the war. We had our first child, so I was going to school, playing football and trying to support at family."
He said the 1947 team beat Nevada, which beat Oregon.
"We played Oregon a few weeks later and thought we would beat them and go to a big bowl like the Orange Bowl," Kucer said. "Oregon whipped us, 34-7."
He said the Dons did get invited to the Harbor Bowl in San Diego, but turned it down. He played one more year, but with a family, he just finished school. One of his teammates on the 1948 team was Dick Stanfel, who help put together the Bears' offensive line which helped win Super Bowl XX.
One thing he did not see was the group, which included Ollie Matson, Gino Marchetti, Bob St. Clair and Burl Toler. Future NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle was USF's sports information director. The 1951 USF team did get invited to the Orange Bowl, but the stipulation was it had to leave Matson and Toler, the two African-Americans on the team, home. USF refused and because of costs, dropped the sport after the 1951 season.
Tyler Wideman got a phone call, but didn't answer it. Typically, he was in the gym working on his game.
The Lake Central senior saw that Indiana All-Star game coordinator Charlie Hall had left a message, Wideman returned the call and a life-long dream had come true.
The 6-foot-7 Butler-bound big man was named to the Indiana All-Star team on Thursday.
"I'm extremely excited, honored," Wideman said. "It's a dream come true. When I think of all the greats who've played on this team before and now I get to wear the same uniform. I'm very excited."
The Times Player of the Year is the only player from Northwest Indiana to make the team. The other 12 All-Stars include Trey Lyles, Indianapolis Tech, James Blackmon Jr., Marion, Grant Evans, Wapahani, Tayler Persons, Kokomo, D.J. McCall, Fort Wayne Concordia, P.J. Thompson, Brebeuf Jesuit, Bryant McIntosh, Greensburg, Jeremie Tyler, Indianapolis Tech, Zach McRoberts, Carmel, Mack Mercer, Plymouth, Trevon Bluiett, Park Tudor and Sean Sellers, Greensburg.
Crown Point coach Clint Swan is an assistant on this team, which will play the Junior All-Stars on June 9 at Logansport and June 11 at Columbus North. They will face the Kentucky All-Stars on June 13 at Transylvania University in Lexington and June 14 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
"It's a good group with a lot of balance at all the positions," Swan said. "I've always admired the way (Wideman) has played. He's always handled himself well, first class."
Swan said he knew that there were several local players who felt they had a shot of making the team, like L.C.'s Tye Wilburn and Bowman Academy's Justin King. But this All-Star team is loaded with top-shelf D-I players. All 13 are already locked into D-I programs.
"The region guys played great at the Top 60 workout," Swan said. "There were a lot of guys in the conversation. This is an inexact science. There are always guys on the edge, who some think should've made it.
"I can't even tell you who the bubble guys were. But there were some very good players who did not make it."
Fred Mooney walked into Anthony & Dziadowicz Funeral Home in Munster on March 7. A lot was on the mind and heart of the assistant boys basketball coach at Marquette.
His Blazers were prepping to play Washington Township later that night in the Class A Morgan Township Sectional semifinal.
Mooney was there to remember and honor his "Uncle George," George Bosnich, an 88-year-old Hammond man who had gone on to a better place.
Bosnich had been in the U.S. Army's "Fighting 69th" in Europe during World War II. He gave Mooney a Nazi flag he took off a broken window in Germany.
All the men in his unit had signed the evil piece of cloth. Bosnich was the last member to die.
America's "Greatest Generation" is getting smaller every day. The men who gave us our freedom, which most of us don't notice with a yawn, are slipping into the ages. Sadly, on both accounts.
As Mooney drove into the parking lot, a man was standing there with a straw hat that said, "U.S.S. Strong, DD-467." It was a destroyer that was sunk by the Japanese in the Pacific.
The cap belong to Jim Merriman, a 91-year-old man from Schererville.
He and Bosnich became best friends at Hammond's VFW Post 802.
Merriman and Mooney talked for an hour. Unwittingly Merriman became a spiritual leader for Marquette's run in winning the Class A state championship.
"Jim was as sharp as a tack," Mooney said. "This man is well-versed. Well-read. He and my uncle epitomize a hero.
"I laughed. I cried. I was humbled."
After the conversation, Marquette head coach Donovan Garletts asked Mooney to speak to the Blazers before the tipoff. He asked the team one question before they ran out on the floor.
"How bad do you want to survive?" Mooney said. "When I heard his story it blew me away. I was heartbroken. I was in awe."
The ship was hit by a Japanese torpedo in the keel and broke in half.
Those who survived the blasts were in the water. Depth charges and blood and sharks were in those troubled waters. Merriman looked Mooney right in the eye and said, "I was mad as hell. I was scared to death. But I made a decision. I wanted to live."
Mooney coached basketball at Hammond Baptist for 35 years, where he also taught history. These real stories of heroism are so much more important than tweets or Facebook nonsense. But what are the eyes of our culture looking at? 24/7?
Before the state final against Barr-Reeve, Garletts picked up on the story. He told the Blazers, "The life nets are in the water. The ropes are over the side. But you're not there yet. You have to fight to survive.' It was our battle cry. Our kids rallied behind his story."
The 70-66 overtime win made heroes of the Marquette players as they set history. Yes, in a different way that can't be compared to Bosnich and Merriman.
Mooney took Merriman out for lunch last week. This bond is secure. He won 640 games at Hammond Baptist. He just won his first Indiana state title. His words bridged two different generations and the Blazers understood it.
"You're in the water," Mooney said. "Do you want to live? Is the swim worth it? These men were the epitome of what a hero is."
My uncle, Roy Kolas, a long-time Hammond business man, served in Europe. He's going through a tough fight now. I want to thank him for his service, his heroism, his glowing light of faith.
Your generation was the greatest. Mine? Not so much. I better tweet that quick.
Tyler Wideman was named The Times Player of the Year on Sunday. On Wednesday he was named to the Associated Press' boys basketball All-State second team.
Lake Central coach Dave Milausnic said the second-team pick was no slight to his 6-foot-7 power center.
"It's an unbelievable honor," L.C. coach Dave Milausnic said. "It's a great testament to Tyler and his teammates. It shows what hard work and determination can do."
The first team included Trey Lyles of Indianapolis Tech, who has already been named Mr. Basketball as the top high school player in Indiana. Also on the team were Park Tudor's Trevon Bluiett, Marion's James Blackmon Jr. and Greensburg teammates Bryant McIntosh and Sean Sellers.
Along with Wideman on second team was Indianapolis Brebeuf's P.J. Thompson, a Purdue recruit; Carmel's Zach McRoberts, who has committed to Vermont; Lyles' high school teammate Jeremie Tyler, who will play at Ball State, and Jacob Johnson of Mooresville.
The third team included Bowman Academy's Davon Dillard along with Ernie Duncan of Evansville Harrison, Mack Mercer of Plymouth and Grant Evans of Wapahani and sophomore Caleb Swanigan of Homestead.
"That's a huge honor for him," Bowman Academy coach Marvin Rea said of Dillard. "Davon's skilled. The sky is the limit. He works hard when he wants to work hard. He's a special player whose been seen on the big stage all around the state."
Rea talked about exposure helping area players on these teams. He credited Milausnic for taking Lake Central around the state and Bowman has done that since its inception.
Plus, though L.C. and Bowman lost in the 4A and 3A state championship games, they made it there and a lot of people got to see them play.
"Davon is unbelievably athletic, amazing on the court," Rea said.
Pete Auksel had the distinction of playing or coaching under three Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame coaches in John Baratto, John Molodet and Everett Case.
He played for Baratto at East Chicago Washington and Molodet was Baratto's assistant. Auksel was an assistant to Molodet and succeeded him as the Senators coach. Auksel was an assistant coach on the 1971 Washington undefeated state championship team.
Auksel played for Case at North Carolina State, who is also in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Case is one of only five coaches to win at least four state titles in Indiana basketball.
"The one thing bout all three is that neither one played basketball," Auksel said. "One thing they did know was how to coach. They taught you to play 100 percent at all times. Coach Baratto, he really knew how to get the most out of you. They taught discipline and skills that you could use after basketball."
Auksel had successful careers after basketball as he spent 36 years in the School City of East Chicago and also 20 years on the North Township board of trustees. He is now retired in Florida with Carolyn, his wife of 50 years.
The 1959 Senators were ranked No. 1 and considered one of the best teams in the school's history as they beat Crispus Attucks, the 1959 state champ, in the regular season.
"The place was packed," Auksel said. "We had standing-room only, five, six deep. That was definitely a great era for basketball for East Chicago and the Region. Froebel, Tolleston, East Chicago Roosevelt, Hammond High and Bishop Noll. Man, did we have some great games."
The 1959 Senators were upset by Lafayette Jeff in the semistate, 56-52. His teammates included John Dull, Santos Jimenez, Ron Divjak and Phil Dawkins. they were household names in their era. The second five were pretty well known too. 1960 Trester Award winner Bobby Cantrell, who helped lead Washington to the 1960 state title, Nick Berzak, Jim Bakos and Daryl Williams were also on the 1959 team.
"We just had great talent coming through the (Indiana) Harbor," Auksel said. "We had great coaches, great community support and we loved to play basketball."
The 1977 Washington team lost to Carmel, 53-52, in the state finals, Molodet's last game. Auksel took over the next year. His 1979 team ranked in the top ten in the state was 16-5.
"We had a big dropoff in talent from what we had in years past," Auksel said. "We had talent, but it just was not like what Baratto and Molodet had."
Auksel earned a degree in mathematics from North Carolina State 1964 and a masters in secondary education from Indiana 1971.
Growing up in the Harbor was a great time and he enjoyed it. At the time, Inland Steel, Youngstown Sheet & Tube, General American and Union Carbide were the biggest employers in East Chicago.
"You had five shows off Main and Broadway," Auksel said. "We had the simple things. We loved to go out and play basketball. We had a lot to do just in town. Everybody had good jobs and we had old-fashioned values.
And a lot of the winter life revolved around the area of Grand Boulevard and Columbus Drive, the site of Washington High School. Everyone was always anxious for the basketball season to begin.
"Sometimes, it was hard for us to get to the locker room because of the (overflow) crowds," Auksel said. "Come sectionals, they had to have a lottery for season-ticket holders. It held about 6,500, but it seemed like there was 10,000 or more in there. Great atmosphere."
The same was true at the Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, home of the North Carolina State Wolfpack, he said. The crowds were enthusiastic and followed the team wherever it played.
"Just a great place to play with all the tradition," Auksel said. "At the time, the ACC was the most physical league around. Reynolds was a tough place to play if you were an opponent."
ST. JOHN | It was Ground Zero for Hoosier Hysteria. Lake Central was playing poorly in the state championship game. All the dreams of a lifetime had spun out of control into nightmare mode.
The Indians best player, Tyler Wideman, had walked off the floor in the second quarter with blood pouring from his head. Lake Central trailed Indianapolis Tech , 27-12, at halftime of the Class 4A state final.
With all this negative energy in the locker room, the 6-foot-7 senior center walked in after being treated by trainer Chris Hall. He had a strange-looking mask over the wound.
That's when coach Dave Milausnic spoke up.
"You look like the Karate Kid," he said.
Wideman laughed. The Indians laughed. Everyone in the room giggled.
Then, in this more relaxed atmosphere, a different team ran onto the floor for the second half at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. A 23-point deficit was reduced to three with 10.9 seconds left in the contest.
Yes, Tech hung on for the 63-59 win, but Lake Central gave Indiana one of the greatest comebacks possible. Wideman was wax on and wax off.
Even with the vision-altering face-guard, the Butler-bound big man was a beast against All-American Trey Lyles. He had three poster slam dunks in the final 16 minutes. He finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Wideman is The Times Player of the Year for the 2013-14 season.
"We knew the game wasn't over," Wideman said. "We knew there was a lot of time. We knew we didn't play the half we wanted to. We started playing for our pride.
"We didn't want to get embarrassed."
Wideman averaged 15.7 points with 6.9 rebounds a game, for the Indians, who broke a 30-year Indy drought by getting back to the state finals. He impressed those in St. John and outside.
Just ask Crown Point coach Clint Swan.
“I saw him their opening game against Andrean and I said, 'Oh no, we're all in trouble,” Swan said. “He has a bounce in his step he didn't have before. His body is in the best shape it's ever been and he's playing the best basketball of his career.”
Then, ask Swan again.
“I'm going to his commencement. I'm going to make sure he walks across that line,” Swan said.
Swan said this on Feb. 21, after "Big Cat" and his mates beat the Bulldogs, 77-43. Now, Swan will likely have a shot of coaching Wideman. Swan is an assistant coach for the Indiana All-Star team.
It's the last high school dream Wideman has.
"I want to make the Indiana All-Stars bad," Wideman said. "It's important. To be recognized by the coaches around the state is a great honor. It's a great time. I hope to get that opportunity.
"We want to beat Kentucky."
Milausnic has seen the wonderful evolution of Wideman. When he arrived at L.C. he weighed 285 pounds and had a lot to work on in his game.
"He would play for two minutes and have to come out for a break," Milausnic said.
But Wideman sweated heavily when few were watching and began to chisel his broad frame. It all came together this winter.
In the regional championship game against Penn, Wideman only took four shots until the final seconds. His fifth shot was the game winner, a tip-in at the buzzer to send the Indians on.
Then, his hands were flying in the championship game.
"He battled down there against Trey Lyles, who was everything everyone said about him," Milausnic said. "Tyler played great. He put himself up there with the greatest post players in our area's history."
Larry Crisler, Bishop Noll
6-4, Sr., G
Stats: 16.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.8 apg, 2.8 spg
Scouting report: The Indiana-bound baseball player had another typical hoops season, very good. Would've made Hoosier Basketball Magazine's Top 60 workout if not for his spring schedule. Could do it all. Play point, power forward or center. He will be missed.
Davon Dillard, Bowman Academy
6-5, Jr., G/F
Stats: 17.5 ppg, 7 rpg, 2.3 spg
Scouting report: For the second time in two years Dillard led the Eagles to the state championship, scoring a team-high 21 in the Class 3A loss in Indy. Was named to the Core Six Indiana Junior All-Star game. The highly recruited wing has one more season to show all of his game. As good as he is he has more.
Hyron Edwards, E.C. Central
6-0, Jr., G
Stats: 20.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.5 apg
Scouting report: Like his buddy Dillard, Edwards was also selected to the Indiana Junior All-Star Core Six team, which is quite an honor. Will spend the summer playing AAU in front of many Blue Chip college coaches. His highlight real stuff is off the charts. Could use a little work on the basic fundamentals.
Ryan Fazekas, Marquette Catholic
6-8, Jr., G-F
Stats: 14.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.5 apg
Scouting report: The 34-point, 10-rebound, seven-3-pointer performance in the Class A state championship victory was absolutely memorable. Over the course of the season, the Providence commit was a steady inside-outside force for the Blazers, doing a little bit of everything.
Josh Fleming, LaPorte
6-0, Sr., G
Stats: 20.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.8 apg, 3.3 spg
Scouting report: The smooth operator carried the Slicers to a 4A sectional championship with his calm hand, clutch shooting and uncanny ability to get to the free throw line, qualities that LaPorte has long grown accustomed to. A strong rebounder for his size and one of the area's top ball thieves, the four-year starter leaves with his name all over the school career record book.
Drew Hackett, Munster
6-1, Jr., G
Stats: 18.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.5 apg, 2.5 spg
Scouting report: The UIC-bound mega point guard has one more year of prep hoops and will spend his summer playing for the Indiana Junior All-Stars. Helped his rebuilding Mustangs to 20 wins and a date in the sectional championship game. The kid's game IQ is like Einstein in black high tops.
Justin King, Bowman Academy
6-7, Sr., C
Stats: 14.2 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.6 apg
Scouting report: Playing in three straight state championship games isn't bad. The all-state player on everybody's list will be waiting by the phone in the coming days. Waiting for the assured D-I offer and a possible Indiana All-Star call. Could take it into the paint against almost anyone. A great leader.
Richie Mitchell, Marquette Catholic
6-0, Sr., G
Stats: 11.6 ppg, 3.8 apg, 85 FT percentage
Scouting report: Mitchell was the point of the spear for the Blazers, directing the up-tempo offense and keying the pressure defense. His ability to get to the rim was key in setting up Marquette's perimeter shooters for open looks.
Chris Palombizio, Chesterton
6-5, Jr., G-F
Stats: 19.4 ppg, 46 3s, 6.3 rpg, 2.2 apg
Scouting report: A broken bone in his foot cost Palombizio the last three games and the Trojans any chance at a sectional title. One of the region's purest scorers, he improved his off-the-dribble game and found his teammates when defenses brought extra attention his way, as they often did. He is a Western Michigan commit.
Keenan Simmons, Michigan City
6-7, Sr., F
Stats: 21.1 ppg, 12.6 rpg, 3.4 bpg
Scouting report: There were long stretches, particularly during the first half of the season, when nobody in the area played better than Simmons. He extended his offensive game beyond the 3-point line as teams surrounded him in the paint and remained a shot-altering presence at the defensive end. Simmons will prove to be a steal for SIU-Edwardsville.
Zach VanHook, Lowell
6-5, Sr., G
Stats: 18.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.2 spg
Scouting report: The standout scorer led his team to 16 wins and finished fourth on the Red Devils all-time scoring list with 1,299. Will certainly play D-I ball before all is said and done. His size and length make him very valuable on many spots on the floor. Hang his jersey in the gym.
Tyler Wideman, Lake Central
6-7, Sr., C
Stats: 15.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.8 apg
Scouting report: With blood pouring down his head in the first half of the Class 4A state championship game, the Butler-bound stallion played huge in the second half, scoring 19 points with 12 rebounds in L.C.'s 63-59 loss to Indianapolis Tech. Will be an Indiana All-Star. That's a lock.
Tye Wilburn, Lake Central
5-11, Sr., G
Stats: 12.3 ppg, 4.5 apg, 4 rpg
Scouting report: They say you want to go out on top and that's what the lightning-quick point guard did, scoring 14 of his team-high 20 points in the second half against Tech to give his Indians a shot. Was fantastic on the state's biggest stage. More of that is on the way.
Tyreon Gates, Bishop Noll
6-3, Sr., G | 13.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2 apg
Analysis: Crisler's right-hand man overcame a tough injury in the offseason to help lead the Warriors to a sectional championship. Did most things well, but his shooting really improved as the winter rolled on. Will have a chance to play college ball. He's that good.
Arthur Haggard III, Bowman Academy
6-3, Sr., G | 12 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2 spg
Analysis: His Bowman Academy Eagles were not a great perimeter shooting team, which was seen in the Class 3A state final, but Haggard was the best from beyond the arc. With one D-I offer on the table, was also a keen defender in a devilish press.
Dwayne Haden, Lake Station
5-6, Sr., G | 13.6 ppg, 7.1 apg
Analysis: Was the engine that gave the Eagles 15 wins. While small in stature, his game was above the rim. Great court vision and a similar game IQ helped him lead the offense like a conductor. Someone will pay for his college for his basketball skills.
Damien Jefferson, E.C. Central
6-4, So., G | 15.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg
Analysis: Like teammate Edwards, this kid is on the YouTube All-Star team, with countless moves, slams and jams that make the jaw drop. But must still work on the finer points of the game to reach the top. Like E'Twaun Moore, fundamentals are just as big as a dunk.
Nick Jeffirs, Crown Point
6-6, Jr., F/C | 14.5 ppg, 8 rpg
Analysis: The big kid with a lot of upside helped the young 'Dogs to 12 wins, which was a big lift from the year before. Was nearly unstoppable in the paint and could grab a rebound with the best of them. Next year could be his year. Book it.
Pat McCarthy, Munster
6-5, Sr., F | 10.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 48 percent from 3-point line
Analysis: For the 20-win Mustangs, the big kid with limited varsity minutes before showed what he could do. Bang on the inside. Move out beyond the arc and he could make you pay. With 10s and 20s. Just a typical Mustang, full of a high game IQ and skill.
Matt Meneghetti, Lake Central
5-11, Sr., G | 7.7 ppg, 57 3-pointers
Analysis: L.C. does not get to Indianapolis without this long-range bomber. How many players come off the bench and have a box-and-1 thrown at them? Not only did he make some huge 3s in the postseason run, but he also opened up the floor for other Indians.
Tremell Murphy, Griffith
6-5, So., F | 12.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.9 apg
Analysis: Helped lead the Panthers to 16 wins and a second-place finish, at 5-1, in the NCC. Scored 21 points with 16 rebounds against East Chicago. This is only the start. With twin brother Anthony back for two more years, these guys should make some serious noise.
Nick Podkul, Andrean
6-2, Jr., G | 11 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3 apg, 3 spg
Analysis: In a year where even the "5" in 59er was new, the former JV player stepped up big for the sectional champion squad, which gave state finalist everything it could handle in the regional semifinal. Next winter should be even better.
Tyler Ross, Lake Central
6-5, Sr., F | 8.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg
Analysis: Another piece to the Indians' puzzle, the big kid with a nice perimeter touch filled many roles. Played good post defense, could knock down the perimeter 'J' and also team with Wideman on the boards. Will surely find a place to play college ball.
Cole Teal, Chesterton
6-3, Sr., G | 14.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.6 apg
Analysis: The numbers only told part of the story for Teal, who missed nearly half the season with a broken clavicle. A program fixture since he was a freshman, the Williams College recruit had no problems with putting the Trojans on his back when necessary.
Gage Ott, LaPorte
6-6, Sr., C | 16.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg
Analysis: Ott returned to the floor with a vengeance after having to sit out the first eight games. The inside complement to Fleming was a big reason why the Slicers were able to beat rival Michigan City three times and win a sectional. He will play at Bethel College.
Jake Bekelya, Kouts
5-10, Sr., G | 21.5 ppg, 2.8 apg, 2.4 spg
Analysis: The Porter County Conference scoring champion could fill it up in bunches. The backcourt blur went out with a bang, exceeding 30 points in four of his final six games as a Mustang.
Duneland Athletic Conference
Chesterton: Jake Wasielewski. Crown Point: Bret Barclay, Grant Gelon. Lake Central: Joe Bannister. LaPorte: Jacob Jones. Merrillville: D.J. Wilkins. Portage: Luke Kizer, Jordan Collazo. Valparaiso: Justin Osburn, Conner TenHove.
Great Lakes Athletic Conference
Clark: Kalil Frith. Gavit: Kyle Landers, Casey Jackson. Hammond: Aaron Haggard, Kortrell Caston, Deante Rias. Morton: Rayan Elabed, Devon Mingo, Tayon Carter.
Greater South Shore Conference
Bishop Noll: Marquis Tarver, Roman Penn. Calumet: Anthony Harris, Javonta Whitehead. Lake Station: Brian Patterson, Kyle Gooch, Benjamin Neals. Marquette Catholic: Nate Flores, Braxton Miller. North Newton: Brandon Propes. River Forest: Brandon Laas, Malachi Sala. Wheeler: James Miller. Whiting: Matt Dvorscak.
Northwest Crossroads Conference
Andrean: Ben Davidson, Parker Huttel, Matthew Anjorin. Griffith: Anthony Murphy, Flint Powell. Highland: Ben Wood, Tommy Brankin. Hobart: Juan Lamar, Josh Uhles. Kankakee Valley: Matt Myers. Lowell: Billy Barker, Aaron Hamm, Eric Zukauskas. Munster: Adam Ostoich, Luke Wuchenich.
Lew Wallace: Richard Wash, Keontae Bridges. Roosevelt: Tevin Farris, Larry Hopskins, Alexander Buggs. West Side: Christian Jacobs, JaRe Glover, Marlon Northern.
Porter County Conference
Boone Grove: Jon Hogg, Isaac Mioduski. Hanover Central: Payton Smith. Hebron: Bryce Hanaway, Tony Rose. Kouts: Cody Nelson, Matt Stewart. LaCrosse: Bryce Guse. Morgan Township: Jake Koselke, Chase Braden. South Central: Mark Richards. Washington Township: Brandon Adkins, Alex Lowther. Westville: Shawn Gerron, Chris Wilkins.
Bowman Academy: Austin Daniels, Anthony Cole, Raynard Perry. Covenant Christian: Jason Kikkert. E.C. Central: Jalen Blackmon, Jeremy Ochoa. Gary 21st Century: David Jernigan, Dantrell Hurt, Eugene German. Gary Lighthouse: JaQuan Robinson, Jason Riley, Justin Baker. Rensselaer: Joey Claussen.
-- compiled by Times writers Steve Hanlon and Jim Peters
ST. JOHN | Every person in every gym in Indiana had high hopes on Nov. 11, the first official practice day of the 2013-14 boys basketball season.
Lake Central coach Dave Milausnic had a little more faith than others, but that was because he had seven seasoned seniors returning from a team that took Munster into overtime in the sectional championship earlier that year.
But there was pressure in St. John. Probably more than in other places. The Indians had been good in the 10 years Milausnic was at the front of the bench. But L.C. had not broken through.
In 2012, Lake Central won its first sectional championship since 1997. But an unexpected loss to South Bend Adams in the regional semifinal and the graduation of Glenn Robinson III didn't make the heat in the kitchen any cooler.
Milausnic handled the heat. And he changed his approach. Everyone knew he had two standouts in Tyler Wideman and Tye Wilburn. But he had them on the roster the previous two years.
"We put more importance on the other guys accepting their roles," Milausnic said. "I felt if everyone buys into their role we could be awfully tough to beat."
Milausnic is The Times Coach of the Year, after leading the Indians to the Class 4A state championship game, where the Indians lost to Indianapolis Tech, 63-59.
Trailing by 23 in the second half, his team went on a run that had the Titans sweating bullets. L.C. got within three with 10.9 seconds left.
"I am so proud of what those guys did," Milausnic said. "They did what they did all year. The never quit. They never stopped fighting. They never put their heads down."
Milausnic spoke about the play of senior forward Cory Dickelman, who didn't score in the semistate win over Homestead, but played great defense and rebounded and had the biggest smile on Lafayette Jeff's court after the win.
The 79-57 win set history. L.C. got to Indianapolis in 1984. The Indians returned 30 years later.
Milausnic spoke about Tyler Ross, a 6-foot-5 wing who did a little bit of everything to help the team. And Joe Bannister, who would've scored many more from his guard position at another school. Or Robert Ryan's defensive scrappiness coming off the bench and Matt Meneghetti's long-range scoring for not being a scorer.
There is no "i" in team. There is no "i" in Lake Central.
And it wasn't just the coach who observed this family theme.
"We never would've got to Indianapolis without those guys," Wideman said. "When we lost in sectionals last year it brought the seniors closer. Even in our conditioning we all wanted the same thing. We went much harder in practice this year.
"Everyone bought into their role. Playing defense. Coming off the bench to take a charge. Our role players were beyond great. Coach Dave did a great job."
Wow. Didn't it seem like it was yesterday when the whistles blew for the first boys basketball practice in Indiana? Time flies, don't it?
Al Gore was wearing Speedos in early November. The rest of us have been in ear muffs and arctic boots ever since. Still, the boys of winter really heated up our days, didn't they?
The Times All-Area team will be in Sunday's editions. Here are some other honors worthy of a mention.
The Oh What Could Have Been Award: This goes to West Side's Arnold Wilson. This fine young man had a big game. But a knee injury early in the season ended his prep career, and altered the wins and losses of his Cougars.
Keep your head up good sir. And get healthy. If you are a college coach give this kid a call.
Best Move of the Year: Some would say Hyron Edwards' sickly crossover. Others would say Tyler Wideman's two-handed, rim-dragging dunks. Or Nick Jeffirs' drop-step power in the paint.
All good. All right.
But there is no question the best move in the Region goes to Bowman Academy assistant coach Derrick Robinson. After a T was given to the Eagles bench at Lake Central, Robinson went down to the floor and started doing pushups.
It reminded me of my younger days and why I could never get the President's Physical Fitness badge when a student at South Ward Elementary. Hilarious. Classic. Memorable.
Worst Move of the Year: Pressing a team in the state championship game when they wouldn't be rattled. Layups and wide-open 3s were the result. Park Tudor morphs into Greensburg. Time for some more pushups.
Small school Player of the Year: I give this to Lake Station's Dwayne Haden. With a bench shorter than Gomer Pyle's haircut, Haden played great basketball and his Eagles won. Great job. And I would give your coach, Bob Burke, the small-school Coach of the Year honor.
Keep Your Head Up: This goes to Hanover Central coach Bryon Clouse. After leaving Lake Station for Cedar Lake, his Wildcats went 1-19. They were younger than R. Kelly's little white book. It will get better.
Best Game: Easy. Lake Central vs. Penn. Tyler Wideman. Tip in. I listened to Van Halen driving home from Michigan City.
Best Game II: Munster at Lowell. The Red Devils had a remarkable season. Yet the NCC kings came in and pounded them. Unbelievable.
Today's Best Long-Range Bomber: Lake Central's Matt Meneghetti.
Tomorrow's Best Long-Range Bomber: Crown Point's Grant Gelon.
Worst Free Throw Shooter: It would take up too much space to list them all. Come on fellas, 45 minutes a day in the summer gives you wins in the winter.
Best Dunk: Davon Dillard's alley-oop against Fort Wayne Dwenger in the semistate. It looked like his navel was above the backboard box.
Best Student Section: Like on the floor, Lake Central gets past Munster. The Big Cat T-shirts rocked and you all rolled, all the way to Indy. A lot of fun. You guys raised the temperature in the gyms.
So thank you.
This winter was colder than Jonathan Toews' skates, snowier than a dude in Siberia with dandruff, longer than a Duck Dynasty beard, more miserable than thinking about Al Gore in Speedos and as seemingly never-ending as a speech by Nancy Pelosi.
Thank God we have basketball in Indiana. What else would we all do in winters like this?
Before we formally tuck away the 2013-14 boys basketball season and put it to bed with our all-area and 'of the year' honors Sunday, let's take a quick peek at what might be in store for the '14-'15 campaign.
Marquette Catholic stands alone as the region's sole state champion among the three teams to make it to Indianapolis and the Blazers will be in solid position to make another run at a title. They have to replace guards Richie Mitchell and Nate Flores, but will be a load to deal with on the front line. Marquette will feature four players who are 6-foot-4 or taller, and chances are they'll be even bigger come November.
Providence recruit Ryan Fazekas posted relatively modest numbers most of the season before blowing up for 34 points and seven 3-pointers in the finals, which may be a sample of what's in store for his senior year. Don't look now, but Donovan Garletts just might be building a powerhouse in Michigan City, where the school could be developing into a talent magnet. The JV didn't lose a game. The biggest concern may be a move up to 2A after another post-season push next winter.
The tournament waters are a lot murkier for Bowman Academy and Lake Central.
We've come to expect the Eagles to simply reload one season to the next, but massive graduation losses will leave the cupboard a little thin, at least for now. Junior All-Star Davon Dillard is a great place to start, though there are already rumblings that he may be elsewhere as a senior. Bowman may be facing a transition year much like it did in 2010-11, when it was a better-than-it-looked 12-11, yet not the buzzsaw that's carved its way to the state capital four times in the last five years.
Griffith, with the Murphy twins, Tremell and Anthony, could be the beneficiary. Andrean also navigated its way through a transition year with some success and figures to be even better as much of its core returns.
L.C.'s run was years in the making and won't likely be replicated. The Indians figure to remain a competitive program, but you don't replace the veteran talent they had, led by Tyler Wideman and Tye Wilburn, without having some kind of fall-off.
The 4A balance of power figures to shift toward Munster and perennially skilled E.C. Central. Some thought the Mustangs overachieved in going 20-5 this season, a testament to coach Mike Hackett and the benchmark program he has built. UIC signee Drew Hackett will lead Munster, while the Cardinals may have the best combination in Junior All-Star Hyron Edwards and the rising Damien Jefferson.
Noll, which wasn't far from making the state finals an NWI quartet, was also a senior-laden club, possibly leaving the door slightly ajar in 2A.
Can region boys hoops match this year's success next time around? It won't be easy, but the odds didn't favor three local teams getting to Indy in 2014 either and look what happened. At least one local school has made it there the last five seasons.
As it is in every sport, it's a combination of not only ability and hard work, but timing and good fortune. For many, next year has already begun.
INDIANAPOLIS | Early deadlines and three area teams in the state finals left some key points in the notebook last Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. So it's time to empty them out here.
Why Bankers Life?: This sports scribbler liked the monikers Market Square Arena and Conseco Fieldhouse better. But Bankers Life? Really? I wish Marquette, Bowman Academy and Lake Central had played in a place with a different name.
How about Average Joe Fieldhouse? Bankers already have a life that few of us can imagine. Now they get government bailouts, praised by Rush Limbaugh and now, their own stadium. Maybe the high ATM fees of getting into the state games would be lower at Average Joe's?
The Daylight Savings Crime: What if Indiana had not changed its time zone policies in 2005? Remember when "Da Region" was on the same clock this time of the year with Indianapolis, instead of the Eastern vs. Central debate?
If Hoosiers' watches were all the same, maybe Bowman and Lake Central would've won the Class 3A and 4A state titles.
Bowman trailed Greensburg 44-35 at halftime in the 3A game before losing 89-76. Lake Central trailed Indianapolis Tech 27-12 at halftime before falling 63-59.
Bowman's Marvin Rea said he wanted his Eagles to give the Pirates 32 minutes of hell but could only muster four minutes of flames -- the last four minutes of the game. L.C. coach Dave Milausnic said he woke up Sunday morning wondering about a different strategy that could've changed the start.
If we were all on the same clock with a later start, who knows?
One good thing: All four games were competitive, thrilling and awesome. But one thing didn't happen which was good. Not one coach called a timeout with two seconds left to set up a 3-point shot to get to 100. On that Saturday anyway.
Class still goes a long way in Hoosierland.
The best of the best: Bowman's Rea was asked all last week if his team could claim Indiana's overall state championship because the Eagles had beaten both Tech and L.C. during the regular season. He deferred.
I won't. The best "team" in Indianapolis last Saturday was Greensburg. Period. These Pirates were the best coached, most talented and they executed at the highest level. Most were impressed watching those young men perform.
The "Glenn" rumor: Many fans were talking about Glenn Robinson III going into the Lake Central locker room before the game to give a pep talk to his former team. That never happened.
The Michigan star was at the game with some Wolverine teammates and family, but that was it. No Gene Hackman chats. Milausnic did say that he communicated with his former mates via social media.
I love Twitter. What a great thing it is for America.
Oh what a ride: Doug McAllister had a great run as the head coach at Highland, before he was asked to step down in a way that didn't leave him a lot of joy. So he came out of hoops retirement for one year, this year, at Lake Central.
"I'm just enjoying the ride," said McAllister, an assistant at L.C.
Hopefully, all of our teams had a blast and a lifetime of pride on what they accomplished, win or lose. Wish you all the best in your futures. And to the young'ns, let's do this again next year.
INDIANAPOLIS | After a week of great joy and state-wide attention, Lake Central boys basketball coach Dave Milausnic had an emotional thought late on Saturday night.
He was in the tunnel at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis after Indianapolis Tech survived with a 63-59 win in the Class 4A state championship game.
"I'm not going to be coaching Tye Wilburn or Tyler Wideman again, or the other seven seniors," Milausnic said. "Those kids have done a great job in building this program. They will be missed."
L.C. only scored 12 points in the first quarter, where the offense struggled and Wideman left the court bleeding after being fouled hard by a Titan. Tech's lead ballooned to 23 points and it looked all but over.
But the Indians put on a remarkable comeback and got within three points with 10.9 seconds left. Wilburn scored 20. Wideman had 19 as both seniors played a spirited second half.
Matt Meneghetti hit three 3-pointers.
"We never quit," senior Chris Tuskan said. "I wish we would've had another minute."
Milausnic said he wouldn't have any more pride if his team had come back and won.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the guys,” Milausnic said. “If we got another possession and won, I wouldn’t be any prouder because they battled.”
In the Class 3A game, Bowman Academy fell to top-ranked Greensburg 89-76. The Pirates had 25 assists in 31 field goals and were 12-of-21 shooting beyond the arc.
Eagles coach Marvin Rea felt good when sophomore Montrell Barfield said, "It's OK coach, we'll get you back next year."
Rea was looking to win his third state championship in three different classes. In 2012 Bowman was spanked by Indianapolis Park Tudor in the Class 2A game 79-57.
But the next March, Bowman beat Linton-Stockton 86-73 to win its first 2A crown.
"Hopefully we can get back here and do what we did before, get it right in our second 3A game," Rea said.
INDIANAPOLIS | In a game where he scored 34 points and hit a Class A state finals record seven 3-pointers, it was a defensive play that may have been the biggest moment for Marquette Catholic's Ryan Fazekas on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
With the Blazers nursing a 2-point lead in the waning seconds of overtime against Barr-Reeve, the 6-foot-8 junior blocked Addison Wagler's shot in the lane, retrieved the ball and tossed a pass to a sprinting Braxton Miller for a decisive layup that secured the championship.
"I just knew I had to get a hand on the ball," Fazekas said after the 70-66 victory.
Fazekas' magical performance, which also included 10 rebounds, three steals and three assists, nearly went for naught. Marquette had to rally from 10 down in the fourth quarter after a 20-3 third-run by Barr-Reeve flipped control of the game.
"I think we took them for granted and got a little comfortable with the 10-point lead," Fazekas said. "We got a little frustrated. We just had to calm down and put some intense defense on them. That's what made us win the game."
Marquette (20-6) pressed and trapped much of the game to try to dictate tempo. It turned defense into offense with several steals and baskets during the fourth-quarter comeback. The Blazers tied the game at 57 on a JoVonte Peals' steal and layup after a Malcolm Reed 3.
"To be completely honest, I have absolutely no idea how we made up a 10-point deficit against a team like Barr-Reeve," coach Donovan Garletts said. "They're very good with the basketball. It shows a lot of resilience by our boys. We got a couple turnovers, some fast-break points. That's what we do. Once we cut into the lead, we were in position."
Reed put Marquette in front in OT, hitting a turnaround. Fazekas pushed the lead to four with a long 2 that prompted Garletts to put his head down on the padding of the scorer's table in disbelief.
"We were supposed to be controlling the basketball," Garletts said. "Sometimes, they tell me to just get out of the way."
Barr-Reeve (26-2) got 25 points from Wagler and another 23 from Micah Bullock, who connected on five treys of his own. The Vikings have reached the state finals four times since 2002, only to lose each game.
"This is an incredible opportunity not only for our players but the city of Michigan City," Garletts said. "It's a community that's really united. I'm so proud to take this home to the people who live there who haven't had this feeling since 1966. It's a great feeling, and certainly all the credit goes to the boys."
INDIANAPOLIS | After scoring just 12 points in the first half of Saturday’s Class 4A state championship game against Indianapolis Tech, Lake Central looked like it was dead in the water.
Resuscitation was needed badly, especially after LC’s big man, Tyler Wideman had to go to the locker room late in the first half with a severe cut across the bridge of his nose.
Then the Indians came alive when Wideman returned with a different jersey (his bloody No. 45 was changed to No. 33) and Tye Wilburn was the most active player on the court in the second half.
LC cut Tech’s 23-point lead down to three in the final seconds. But despite valiant efforts by Lake Central’s 1-2 punch, Indianapolis Tech held off the Indians for a 63-59 victory.
It’s the first state title for Tech (27-2) after losing its previous four appearances in the final game.
Wideman had the first four points of the game for Lake Central (22-4), but didn’t score again in the first half and added injury to insult by getting rapped across the face with 2:30 left in the first half. LC’s staff tried to stop the bleeding, but he had to go back to the locker room early.
When the Butler-bound center returned in the second half with a large headband covering bandages, he was a force in the paint to get the Indians back into a game that looked like it was over. He had 15 in the second half to finish with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
“That’s what we’ve been doing all year — fighting and scrapping,” Wideman said. “I wish we could take back that half.”
His partner, Wilburn, only had six points through three quarters. But in the fourth, he scored 14 to lead the Indians with 20 points. His active defense also led to nine Tech turnovers in the final eight minutes.
Wilburn’s 3-pointer with 10.9 seconds left in the game after a mad scramble for an offensive rebound cut the Titans lead to 62-59. Tech didn’t help itself by missing 5 of 7 free throws in the final minute.
But 6-foot-10 University of Kentucky-bound center Trey Lyles hit the eighth free throw to seal the victory.
“At that point (in the fourth quarter) we were playing for pride because we were down a lot,” Wideman said. “Pride can take you far.”
Lyles, who was named Mental Attitude Award winner, finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Bloodied, not beaten:
Lake Central's Tyler Wideman wore jersey No. 33 in the second half after getting blood on his jersey in the first half, a result of a cut on his forehead just above his eyebrow. He wore a headband to cover it in the second half.
The high note:
Lake Central trailed by as many as 23 points in the second half before cutting the lead to three with 10 seconds left.
And low notes:
Matt Meneghetti’s 3-pointer with 2:22 left in the third quarter ended an 0-for-11 drought from long range to that point by LC. He added another 3-pointer a minute later. Those were LC's only 3s until Meneghetti and Wilburn connected in the last minute. LC finished 4-of-18 from the arc.
Lake Central scored just 12 points in the first half and 47 in the second half
Lake Central made only 7 of its 18 free throws. Tech was 23 of 32 at the line.
For the books:
Bowman's 78 field goal attempts is a new Class 3A record.
Greensburg's 89 points is a Class 3A record.
The 165 combined points broke the Class 3A record.
Bowman's 32 field goals tied the record with Princeton (2009) and Indianapolis Chatard (2003).
The high notes:
Greensburg's Macy Holdsworth won the Trester Award for Mental Attitude. He ranks seventh in his class with a 3.9 GPA
Greensburg had 31 field goals and 25 assists.
Bowman had 12 steals and forced the Pirates into 22 turnovers.
Bowman's Austin Daniels was 7-of-13 from the field for 14 points and three assists.
Run with it:
An 18-3 run by Greensburg from the end of the third quarter into the fourth broke open the game, with Collin Ridgney hitting four 3-pointers in the stretch.
“They passed the ball very well,” Bowman coach Marvin Rea on Greensburg's 25 assists.
HEADLINE: Tuskan plays big for his father
INDIANAPOLIS | Jeffrey Tuskan died two years ago after a tough battle with cancer. But he left something on the earth that had Lake Central fans dancing on Saturday night inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
His son, Chris Tuskan, came off the bench and was part of an unbelievable comeback for Lake Central. The Indians were down 23 at one point of the Class 4A state championship game against Indianapolis Tech, but got it within three with 10.9 seconds left.
Tuskan was on the floor on an 11-0 run that got the game close.
“I was playing for my dad,” Tuskan said. “I know he'd be very proud of me. I know he's up there smiling. Crying.”
With 4:02 left in Saturday night's Class 4A state championship game, Lake Central's Tuskan walked over to the bench tugging on his jersey.
The No. 34 in blue on white was pounding up and down. It belonged to the 6-foot-3 bench player for the Indians.
He was tired. Extremely tired.
Tech held a 49-29 lead. That's when L.C. started an 11-0 run to get within nine. Tuskan was out there guarding All-American Trey Lyles, among several hustle plays, before holding on to a 63-59 win.
The Indians only had 12 points at halftime and were scrambling to get back in it for much of the game. But history gave them a shot.
In Tech's semistate win over Bloomington North, the Titans held a 28-point lead inside of four minutes remaining. Coach Jason Delaney pulled his starters and the celebration began.
But North got within three in the final minute and had the ball with a chance to tie before a turnover ended the historic comeback attempt and Tech prevailed 75-71 at Richmond.
On a day where over 28,000 fans watched four state championship games at Indianapolis' Bankers Life Fieldhouse, a kid with limited playing time played big for the Indians.
In 16 minutes of play, Tuskan scored two points with one rebound and one assist.
“He was huge,” L.C. coach Dave Milausnic said. “We've always said 'Next man up.' Chris went out there and battled. All of our guys did.”
Tuskan said being on the floor during the comeback was a thrill.
“I was motivated to keep him out of the paint,” Tuskan said of All-American Trey Lyles. “I tried my best. I'm happy I could play my heart out. We all did. We almost had it.”
INDIANAPOLIS | There was an interesting conversation on a school bus on January 25 in Central Indiana. Bowman Academy boys basketball coach Marvin Rea was speaking to some of his assistant coaches on the drive down to Carmel.
This is like asking which one of John Wooden's 10 NCAA championship teams was the best. Good luck with that one.
Some suggested the 2010 Class A state champs. They were the fire starters. Drove all over America to get games because no one locally would play them. They lost in 2009 in a way that was like going to the dentist without novacane.
When they beat Barr-Reeve, 74-52, to cut down the nets, it was special.
Others suggested the 2013 team. Most of those Eagles were spanked 79-57 by Indianapolis Park Tudor the year before in the Class 2A state final. But they returned and beat Linton-Stockton the following March 86-73 and all was right with the world.
For me, though, I'll take the 2013-14 Bowman Academy Eagles as the best team ever. Regardless of Saturday night's 89-76 loss to Greensburg in the Class 3A title game.
It's happened for 104 years in this state and it will happen again. Great teams can still lose to better teams in Indianapolis.
As the clock was beating down in this blowout, coach Marvin Rea walked over to junior Davon Dillard, who was sulking on the bench with his head down. Rea, who has coached in four state finals in the past five years, did what he's so good at.
He coached, regardless of what the scoreboard said.
“Keep your head up,” Rea told Dillard. “Keep your head up.”
Greensburg had an epic state final, hitting 12-of-20 3-pointers and passing the ball like an All-Pro NFL quarterback.
Down 81-64 with 3:58 left in the game, Rea coached again. During a timeout he rallied his guys and they were all clapping. They got up. They finished the game like they'd played all year.
Bowman wanted to give the Pirates 32 minutes of hell.
“We only gave them three minutes of hell,” Rea said.
Like the Park Tudor game, getting behind took Bowman out of its game. They are better being hunted than doing the hunting.
Tears filled the eyes of the seven seniors during the postgame press conference. They tried, despite the pain of the loss, to put all of this in perspective.
How many Indiana basketball players compete in three straight state finals? Few. Very few.
“My guys fought for me,” Rea said.
“We fought,” senior Justin King said. “We didn't lie down.”
“I'd rather lose with these guys right here,” Darrion Riddle said. “And my coach.”
This run has been remarkable. A school record 22 wins with an NBA-like schedule. Having beaten both teams in the Class 4A state title game, Indianapolis Tech and Lake Central. And giving a great team everything they had.
Sometimes it's better to hear what someone outside the area says. There may be more truth in it.
“You have to give Bowman credit, they are an excellent team,” Greensburg coach Stacy Meyer said. “The way they competed, they never gave up.”
Well, said, coach. Your team was unbelievable.
But, keep your heads up, Eagles. Hold them up high.
OVERTIME DEMONS EXPELLED: In the 104 years of boys basketball state championship games, Marquette was the fourth Region team to play in an overtime game, but first to come out on top after the extra session.
Roosevelt lost in double overtime to Plymouth in 1982 in a classic that included future NBA player and coach Scott Skiles hitting a 25-foot shot at the buzzer for Plymouth to send the game into OT.
Renaldo Thomas was part of that Panthers’ team, and he was also the head coach of Lew Wallace in the most recent NWI overtime disappointment — a 65-62 loss to Washington in 2010.
The other Region loss was Valparaiso falling to South Bend Clay, 93-88, in 1994. The Vikings were led by future Valparaiso University star player and coach and Indiana Mr. Basketball Bryce Drew.
BIG LOVE TO EAGLES: Bowman Academy assistant athletic director Jamaal Bradley had a heart-felt memory looking out on Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday night. He remembered what happened last year on this floor.
After Bowman beat Linton-Stockton to win the Class 2A state title, Bradley rushed on the floor. Many told him the Eagles won it for him.
His wife, Kristen, passed away from leukemia right before the tourney started.
"These boys on the team were so uplifting to me," Bradley said. "They are not just basketball players. They were at the funeral home. They were always asking me if they could do anything for me. These are great young men."
OOPS: Bowman coach Marvin Rea forgot his scorebook, so score keeper Donnie King had to borrow two score pages from a media member. Also, the rosters handed out by the IHSAA did not have the Bowman's players names on it. They had last year's 3A finalist Fort Wayne Concordia.
New ones were brought out before tipoff.
BEHIND THE SCENES HEROES: Much has been made of Lake Central’s return to the state finals after a 30-year absence, but little was said of the coaches and administrators behind that memorable team.
Jim Hammel was the head coach, Joe Andrews his varsity assistant, Wayne Svetanoff the JV coach and former LC star Dirk Fehrman led the freshman program.
Hammond High Hall of Fame football coach Bernie Krueger was LC’s principal for 10 years.
“The highlight for me in ’84 was beating Anderson in the (Lafayette) semistate. It was a surprise to everyone and we kept building off that momentum,” he said.
Krueger, now 88, greatly admired Hammel.
“I thought he was what we needed at the time. He taught discipline and he taught really good defense,” Krueger said.
TOUGHING IT OUT: Marquette’s Braxton Miller came up gimpy in the first quarter when his left foot landed on the foot of a Barr-Reeve player after he hit a 3-pointer.
“It's the worst ankle roll I’ve ever had,” Miller said. “But I knew I wasn't coming out.”
His coach knew it, too.
“He could barely walk, but he toughed it out,” Blazers’ coach Donovan Garletts said.
Miller had the ankle taped and returned in the second quarter. He finished with eight points, including a pair of threes in the win.
“We've been in situations where it's looked bad, but we know we can turn things around. We just had to keep chipping away at the lead,” he said. “It's crazy. It hasn't set in yet. I may not realize it until (Sunday).”
LOCAL OFFICIAL HONORED: At halftime of the Class 2A final, Steve Kvachkoff of Crown Point was given the Interscholastic Athletic Official Award for excellence for boys basketball. The IHSAA honors one official in 11 sports each year.
A member of the Lake County Officials Association and 1979 Crown Point High School graduate, Kvachkoff has officiated boys basketball for 32 years with 20 sectionals, 17 regionals, 10 semistates and three state finals under his belt.
Times Correspondent Steve T. Gorches, and staff writers Al Hamnik, Steve Hanlon and Jim Peters contributed to this report.
INDIANAPOLIS | In their first state championship game played outside of breakfast time, the Bowman Academy Eagles needed a wake-up call on Saturday night inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Greensburg Pirates came out on fire in the first quarter of the Class 3A state championship games, shooting 9-of-17 in the first quarter while hitting three 3-pointers. It was Park Tudor all over again.
Top-ranked Greensburg hit 12-of-21 from beyond the arc and scored 14 points off breaking Bowman's press with excellent passing that resulted in wide-open layups to earn its second consecutive Class 3A state title, 89-76.
“They knocked 'em down, they knocked 'em down, they knocked 'em down,” Bowman coach Marvin Rea said after the loss in the Eagles third straight state championship game, their first in Class 3A.
Greensburg (28-1) jumped out to an 8-2 lead and led 22-15 after one quarter. They led 44-35 at halftime and were 9-of-16 from beyond the arc.
Bowman (22-5), which has led most of its postseason run, struggled offensively. The Eagles were 32-of-78 from the field for the game. Senior Justin King struggled against the Pirates size, 6-foot-7 Sean Sellers and 6-foot-8 Ryan Welage.
“I just didn't show up tonight,” said King, who finished with 11 points on 3-for-11 shooting.
Greensburg ended the game with a season-high 22 turnovers, even while handling the press pretty well. Bowman shrunk a double-digit lead down to four in the third period and a Greensburg miss was in Arthur Haggard's hands.
But he punched the ball to a teammate instead of grabbing the rebound, a Pirate picked it up and threw it into the corner where Collin Rigney was waiting. He hit the three and another Eagles' run was thwarted with a long-range dagger.
“Collin lives out there,” said Greensburg coach Stacy Meyer. Rigney was 7-of-10 from beyond the arc and finished with a 23 points.
Meyer said at his Monday practice his starters went against eight players. He said the ball was flying all over the gym. At first. Then the chaos subsided.
“You can't simulate what they do,” Meyer said.
Greensburg only played six players until the benches cleared in the final minute.
“We didn't have energy early on,” Rea said. “We came out flat.”
Davon Dillard led Bowman with 21 points, but was taken out much of the fourth quarter. Dillard seemed to have a shoulder injury, but his coach didn't want to hear about it.
“This is the state championship game,” Rea said. “Unless your arm falls off you need to be out there with your teammates. And playing defense.”
Sellers, a Ball State recruit, scored 27 points with 14 rebounds. Welage scored 21. Northwestern-bound point guard Ryan McIntosh scored eight points, but had 11 assists.
Greensburg had 25 assists. Bowman had 12 helpers.
Austin Daniels scored 14 for Bowman, Anthony Cole scored 12 and Haggard had 11. But the Eagles were only 4-of-20 from beyond the three-point stripe.
“They hit the open shots, it was unbelievable,” Rea said. “Hats off to them.”
INDIANAPOLIS | The theme of Saturday's 104th edition of the Indiana boys state basketball finals was as basic as the air we breathe.
"It All Comes Down To This."
The eight-team field, with a combined record of 188-25, featured a mix of newcomers and familiar challengers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Marquette Catholic (Class A) was making its first state finals appearance; Barr-Reeve (A) its second in five years; Park Tudor (2A) its fourth in five years; Westview (2A) its first in 14 years; Greensburg (3A) its second straight; Gary Bowman (3A) its third straight; Indianapolis Tech (4A) its first since 1966; and Lake Central (4A) its first since 1984.
Region teams Marquette, Bowman and Lake Central had followings that were loud and large, much like back home in the regular season.
Marquette responded with a 70-66 overtime win against Barr-Reeve in Game 1 as 6-foot-8 junior Ryan Fazekas led the way with 34 points, 10 rebounds, and a key block to preserve the win.
The 2A game had Park Tudor rolling over Westview, 84-57, behind Xavier-bound Trevon Bluiett's 38 points and 12 rebounds.
Westview had upset Bishop Noll in double overtime at the North Judson Regional.
In the 3A matchup, defending champion Greensburg led start to finish in walloping Bowman Academy, which had been averaging 90 points in the postseason, 89-76.
Talk about balance. Sean Sellers led the Pirates with 27 points and 16 rebounds, Collin Rigney chipped in 23 points and Ryan Welage added 21.
Greensburg shot 57 percent from beyond the arc, burying 12 of 21 bombs.
Bowman, down by as many as 19 points in the game, got 21 from Davon Dillard and 11 boards from Justin King.
Lake Central and Indianapolis Tech squared off in the main event for the 4A championship and a sellout crowd of 18,165 watched the Indians rally from a 23-point deficit with a 27-14 fourth quarter only to lose 63-59.
Tye Wilburn led Lake Central with 20 points and 6-7 Tyler Wideman shook off a deep cut on his forehead to contribute 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Kentucky-bound Trester Award winner Trey Lyles paced Tech with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Jeremie Tyler had 19 points.
INDIANAPOLIS | Bowman Academy, come on up. There is no wheel to spin, no words to unscramble. Just keep winning and winning.
Indiana High School Athletic Association Commissioner Bobby Cox, while presiding over Saturday's boys state basketball finals, said the Class 3A Eagles could find themselves reclassified to 4A if their phenomenal rate of success continues.
Bowman played defending 3A champion Greensburg in the day's third state finals game and was attempting to become the first boys basketball team to win a state title in three different classes.
No such luck as the Pirates rolled, 89-76.
Coach Marvin Rea's Eagles were playing up one class via the Tournament Success Factor points accumulated over the previous two seasons.
"Let's assume that (Bowman) gets beat today and they win the semistate next year and they score six points in the two-year period," Cox said prior to tip-off. "You get a point for the sectional, two for the regional, three for semistate and four for state.
"If you score six points in a re-classification, re-alignment period and you're residing in a class below the largest enrollment class, then that team in that sport moves up one classification."
If Bowman returns to the state championship in 2015, it would move up while the rest of its sports, including girls basketball, stays at 3A.
Had the Eagles won Saturday, all they would need to do is win the regional next year to move up to 4A for two years. If you score four or five points in your new classification, you remain in that class, Cox said.
Three points or less and you go back to the classification your school enrollment places you.
"I don't know what Bowman's enrollment will be in three or four years," Cox added. "But it could be a 2A school when we draw the lines. If they're 3A by enrollment, they go back to 3A."
Bowman has gone 9-0 against 3A and 7-3 vs. 4A this season.
If the Eagles were to move up one day, it could make for a very successful tournament series regarding attendance and revenue, Cox said.
"At the end of the day, we're addressing success," he said. "People get upset, get irritated, when the same teams win over and over and by how they may have gotten there.
"Schools that used to play those (reclassified) schools are jumping for joy because now they have a new tournament. Those six, seven, eight, schools feel now we have a chance."
This is the 17th year of class sports in Indiana and Cox believes Rule 2.5 — the Tournament Success Factor — could have an impact on future tournaments.
Bowman Academy, meanwhile, remains an independent with few local teams willing to play it in basketball due to a wealth of talent.
INDIANAPOLIS | Imagine running a day-care center, at full capacity, by yourself.
Or being Joan Rivers' plastic surgeon.
Vitamins, anyone? You'll need them.
Jason Wille also has a very demanding job. Some might call it exhausting.
The 1986 Crown Point grad is sports information director for the Indiana High School Athletic Association which has 412 member schools, hosts 20 state championship tournaments -- 10 for girls, 10 for boys -- and has 160,000 student-athletes competing annually.
Wille must feel like taffy at times, being pulled in all directions when he leaves IHSAA headquarters at 9150 N. Meridian St. for big-time prep events around the state.
Saturday's 104th annual boys state basketball finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the NBA's Indiana Pacers, was his World Series, his NCAA Final Four, his Super Bowl.
Wille was in great form carrying out his many duties. As they say in show biz, he killed it.
"It comes with the territory. I knew that when I got into the sports information business years ago," Wille said of the many demands. "I knew with this particular job that I wasn't an expert in any of the sports, necessarily, but I knew a little bit about all of them.
"You do your best to help people and answer questions and be a good representative of the the association. It's part of the job. You get pulled in different directions."
State tournaments make it very tempting to hide the clock on those long, challenging days.
"When I get home, my wife just shakes her head sometimes with the schedule that I keep," Wille said. "It helps that I'm young.
"It's hectic but I love it. I love it."
Still a region guy at heart, Wille has helped build a positive image of our area as a valuable conduit to the IHSAA, downstate school administrators and fans in general.
Heaven knows we need it.
For too long, local media has ranted about the IHSAA treating Northwest Indiana like a bad rash, ignoring us, disrespecting us.
That might've been true years ago, but not since Wille was hired and commissioner Bobby Cox brought a transparency not seen from his predecessors.
The 45-year-old Wille and wife Sherry have a son, Max, who is 9. Love of family and job makes every day sunny and in the 70s for this former C.P. Bulldog.
Saturday carried its usual nonstop stress, as does every state tournament Wille works. A Type 1 diabetic since his freshman year of high school, not even a low blood sugar from "all the running around" Saturday morning could slow him down.
"I've been on an insulin pump about five years now," he said. "You have to juggle your exercise with your food intake and the pump gives me a little more freedom to do things.
"It's the better part of my life now. You just deal with it."
Wille left his seat at courtside and was off to take care of new business.
There were two more games to be decided and officials were bracing for a capacity crowd.
Another crazy night. Oh, what fun.
For the books:
Marquette's 11 3s is a Class A state finals record. The old mark was nine. It shot 50 percent from 3-point range.
Ryan Fazekas' seven 3s is a Class A state finals record. The old mark was six.
Marquette and Barr-Reeve combined for a Class A state finals record 18 3s. The old mark was 14.
Ryan Fazekas' 34 points is the fourth-most in a Class A state finals game. The record is 37 by Barr-Reeve's Zane Bowman and Rossville's Brock Graves, both in 2002.
A high note:
Marquette extended its winning streak to 12.
And low notes:
Barr-Reeve had a 17-game winning streak snapped. Barr-Reeve has lost four Class A state finals games since 2002.
"I was just in a shooting zone. I don't know how to explain it." — Fazekas on his seven 3s
"I'm no Nostradamus, but (Ryan Fazekas') junior year, I told them something special was going to happen. The boys know what they're capable of." — Marquette Catholic coach Donovan Garletts
"Zeke is a really good basketball player. I'm really happy for him to show people how he can really play, really score." — Braxton Miller on teammate Ryan Fazekas.
"As a kid growing up in Indiana, this is the best place in the world. There's no higher level of basketball, I don't care where you're at." — Marquette Catholic coach Donovan Garletts
"They take me a little too serious when I tell them to just play sometimes." — Marquette Catholic coach Donovan Garletts
"They look at me like I'm dumb when they're wide open and yelling to pound it inside." — Marquette Catholic coach Donovan Garletts
INDIANAPOLIS | Over the course of the season, Ryan Fazekas willingly shared the spotlight with his Marquette Catholic teammates, bringing a modest 13.4 points per game scoring average into the Class A state championship.
Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the 6-foot-8 Blazers junior showcased his whole game on Indiana prep basketball's biggest stage.
"Ryan had made sacrifices for the team so people don't see how good he is," teammate Braxton Miller said after the 70-66 overtime victory over Barr-Reeve. "He could have gone somewhere else and scored more, but he's here doing what he needs to do for our team. I'm really happy for him to show people how he can really play, how he can score."
Play he did and score he did. The Providence College recruit racked up 34 points, connecting on 13 of 22 shots, including a Class A finals record seven 3-pointers to go with 10 rebounds, three steals, three assists and a pivotal last-minute block.
"We talk all the time about the transition to the big court, the next level," Blazers coach Donoivan Garletts said.
From the looks of it, Fazekas could play in the Big East next season, but he's got another year left at the Scholl Center before he calls the Dunkin' Donuts Center home.
"I came out and I wasn't nervous for the first time this season," said Fazekas, who was 7 of 11 behind the arc. "I've been nervous for every game this season. It worked."
Fazekas had no issues with the moment nor the surroundings. He scored 14 of Marquette's 17 first-quarter points, burying four 3s. He had 19 of the Blazers' 28 points at the half with five treys.
"I was in a shooting zone," he said. "The team put me in perfect position to go out and hit the shots I needed to. They drove and kicked it out. They found me open."
Much to the chagrin of Barr-Reeve coach Bryan Hughes, who saw Fazekas' 26 percent 3-point shooting rate (26 of 99) and chose to take his chances with him on the perimeter.
"We wanted to make sure we stayed in front of him," Hughes said. "He's a better player in person than he was on film."
Garletts chalked up Fazekas' low percentage to the volume of 3s he takes.
"I don't care if he misses 10 in a row; I want him to shoot 11," Garletts said. "We're kind of that way with all of our guys."
In the end, all that mattered to Fazekas was the net draped around his neck and the wooden trophy back in the locker room.
"It feels great," he said. "My freshman and sophomore year, I was part of a team that lost by one in the sectional. We came in this year focused and determined to go all the way and we did. I don't know how to explain it. It's just an amazing feeling."
INDIANAPOLIS | He's known at Marquette Catholic as 'Guaranteed' Reed.
In Saturday's Class A state championship against Barr-Reeve at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Malcolm Reed was just about that.
The 6-foot-2 junior forward scored seven points in only 10 minutes in Marquette's 70-66 overtime state championship win over Barr-Reeve, and it was when he got them that was even more important.
"We have a very deep team," Reed said. "I just had to come through for the team."
Marquette trailed, 57-52, with less than four minutes left when he drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing to bring the Blazers within two.
"I about went nuts when he put the 3 up," coach Donovan Garletts said. "I shut up when he hit it."
Reed didn't hesitate, despite getting grief from Garletts in practice.
"He always gets on me about shooting 3," Reed said. "I just let it fly."
Reed put the Blazers in front for what proved to be for good in the overtime with a turnaround shot in the lane.
"We play a lot of guys a lot of minutes," Garletts said. "Malcolm went in and showed he was ready."
Not bad for somebody who came in averaging 4.8 points per game.
"I remember during the season an official called him for traveling," Garletts said. "I yelled that (Reed) doesn't know how to travel. For the size of boy he is and his shape, he probably has the best footwork I've ever coached. If he were 6-8 or any bigger, he'd be a high-major, D-I for the skills he has."
Marquette's bench production also featured nine points and two steals by JoVonte Peals, who scored five of them in succession in the fourth quarter to twice tie the game.
"It just kept going through my head to leave nothing on the court," Peals said. "I was just trying to pick it up on defense, get some stops on defense and get out and run. We knew they couldn't run transition with us."
ST. JOHN | As nerves and excitement filled the hallways of Lake Central on Tuesday, senior guard Tye Wilburn seemed almost nonchalant about tonight's state championship game in Indianapolis.
"We've been on the big stage before," said Wilburn, sitting next to lifelong friend and teammate, Tyler Wideman.
Yes, when both were lads they played together on the MeanStreets AAU team, where his father, Terrence Wilburn, is a coach. In middle school they made several national Final Four statements.
But high school basketball is much different than summer ball.
When Wideman moved in from Merrillville to join Wilburn in L.C.'s freshman class four years ago, there was a buzz around the region. This was going to be the group to take the Indians over the top.
And when it didn't happen immediately, the critics started to chirp.
"People are going to talk, they always do," Wilburn said. "You can't listen to them. You just play your game."
Playing with Glenn Robinson III didn't hurt. The spotlight was firmly on the star at Michigan now. It gave both youngsters a chance to grow while much of the attention was on the kid nicknamed "Trey."
"He helped me out a lot," Wideman said of Robinson. "He showed me the ropes. He led by example."
Michigan is playing its Sweet 16 tournament in Indianapolis this weekend. Lake Central coach Dave Milausnic said that Robinson was texting congratulations after the Indians beat Homestead in last Saturday's semistate.
It is not clear whether Michigan's schedule will allow Robinson to come and watch his former team play. But if he can, Robinson will be at Bankers Life Fieldhouse when L.C. takes on Indianapolis Tech for the Class 4A crown.
Most say the Indians are the underdog. Wilburn's father sat down with John Boyd in March of 2002 before West Side played heavy favorite Indianapolis Pike in the same game.
The Cougars won 58-55.
Tech, with its three Division I stars, beat L.C. 80-61 on Jan. 3. Wideman and Wilburn each scored 16 in that game, but it wasn't enough to slow down All-American Trey Lyles.
"We have to play the whole game, every play matters," said Wideman, who will play at Butler next season. "I don't feel any pressure. The past is the past. We're going to play together as a team."
Wilburn scored 12 second-half points against Homestead, finishing with 15 and eight rebounds. Wideman scored 14 in the game. It was another double-double for L.C.'s big two.
"They were 15," Milausnic said of his T.W.'s when they were freshman. "There is a learning curve. It took them some time to get where they are now."
Wilburn was injured early which also slowed his development. But now, after all those games together in all those many gyms, the two are ready for one last game together.
"We have to box out and take care of the ball," Wideman said. "If we do that we'll be fine."
"This is the last time we'll wear the Lake Central uniform," Wilburn said. "Pressure? There's no pressure at all. It's our senior year. All we're going to do is leave everything on the floor."
ST. JOHN | Michael Phillips was a lad in East Chicago in the early 1970s. He suffered from psoriasis on his feet. So when his middle school gym class jumped in the pool, he could not take part.
So he helped his teacher, Mickey Milausnic, hand out towels. Phillips was a bench player who didn't get much playing time. Milausnic was a middle school coach.
One day the coach told the player something that changed the player's life.
"Keep working hard young man," Milausnic said. "If you do, you will move ahead of the guys playing now. You've got talent. Just keep working and you'll get there."
In 1976 coach Milausnic's words came true. Phillips and his East Chicago Washington teammates made it to the Indiana Final Four. A painful loss to Rushville did not change the glory of their run.
And the next year, E.C.W. returned to the state championship game, losing to Carmel, 53-52. Mickey Milausnic, a long-time middle school coach, was on the bench this time.
"Coach Mickey laid the foundation for what we did," Phillips said. "He taught defense better than anyone around. He taught how to run an offense like it's supposed to be run.
"He was great. I miss him. Please tell (Lake Central coach) Dave that a lot of people in East Chicago are pulling for him."
Dave Milausnic will do what few coaches in Indiana get to do, coach in a state championship game. The list is even smaller for sons who did what their dad's did.
Dave's Lake Central Indians will play Indianapolis Tech in the Class 4A state final at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.
"We used to go to the gym on Saturday mornings," Dave Milausnic said. "We'd run the hallways. It was fun for a little kid."
Mickey passed away in 2007. He didn't get to see his son's greatest achievement. But a photograph sits on a shelf in the son's basketball office overlooking what these Indians have done.
The voice of the father can still be heard.
Covering hoops in Northwest Indiana for decades now have been a blast. But there has been a lot of pressure put on Milausnic at L.C. At a school where expectations are always high, not advancing can be a heavy burden.
Knucklehead fans don't realize the Indians play in one of the state's toughest sectionals. It takes something special to advance. Last March the Indians lost by a point to Munster in overtime in the sectional final.
"A lot of very good coaches never have an opportunity to get to this game," Dave Milausnic said at Monday's IHSAA state finals press conference.
He is right. Absolutely.
Dave Milausnic and his coaching staff should be commended for the job they've done getting their school to this game. It wasn't just talent that made this happen. Practices and chalk talks helped lay this foundation.
The voice from the past is in everything that has occurred.
"I know he would've been real excited, real proud," Dave said of his dad. "He was old school. If we held a team to 38 points and they shot 20 percent from the field he would've still had something to point out that we could've done better.
"But for this game he'd tell me for us to be ourselves, to play our game."
That is a great point of view. And I believe Mickey will be watching from above tonight with a big smile on his face. And he should.
When Donovan Garletts put together Marquette Catholic's basketball schedule, the Blazers coach had the big picture in mind, not a gaudy record.
The Class A state finalists were prepared for the postseason with a slate that didn't include a single Class A team.
"Our schedule was a huge benefit," he said. "It's probably one of the toughest 1A schedules around. We beefed it up as much as we could."
The Blazers' docket included Peoria Manual, Rockridge, DeLaSalle, Bishop McNamara and St. Ignatius from Illinois. Marquette (19-6) went 2-3 in those games.
"The out-of-state teams don't factor into (Jeff) Sagarin's (power) ratings," Garletts said. "Not a lot of people understand how good the Chicago Catholic League teams are. It may not look like it on paper because people don't know the teams, but those games absolutely prepared our boys to play bigger, stronger teams."
Other notable Marquette opponents were Andrean (3A), Lew Wallace (3A), South Bend St. Joseph (3A), which won a sectional, and Elkhart Memorial (4A).
"The boys amongst themselves might have had their own goals, but it wasn't like we could look past an opponent," Garletts said. "Game one, game two, attack what's right in front of you. Keep things in line, understand you have the first hurdle, then move on to the second."
Coach Bryan Hughes of Barr-Reeve (26-1) conceded his team didn't play nearly the same caliber of competition, facing four 2A schools and three 3As.
"Obviously, they play a lot tougher schedule, but I feel our team will get the job done and do what they have to do," Hughes said. "I really like our chances to show up and play hard."
Keeping focus: With so much going on outside of basketball, Garletts has had to make sure the Blazers continued to concentrate on the task at hand.
"The kids are on Twitter, Facebook, talking about police escorts, the food they're getting to eat," he said. "They're so excited. It's an absolutely crazy week."
Marquette is on spring break this week, so Garletts held morning practices, other than Monday, in order to maintain some sense of normalcy. A young assistant with Bloomington South in 2009, when the Panthers won the 4A state title, Garletts hoped that experience would help him keep his team on even keel in advance of the game.
Recruiting roundup: Marquette's Ryan Fazekas is clearly the marquee name in the game with his commitment to Providence. Teammate Cortland Gillespie will attend Judson College while Richard Mitchell and Nate Flores are still undecided. Barr-Reeve's Micah Bullock is likely bound for a junior college, according to Hughes.
"Ryan's the highly-touted one, but everybody's incredibly important to the team," Garletts said. "Everything we instill is that it's not about one kid having a great game or a bad game. It's seven, eight consistent players."
GARY | It isn't just a game. It isn't just a game plan, a way to slow down Greensburg's Bryant McIntosh and Sean Sellers.
Tonight's Class 3A state championship game between Bowman Academy and the top-ranked, defending state champion Pirates is about more. Much more.
"We want to be legendary," Bowman coach Marvin Rea said.
The "I Am Legend" theme has pushed the Eagles all season. After beating Linton-Stockton in last year's Class 2A state final, Bowman was bumped up to Class 3A.
The Eagles heard their critics. They listened to their doubters. And they know they are 32 minutes away from making history.
"Nobody thought we could win in 3A," senior Justin King said. "We want to prove them all wrong."
There is a lot more at stake. Bowman beat both teams playing in the Class 4A game – Indianapolis Tech (68-64) and Lake Central (63-58). A win over Greensburg could put the Eagles as the top team in Indiana, regardless of class.
Bowman is also looking to become the first team in Indiana history to win a state championship in three different classes. Rea won a Class A state title in 2010. The Eagles were Class 2A runner-ups in 2012. They won the 2A crown in 2013.
They've been to the state championship in four out of the last five seasons. This is the first time two reigning state champions have met in a state championship game.
"What Marvin's done at Bowman is remarkable," said Greensburg Stacy Meyer, who was an Indiana Junior All-Star coach with Rea in 2011. "We have never seen anything like what they do. It will be a challenge."
Rea is one of two people in Indiana history to win the Trester Award and coach a team to a state title. Rea earned the mental attitude honor for Gary Roosevelt in 1987.
Evansville Bosse's Jim Myers won the Trester Award in 1939, then coached Bosse to the 1962 state crown.
"A good leader has to be a good follower," Rea said. "I learned that at Roosevelt. We got to the Final Four, then I went to Purdue and I was a walk-on there. Played two years. It was good. It was different."
Rea knows he has his critics. Coaching a charter school without boundaries in Class A and 2A didn't make him any friends among the public-school people. Many believe anyone could coach a Gary All-Star team and win.
But Rea has less D-I players than Greensburg. His expertise is getting talented players to do what the team needs, not what the player wants.
"Coach puts us in a role," senior Anthony Cole said. "We all have a job to do and not all the jobs are the same. We all have roles and if we do them we stay on the court. If we don't, someone else goes in."
That will be the key tonight. Can Bowman's 12 beat Greensburg's 5?
"This is a state championship game and we've done well in most of them," said Rea, knowing his team got spanked by Park Tudor 79-57 in 2012. "Our guys are used to playing on the big stage. We design our schedule that way.
"I said it before and I'll say it again. We want to be legendary."
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Class A: No. 1 Barr-Reeve (26-1) vs. No. 3 Marquette Catholic (19-6), 9:30 a.m., WJOB-AM (1230), WRTW-FM (90.5), regionsports.com, lakecentralsports.com, rrsn.com, thearenasportsnetwork.com
Scouting the Vikings
Nov. 27 at Washington W 53-42
Dec. 13 at Tecumseh W 67-53
Dec. 17 at North Knox W 58-40
Dec. 20 at Shoals W 70-19
Dec. 27 Brownstown Central W 50-48
Dec. 28 South Knox W 53-40
Jan. 2 Orleans W 50-40
Jan. 4 at Northeast Dubois W 64-45
Jan. 11 Elizabethtown (Kent.) L 51-40
Jan. 18 at Loogootee W 55-31
Jan. 24 Wood Memorial W 54-35
Jan. 25 North Daviess W 68-53
Jan. 28 at Pike Central W 77-40
Feb. 1 Washington Catholic W 67-18
Feb. 8 at Shakamak W 70-37
Feb. 13 at South Knox W 58-43
Feb. 15 Forest Park W 62-41
Feb. 21 Vincennes Rivet W 67-45
Feb. 25 White River Valley W 59-41
Feb. 28 Bloomfield W 66-33
North Daviess Sectional
March 4 North Daviess W 55-42
March 7 Shoals W 78-30
March 10 Vincennes Rivet W 54-31
March 15 Trinity Lutheran W 51-31
March 15 Northeast Dubois W 69-60
March 22 Clay City W 75-55
Chris Witmer, 6-0, Jr., G (6.2 ppg, 2.8 apg, 2.3 rpg)
Micah Bullock, 6-4, Sr., G (15.6 ppg, 4 rpg, 1.8 apg)
Logan James, 6-1, So., G (8.8 ppg, 4.5 apg, 3.6 rpg)
Duncan Roy, 6-5, Jr., F (6.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.4 apg)
Addison Wengler, 6-5, Jr., C (15 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.7 apg)
Logan Lengacher, 6-3, Sr., C (2.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg)
Jon McMullen, 6-1, Sr., G (2.5 ppg, 1.2 rpg)
Conner Swartzentruber, 6-3, Jr., F (2.2 ppg, 1.9 rpg)
Vikings notes: A school of 217 students located in Montgomery (Daviess County), Barr-Reeve has been to the state championship in 2002, 2007 and 2010, the latter to Bowman Academy. ... It went 24-2 last season and has not lost to an Indiana team this season, losing only to Elizabethtown, Ky. ... Barr-Reeve allows an average of 39.9 points per game and only one team scored 60 against it. ... Coach Bryan Hughes is in 22nd year at the school (and 29th overall) with a record of 384-141 with the Vikings. The Covington product previously coached at North Vermillion and Fountain Central.
Scouting the Blazers
Nov. 26 vs. Rockridge (Ill.) L 63-48
Nov. 27 vs. Peoria (Ill.) Manual L 54-42
Nov. 30 North Newton W 72-35
Dec. 6 at Hanover Central W 67-33
Dec. 7 at Whiting W 70-43
Dec. 13 River Forest W 81-37
Dec. 21 at Kankakee (Ill.) Bishop McNamara W 61-51
Dec. 28 at Chicago (Ill.) DeLaSalle W 66-64
Jan. 3 South Bend St. Joseph L 72-70
Jan. 10 Bishop Noll W 67-61
Jan. 11 Andrean L 49-40
Jan. 18 at Chicago (Ill.) St. Ignatius L 62-47
Jan. 20 at Wheeler W 62-41
Jan. 22 Bishop Noll L 81-67
Jan. 31 at Lake Station W 60-57
Feb. 7 at Lew Wallace W 98-93
Feb. 14 at New Buffalo (Mich.) W 86-38
Feb. 21 Wheeler W 100-59
Feb. 22 Calumet W 94-49
Feb. 28 at Elkhart Memorial W 63-60
Morgan Township Sectional
March 7 Washington Township W 75-62
March 8 21st Century W 72-57
March 15 Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian W 70-49
March 15 North White W 79-49
March 22 Liberty Christian 72-61
Richie Mitchell, 6-0, Sr., G (11.7 ppg, 3.6 apg, 2 rpg)
Braxton Miller, 6-0, Jr., G (8.9 ppg, 3.1 apg, 1.8 rpg)
Nate Flores, 5-10, Sr., G (11.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.1 apg)
Tyshaun Smallwood, 6-4, So., F (7.2 ppg, 7 rpg)
Ryan Fazekas, 6-8, Jr. G-F (13.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.5 apg)
JoVonte Peals, 6-3, Jr., F (6.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
Malcolm Reed, 6-2, Jr., F (4.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
Kyren Miller, 5-10, So., G (2.6 ppg)
Blazers notes: Marquette is appearing in its first boys basketball state final in Garletts' fourth year as a head coach. ... Marquette is 0-4 when it scores less than 60 points. ... The Blazers played five teams from Illinois and one from Michigan and no Class A schools in the regular season. ... Fazekas will attend Providence College. ... Marquette lost in the sectional final to Triton by one point in 2012 and 2013. ... It has won 11 in row since its last loss left its record at 8-6.
Class 3A: No. 1 Greensburg (27-1) vs. No. 3 Bowman Academy (22-4), 5 p.m., WJOB-AM (1230), WRTW-FM (90.5), regionsports.com, lakecentralsports.com, WEFM-FM (95.9), rrsn.com
Scouting the Pirates
Nov. 26 North Decatur W 96-29
Nov. 30 at South Dearborn W 92-30
Dec. 7 at Batesville W 62-55
Dec. 9 at Hauser W 96-38
Dec. 13 East Central W 77-72
Dec. 14 Indianapolis North Central W 76-52
Dec. 28 Mount Vernon W 48-37
Dec. 28 Columbus North W 65-59
Jan. 3 Indian Creek W 78-42
Jan. 10 at Shelbyville 69-43
Jan. 11 at Connersville W 46-39
Jan. 16 Batesville W 96-66
Jan. 24 Madison L 89-87, OT
Jan. 30 Lawrenceburg W 68-29
Jan. 31 at Franklin County W 83-39
Feb. 7 at Rushville W 73-43
Feb. 8 Jac-Cen-Del W 98-50
Feb. 13 Franklin County W 79-27
Feb. 18 South Decatur W 102-35
Feb. 19 South Ripley W 64-47
Feb. 28 at East Central W 54-38
Mar. 4 South Dearborn W 105-38
Mar. 7 Franklin County W 74-29
Mar. 8 Batesville W 61-55
Mar. 15 Silver Creek W 70-60
Mar. 15 Evansville Memorial W 73-50
Mar. 22 Guerin Catholic W 74-67
Bryant McIntosh, 6-4, Sr., G (14.1 ppg, 9.1 apg)
Ryan Welage, 6-8, Jr., F (15 ppg, 6.3 rpg)
Sean Sellers, 6-7, Sr., F (20.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg)
Macy Holdsworth, 5-11, Sr., G (7.8 ppg, 3.2 apg)
Colin Rigney, 6-1, Sr., G (8.9 ppg, 2 rpg)
Tom Lawrence, 6-6, Sr., F (3.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
Tye Fleetwood, 6-1, Sr., G (2.3 ppg)
Pirates notes: The defending Class 3A state champs won the Hall of Fame Classic in December and has only lost two games the past two seasons. ... McIntosh will play at Northwestern and Sellers will play at Ball State. ... The Pirates led the state in margin of victory at 30.25. ... Greensburg is 191-of-436 from beyond the arc.
Scouting the Eagles
Nov. 29 Indianapolis Tech W 68-64
Dec. 7 Andrean W 92-52
Dec. 10 at Chesterton W 82-60
Dec. 13 at Lake Central 63-58
Dec. 21 Chicago Simeon L 54-51, OT
Dec. 23 Clarksville W 79-76
Dec. 27 at Romulus, Mich. W 76-52
Dec. 28 at Saginaw, Mich. W 80-76
Jan. 3 at Lawrence Central W 67-60
Jan. 3 at Indianapolis Ben Davis L 81-71
Jan. 4 Proviso East W 96-84
Jan. 11 at Fort Wayne Northrop W 73-62
Jan. 14 Lake Station W 96-48
Jan. 18 at 22-Feet Academy W 87-83
Jan. 25 at Carmel L 74-52
Feb. 7 Indianapolis Cathedral W 58-51
Feb. 8 Fort Wayne Luers W 78-72
Feb. 13 at Hammond W 69-43
Feb. 25 E.C. Central W 86-71
Feb. 27 at Kokomo L 69-56
Mar. 5 Lighthouse W 111-62
Mar. 7 Griffith W 80-44
Mar. 8 Lew Wallace W 117-78
Kankakee Valley Regional
Mar. 15 Andrean W 65-56
Mar. 15 South Bend St. Joseph's W 82-63
Huntington North Semistate
Mar. 22 Fort Wayne Dwenger W 85-71
Arthur Haggard, 6-3, Sr., G (12 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
Raynard Perry, 6-1, Sr., G (5 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
Austin Daniels, 6-1, Sr., G (5.5 ppg, 2.4 apg)
Davon Dillard, 6-5, Jr., G/F (17 ppg, 7.1 rpg)
Justin King, 6-7, Sr., F (14.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg)
Antonio Cole, 6-2, Sr., G/F (10.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
DeShawn Franklin, 6-2, Sr., F (5.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
Martin Schiele, 5-8, So., G (4.1 ppg)
Montrell Barfield, 6-3, So., G (4.5 ppg)
Eagles notes: The 1971 E.C. Washington team averaged 82 points a game in the Senators nine games to a state title. Bowman is averaging 90 in its six tourney games. ... The Eagles were sixth in the state scoring list at 77.7 points a game. Greensburg was No. 8 at 76.18. ... Bowman is looking to be the first team in Indiana history to win three state championships in three different classes.
Class 4A: No. 2 Indianapolis Tech (26-2) vs. No. 8 Lake Central (22-3), approx. 7 p.m., WJOB-AM (1230), WRTW-FM (90.5), regionsports.com, lakecentralsports.com, WEFM-FM (95.9), rrsn.com
Scouting the Titans
Nov. 27 Warren Central W 67-65
Nov. 29 at Bowman Academy L 68-64
Dec. 7 Huntington Prep, West Virginia, W 54-51
Dec. 7 Louisville Ballard W 87-84, OT
Dec. 13 Indianapolis Cathedral W 68-38
Dec. 19 Huntington Prep, West Virgina, W 78-70
Dec. 21 Evansville North W 85-47
Dec. 23 Marion W 83-67
Dec. 27 Evansville Boose W 88-61
Jan. 1 LaPorte LaLumiere W 71-60
Jan. 3 Lake Central W 80-61
Jan. 4 Indianapolis Park Tudor W 95-88, OT
Jan. 11 Cleveland St. Villa W 80-76
Jan. 17 at Indianapolis Northwest W 97-51
Jan. 21 Covenant Christian 97-52
Jan. 23 Indianapolis Chatard W 100-45
Jan. 25 Indianapolis Howe W 88 67
Jan. 30 Indianapolis Cathedral W 66-58
Feb. 1 Hamilton Southeastern L 77-71
Feb. 8 Indianapolis Pike W 83-75
Feb. 21 Zionsville W 63-47
Feb. 28 at Indianapolis Ben Davis W 62-46
Lawrence North Sectional
Mar. 4 Lawrence North W 82-52
Mar. 7 Lawrence Central W 77-47
Mar. 8 Indianapolis Roncalli W 56-44
Mar. 15 Richmond W 80-55
Mar. 15 Indianapolis Pike W 60-52
Mar. 22 Bloomington North W 75-71
C.J. Walker, 6-0, So., G (8.4 ppg, 3.1 apg)
Justin Parker, 6-4, Sr., F (5.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
Jeremie Tyler, 6-3, Sr., G (16.1 ppg, 2 apg)
Mike Jones, 6-5, Sr., G (8.4 ppg, 3.8 apg)
Trey Lyles, 6-10, Sr., F (24 ppg, 12.9 rpg)
Josh Whitfield, 6-2, Sr., G (3.8 ppg)
Rashaun Richardson, 6-7, Sr., F (5.4 ppg)
Titans notes: Tech is making its seventh trip to the state finals, but have never cut down the nets in the championship. ... The Titans last won a sectional in 1978 and this is their first trip back since 1966, when Michigan City Elston won the final. ... The Titans have three D-I players. Lyles will play at Kentucky, while both Richardson and Tyler will play at Ball State.
Scouting the Indians
Nov. 25 Andrean W 79-37
Nov. 30 Hammond W 75-44
Dec. 11 West Side W 75-33
Dec. 13 Bowman Academy L 63-58
Dec. 17 at Munster W 47-38
Dec. 21 Morton W 87-41
Dec. 28 Merrillville W 72-33
Dec. 28 Crown Point W 71-45
Jan. 3 at Indianapolis Tech L 80-61
Jan. 10 at LaPorte W 65-46
Jan. 14 at Highland W 82-38
Jan. 17 at Portage W 64-48
Jan. 24 Valparaiso W 48-47, OT
Jan. 31 Chesterton W 77-45
Feb. 7 at Merrillville W 65-43
Feb. 11 at E.C. Central L 58-50
Feb. 13 Michigan City W 70-52
Feb. 21 at Crown Point W 77-43
Feb. 28 at South Bend Adams W 61-51
East Chicago Sectional
Mar. 5 Highland W 76-39
Mar. 7 E.C. Central W 70-57
Mar. 8 Munster W 53-37
Michigan City Regional
Mar. 15 LaPorte W 70-60
Mar. 15 Penn W 57-55
Lafayette Jeff Semistate
Mar. 22 Homestead W 79-57
Tye Wilburn, 6-0, Sr., G (12.3 ppg, 4.5 apg)
Joe Bannister, 5-10, Jr., G (7.1 ppg, 2 rpg)
Cory Dickelman, 6-4, Sr., F (5.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg)
Tyler Ross, 6-5, Sr., F (8.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
Tyler Wideman, 6-7, Sr., C (15.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg)
Matt Meneghetti, 5-11, Sr., G (7.7 ppg)
Robert Ryan, 5-8, Sr., G (4.6 ppg)
Indians notes: Lake Central coach Dave Milausnic was a sophomore defensive back at Highland when the Trojans were Class 5A state runners-up in football in 1987. ... This is the Indians second trip to the state finals. In 1984 L.C. made it to the Final Four and lost to Vincennes in the semifinal. ... Lake Central was 10th in the state in margin of victory at 20 ppg. The Indians were also 37th in defensive average of 47.6 points allowed a game.
ST. JOHN | On Monday night, a mom and her teenage son sat down to watch a movie.
It wasn't a slasher flick, a gross comedy or a pointless thriller.
It was a classic, with a bowl full of popcorn and a heart filled with dreams.
"We watched 'Hoosiers,'" Jayne Martin said of the film she watched with her son, Ian. "It was an Indiana movie, a good basketball movie. It was the first time either of us had ever seen it."
The mother lived through Hoosier Hysteria 30 years ago. Jayne Laird was a cheerleader at Lake Central High School in the 1983-84 school year. That's when the Indians shocked the region and shocked the state by advancing to the state Final Four.
Everyone knew that Lake Central team was pretty good. But no one expected them to get to Indianapolis.
"I was a cheerleader, so I was always positive," Jayne (Laird) Martin said. "I was always like, 'You can do this. Let's go.'"
The ’84 Indians got revenge against regular-season losses. They beat Merrillville in the final of the Calumet Sectional. They beat Bishop Noll in the Gary Regional final.
That set up the biggest upset, beating second-ranked Anderson in the semistate at Purdue's Mackey Arena.
On Saturday night, Lake Central will play Indianapolis Tech in the Class 4A state championship game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Similar to the 1984 run, Tech beat the Indians by 19 in the regular season.
Keith and Jayne Martin's son, Ian, is a junior on this team.
It's deja vu all over again in a pair of blue Nikes.
"They've talked to me about the ’84 season a lot the last couple of weeks," Ian Martin said. "My mom was a cheerleader. After they won the semistate, everyone went back to the school for a pep rally and they stayed there for hours. The whole community went crazy for that team."
After Lake Central beat Homestead in Saturday's semistate, the Martins went to a Texas Roadhouse for some post-game food. Martin was wearing his shooting shirt and pants.
"Everybody, strangers were coming up to him to congratulate him," said Keith Martin, Ian's father, who was in the stands for every game 30 years ago when he was a Lake Central student. "It was exciting. It was hard for him to eat."
"It reminded me of 1984," Jayne said with a smile.
Van Halen was at the top of the charts. The Cubs were actually good. Ronald Reagan was in the White House. And "Hoosiers" was two years away from hitting theaters.
Yeah, it's been awhile.
"Hoosiers tells Indiana basketball's story; anyone can win a game in the state championship," Ian said. "This run has been amazing. After last year, I couldn't imagine us getting to state. But everyone's stepped up. We've come together.
"Tech has good players. We have good players. 'Hoosiers' showed me that anyone can win, and that's what we want to do."
In ’84, Lake Central was a band school. The Marching Indians were known all across the nation. But when the basketball team went south, the community jumped aboard.
Like now, businesses in Dyer, Schererville and St. John are all praising this team's efforts. About 1,500 fans went to a pep rally Wednesday night, which was a high number because the district is on spring break.
"In 1984, every group at the school got excited about that team," Keith said. "You're seeing it again this year."
"I'd walk down the hallways and the lockers were decorated, there were posters all over the walls," Jayne added. "We're seeing it again. It's so exciting. The community is really getting behind this team."
GARY | This is not Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan. It is something in another time zone. No, universe.
The relationship between Bowman Academy boys basketball coach Marvin Rea and his junior star, Davon Dillard, is a cable reality show waiting to happen. The two have been nose-to-nose all winter.
On Saturday, in the Class 3A state championship game against top-ranked and defending state champion Greensburg, both Rea and Dillard will finally be on the same page.
What happens after that, who knows?
Rea's frustration with his 6-foot-5 mega talent got so bad during the regular season that he said, "If Davon wants to transfer after the season, I'll be the first one to sign the form."
Here are the facts. After a less-than-stellar sophomore season, Dillard was the best player on the floor in last year's Class 2A state championship game. He scored 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting, with six rebounds, three assists and three steals.
On Wednesday Dillard was named to the Indiana Junior All-Star Core 6 team. That is a top-shelf honor that only goes to Indiana's best.
But Dillard missed the first three games of this season due to an off-the-court altercation with Anthony Cole. Then, in the sectional opener against Lighthouse, Dillard never got off the bench.
It was coach-driven pine time.
Rea said, "Davon is not injured and he does not have grade problems. He sat because I chose to sit him. And he may sit again. It will be my decision and no one else's."
At Tuesday's practice, Dillard spoke about his relationship with Rea. It's either funny or right to the point.
"Marvin's a good coach," Dillard said. "But he's basically the same person as me. That's why we bump heads."
When Rea heard this summation a few minutes later, he paused for 30 seconds before speaking.
"I'm passionate about what I do; Davon is passionate about what he does," Rea said. "At times, he comes in and jokes around while everyone else is working. You can't do that. When everyone else is working you work.
"He's one of the best high school basketball players I've ever seen. Ever. But he needs to learn how to be consistent. To be the best every time you walk on the floor."
Dillard's raw skill is sick, which is why he's been offered by Purdue, while Indiana and Michigan State are also very interested among many others. But there are moments when he sits on the bench because of basketball IQ.
Against Andrean in the sectional championship, a 59er drove the lane and most everyone believed he traveled. Dillard turned to the official and circled his arms in the traveling motion.
The Andrean player got the rebound and scored.
But Dillard's game has been off the charts in Indianapolis. Many have Greensburg as a big favorite. Point guard Bryant McIntosh is a 6-foot-3 guard who will play at Northwestern. He's averaging 14.1 points and 9.1 assists a game.
Dillard has played against him in the summer AAU circuit.
"I'm not bragging, but I got a good game, too," said Dillard, who is averaging 17 points and 7.1 rebounds a game.
Rea's biggest beef is a junior trying to act like a senior. At Bowman, seniors lead the team, in almost everything.
"Davon wants to pick where we eat," Rea said. "Justin (King) is the one who picks that. This is Justin's team. He's a senior."
Every Eagle will have to be together Saturday night. This is their first Class 3A state final, and Greensburg will be one of their toughest tests.
"People said we only won before because we were Class A and 2A," Dillard said. "I'm excited for this. I love playing on the big stage. The two teams in Class 4A (Indianapolis Tech and Lake Central) we've already beaten.
"We want to show everyone we can win in this class."
They come from spots on the map in northern Indiana, a four-county area that includes Lake Station, Chesterton, LaPorte, Nappanee and, of course, Michigan City.
While the long reach of a private school like Marquette Catholic is an unquestioned advantage, it's not enough to simply have the pieces to a puzzle. They each have to interlock to form the whole.
"Anytime you have a bunch of new faces, it takes time to build chemistry," Blazers coach Donovan Garletts said. "We don't have kids who play AAU or middle school together, so there's a learning curve, for the players as well as (the coaches) as leaders. It certainly wasn't easy at the beginning. It's been a three-year process."
When junior Ryan Fazekas arrived as a freshman in 2011, he was an immediate starter. Classmate JoVonte Peals was in the first five, too. It took them a while to find their niche. As they started to settle in, Richard Mitchell, Nate Flores and Braxton Miller all joined them on the Scholl Center court last season.
"We had to start all over again," Fazekas said. "We knew there would be some bumps we'd have to get over with all the new guys coming into a different system. We just needed to get to know how to play together."
Though cynics say it's a good problem to have, it's not as simple as throwing talent out on the floor and telling them to play.
"No matter if it's basketball, business, life, it all centers around establishing and building relationships," Garletts said. "It doesn't just happen. We worked very hard as a staff to get everybody on the same page, to try not to do their own thing. We had a lot of that at the beginning. With so many kids coming from all over, you get everybody thinking they're the man."
Marquette's balanced scoring suggests that nobody's had an issue sharing their spotlight for the benefit of the group.
"We were kind of like the Heat," Miller said. "Last year, we were a little unsure of each other, because it was a new situation. There was never a problem with players getting along. We just didn't know each other yet. The more experience we get, the better it worked out. Everyone's more comfortable with the other people, the surroundings. It's more natural."
Fazekas particularly noticed it in summer workouts.
"You could see everybody really coming together, buying in," he said. "Last year to this year, we've really meshed. We started to adjust to things. We all know each other, and it's working well."
Fred Mooney has coached for more than 35 years, most of them at Hammond Baptist. An assistant at Marquette since 2011, he has seen teams from diverse backgrounds succeed through the forging of bonds. He's also seen teams done in by divisiveness. He recalls the day this season when he realized the Blazers had attained that vital connection, becoming unbreakable links in a chain.
"We had a chemistry issue," Mooney said. "We've worked extremely hard as a staff to have them get along. Listening to the chatter of players, I told them at a practice that they had become coaches, teachers of the game, and they were relating it to their peers. They truly are all their brother's keepers right now. It's a great feeling."
ST. JOHN | The pep band was jamming, filling Lake Central's gymnasium with pulse-pounding music. These kids are good. Real good.
Amazingly, L.C.'s parking lot had a long line of cars pulling in at 6 p.m. Wednesday. More than 1,500 fans showed up for a pep rally. If the house is rock'n, don't bother knock'n, just come on in.
Is this 1954?
Remember, this is Spring Break in St. John. Many students and families had headed south for a place where Global Warming has a better grip than up here. Maybe they didn't expect the magic that a group of young men have produced.
Well, everyone in Dyer, St. John and Schererville is believing now. Your Lake Central Indians are playing in the Class 4A state championship game Saturday.
So, when L.C. coach Dave Milausnic picked up the microphone and became a cheerleader, the fans in blue stood up. They got loud. Real loud.
One side of the gym yelled, "We are," while the other side screamed, "L.C." This went on for several minutes. You could see and feel the appreciation on the Indians' faces.
Is this 1964?
Athletic director Tony Bartolomeo opened the festivities. Later, he said the IHSAA gave the school 2,400 tickets. By now, they're probably gone. Over 2,000 were sold by Wednesday night.
You can likely still get tickets in Indy, but you'll have to find a scalper or hope there are tickets left at the door. What's next, a high school basketball ticket lottery?
Is this 1974?
The "Voice of Lake Central basketball," Jeff Sherman was next. He introduced the players, coaches and staff. The mike eventually got to Milausnic.
He introduced some super fans. Carol Peyton, wife of coach Tom Peyton, was there. Her husband coached L.C. to its first sectional championship in 1970. He introduced Shirley Harold, a long-time supporter.
They were there in 1984 when L.C. made it to the state Final Four.
Then, the point guard of that team, Chris Kostouros, took the stage. Some humor took over. Kostouros brought his letterman's jacket. He wondered if he could get it on, again. Tyler Wideman helped with the effort. It fit. Kind of.
Is this 1984?
"Go get it, go get that net," Kostouros told the players. "No one in Indianapolis is giving you a chance. Everyone is saying you're big underdogs. But believe in yourself. Play your game.
"Hoosier Hysteria was born of great upsets."
Is this 1994?
E.C. Washington was a massive underdog in 1960. The Senators beat Muncie Central, 75-59. West Side was a big 'dog against Indianapolis Pike in 2002. The Cougars won 58-55.
And E.C. Central was a bigger 'dog against Indianapolis North Central in 2007. The Cards won 87-83.
Is this 2004?
"I think you can do it," Kostouros said in a loud voice, which was echoed by a gym full of louder voices.
The T-shirts that exclaimed, "We're not done yet" were being sold like elephant ears at the county fair. The pep band played the team from "Rocky", a perfect tune for this week.
The table is set. The age-old theme of a community absolutely embracing a high school team has happened again. It never gets old, does it?
Is this 2014? Yes it is.
GARY | At Monday's meeting inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Bowman boys basketball coach Marvin Rea was happy with the history his program had made along with the shared history of Northwest Indiana.
For the first time since 2010, the region has teams playing in three of the four state championship games. In 2010 Bowman Academy won the Class A title, Wheeler won the 2A title and Lew Wallace finished second in the 3A game.
On Saturday at Bankers Life, Marquette will play in the Class A game, Bowman in the 3A and Lake Central in the 4A.
"I thought it was going to be a region Mardi Gras," Rea said. "I thought we'd get four down here this year."
With Westview coach Rob Yoder a table away, it's amazing to see how close the area was to having four teams playing Saturday. In the Class 2A North Judson Regional semifinal, Westview outscored Bishop Noll 15-3 in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
Westview won 75-64 in double overtime. Noll had potential game-winning shots at the end of regulation and the first OT.
"I keep up with all my colleagues at Noll," Bowman sophomore guard Martin Schiele said. "I wish they were all still playing."
Schiele was one of three Warriors who transferred to Bowman after Drew Trost resigned at Noll. Akil McClain and John Mitchell were the others who left Hammond for Gary.
Schiele made the varsity jump first. He played some varsity at Noll last year, so he was ready for the speed of the varsity game.
"We lost to Bowman last year in the sectional championship game," Schiele said. "Now I'm here."
As good of a hoops talent as the 5-foot-8 guard is, basketball is not his first love. Playing the drums is. He's hit the sticks in church since he was young and has taken lessons from George Furgye in Hammond, the home town of both.
"Drums are my main thing," Schiele said. "I love it. I love playing in church."
Coming off the bench, Schiele is just another piece to Marvin Rea's puzzle. Schiele has scored 16-17 points in a game. In another he's played defense and got assists.
Every night is a different night and a different name can get the headlines. That's Bowman basketball.
"Martin works harder than the young guys, that's why he's where he is now," Rea said. "He's more serious, more mature. For a sophomore he's had games that's gotten us over the hump.
"His speed has put him in our guard rotation."
Darrion Riddle is the linebacker of the group. Raynard Perry is the quick corner who takes away the other team's top target. Austin Daniels is a wild card, who can shoot and dribble penetrate.
Meanwhile, Schiele can also do it all.
"If I want to change tempo I change my guards," Rea said. "We want to give (Greensburg) 32 minutes of hell."
Schiele, who wants to be a pastor one day, knows what Greensburg has. Bryant McIntosh is a 6-foot-3 point guard headed to Northwestern. Sean Sellers is a 6-foot-7 post headed to Ball State.
The Pirates are the defending state champs and have gone 53-2 over the past two seasons, with one big yearleft.
"This game is indescribable," Schiele said. "I thank God for it. They are good with some good players. But when we pass the ball and execute, play Bowman defense, we're one of the best teams in the country.
"And that's what we want to be on Saturday."
At 27, Donovan Garletts is among the youngest coaches to lead a team to the state finals.
The scenario is nothing new to the Crown Point graduate, who took over Marquette Catholic in 2010 when he was 23 and joined the staff at Bloomington South as a college freshman.
"I've never thought the age issue had anything to do with it," Garletts said Monday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. "I look around, and I'm in awe, but I'm not overwhelmed.
"I don't take it for granted. Some coaches wait their whole career. It's like (Michigan State coach Tom) Izzo said, it's 85 percent the players, 15 percent the coaches this time of year. It's the players who got us here, not me. You won't find a group that's worked harder. They're gym rats."
Saturday's Class A state final is a contrast of experience, with Bryan Hughes having coached longer (29 years) than Garletts has been alive, 22 of them at Barr-Reeve. It's his fourth trip to state with the Vikings.
"I never got this far at that age," Hughes said. "I'm very humbled. Somebody asked me if I felt any pressure, not having won. How many coaches in the state never get the opportunity?
"As a coach, I can at least relate to the players what will happen, how it's going to be, but it's what they do once the ball is thrown up."
Garletts cut his teeth under legendary Bloomington South coach J.R. Holmes. He recalls walking into Holmes' office in 2006 asking if he could be involved in any way.
"I didn't know he was the A.D., too," Garletts said. "I only went there because it was closer to where I lived."
He latched on at the freshman level and was on the bench, "keeping rebounds or something," in 2009, when the Panthers won the 4A state title.
"Though I more or less was just along for the ride, it was an incredible experience for a young coach," Garletts said. "I learned so much, a lot of my philosophies, from them. J.R. is one of the calmest coaches around, in practice or a game. I've never seen him get a technical. I'm a little crazier than he is."
The next year, when Garletts took over at Marquette, the Catholic school situation was quite an awakening.
"Coming from Bloomington, it was totally different," he said. "A big school, a public school, the tradition, all the elementary schools running the same thing, I told my wife -- my fiancee at the time -- it was going to be a tough road, and it was."
Marquette went 4-16 in Garletts' first season, but an infusion of talent spurred the program. The Blazers lost by a point to Triton in the 2012 and 2013 sectional finals. They have rolled through the current postseason with five double-digit victories.
"I'm very fortunate to get here quickly. It's a lot quicker than I ever imagined," Garletts said. "A lot of it, I attribute to having great coaches. Our staff is incredibly well-versed. They've been around the block a few times. This is great for our school, the community. This is Indiana, and this is basketball. To have a team here from Michigan City, it's an incredible blessing."
Assistant Jim Bracewell is impressed with what Garletts has done in a short time.
"Donovan's created an environment a lot of good high school players have to take a real serious look at," Bracewell said. "I like the way he handles things. He's going places, and he's done it with an academic foundation. He doesn't mess around."
Junior Ryan Fazekas likes how Garletts can relate to players while maintaining control over the program.
"Being so young, he brings a lot of energy, but he also gets on us, which is good," Fazekas said. "If there wasn't as much discipline as we have, we may not be in the state run that we are."
Whether it's a steady hand or a demonstrative wave of his arms, Braxton Miller has his finger on the pulse of Marquette's basketball team, knowing just what it needs at any particular moment.
"I've been in those situations," the Blazers junior said. "I love celebrating with my teammates when we're doing well. I think that's a really important piece in the puzzle of a championship-caliber team. I can bring the energy, but I'm not one to get too hyped. I'm usually a calming factor for the team. Sometimes, it's nice to say, 'That's all right. It's just one play.'"
As a freshman, Miller started for Northwood, his double-digit scoring helping the Panthers win a Class 3A sectional title. When his mom took a job in Chicago, it meant pulling up roots and finding a new home closer to the Windy City, but not too far away from Nappanee, where Miller had lived all of his life.
The family relocated to the Michigan City area, and Miller's blend of fire and ice landed at Marquette, where the 6-foot combo guard has contributed to the Blazers' run to Saturday's Class A state championship.
"It wasn't much of a transition," Miller said. "It was hard leaving a lot of my friends, but I was pretty flexible to doing whatever the family needed to do. I like point guard primarily. I have good court vision, which is a big plus. I like to get my teammates involved. It's also nice to score, to put the team in position to win. I'll do whatever the team needs me to do. I just want to win."
Miller averages nine points and three assists per game for Marquette, leading the Blazers with 39 3-pointers.
"The first half of the season, we were playing tight," Marquette coach Donovan Garletts said. "We told them to rein it on defense and start playing loose on offense. They really took it to heart, and they've been playing a totally different game. Braxton is more of a guy who needs to play with the throttle open to be successful."
The 3-pointer became a part of Miller's arsenal back in seventh grade, when he began working on his shooting form.
"I started to develop where I was able to shoot above my head and keep my elbow under," he said. "I try to be as consistent as possible.
"I'm strong enough where I can shoot from pretty much anywhere. If I can keep good form and get my feet under me, I believe I'm going to make the shot. Once one goes in, I get in the flow of the game, and I can put points on the board quick."
Miller did it in the semistate, where he notched eight of his 12 points in the first half, including a pair of 3s.
"Braxton's the type of kid who plays off the crowd, the feel of the game," Garletts said. "When it gets going, he gets going. NorthWood plays pretty much the same style of offense, so he didn't have too much problem adapting. He's fit in perfectly with the school and team."
Five years ago, Miller attended his first state championship, watching Rochester in the 3A title game at Conseco Fieldhouse. It's called Bankers Life Fieldhouse now, and Miller plans to enjoy the view from the court even more.
"It's such a big stage," he said. "It's going to be nice for everybody to be on display, to show the state how we can play, how good of a team we are."
ST. JOHN | Cory Dickelman guarded a 6-foot-10 All-American on Jan. 3. On March 7 Dickelman guarded a 6-foot-1 All-American in the making.
It didn't matter to him.
The 6-foot-4 senior forward at Lake Central didn't mind taking elbows in the jaw from Indianapolis Tech's Trey Lyles in January or chasing the speedy Hyron Edwards around the perimeter in the postseason's madness.
Dickelman has guarded a 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 this season for the Indians, who get a rematch with Tech on Saturday in the Class 4A state championship at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Brawn or blow-by speed doesn't matter for Dickelman. Slap the floor. Chop the feet. Help your team.
"I do whatever I can do to help my team win," Dickelman said. "Lyles is a great player. I was giving up six, seven inches to him. But I had to help to keep Tyler (Wideman) stay out of foul trouble. They got us in the fourth quarter.
"That put a chip on our shoulder. I'm glad we get to play them again."
The second-ranked Titans (26-2) beat No. 8 L.C. (22-3) 80-61 on Jan. 3. That's why many in Indy believes the only way Tech can lose is if the standout team with its three D-1 players beats itself.
The no-name team from Lake County has few believers in Central Indiana.
"Every team has a player who is the glue and Cory is our glue," Lake Central coach Dave Milausnic said after Tuesday's practice. "We would not still be playing basketball over spring break if not for his attitude and effort."
Dickelman is scoring only 5.9 points and grabbing 5.8 rebounds a game. But he is a steady starter for the Class 4A state finalists.
Tech is seventh in the state in scoring average at 77.04 points a game. Lake Central is 37th in the state in defensive average at 47.6 points allowed a game.
Dickelman grew up playing basketball and baseball in Schererville. He stopped playing baseball once he got to high school to concentrate on hoops. The senior is in his second L.C.'s varsity season.
"His defense and rebounding is unbelievable," Milausnic said. "Some people would be surprised by his ability to score. He would get more if he played on some other teams."
After L.C.'s 79-57 win over Homestead at Lafayette Jefferson, Milausnic said Dickelman had the biggest smile on his face during the on-court celebration. He didn't score a point. He didn't care.
"Everything you dreamed of as a kid has come true, it's unreal," Dickelman said. "We know Tech's good. They'll go on their runs. We'll go on our runs. We just have to stay calm when they're going good.
"We've got one game left in our careers. We do not want to lose."
Orsten Artis spent part of Friday afternoon fitting a tuxedo.
The 1962 Froebel grad and basketball star will be all dressed up with somewhere to go Wednesday when he journeys down to New Castle to be inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. He is one of 16 former players and coaches to be inducted, including 1960 Morton grad and Taylor University men's basketball coach Paul Patterson, who will receive the Silver Medal.
Artis, who starred on Texas Western's 1966 NCAA championship team wishes his Miners teammate and Emerson grad Harry Flournoy could be with him.
"This is a great honor to receive," Artis said. "I just wish Harry had got in. He had great numbers and was a great player. It would have been great for both of us to go in together."
Artis and Flournoy were starters on Don Haskins' 1966 Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso) squad that was the first team with five African-American starters to win an NCAA Division I men's basketball championship. They did so by beating Adolph Rupp's all-white Kentucky Wildcats 72-65 on March 19, 1966 in College Park, Md.
Artis, who later became a detective on the Gary Police Dept., had 15 points and eight rebounds.
"We knew of the significance, but we also just wanted to win," Artis said. "We had faced a lot of (racial) slurs all year. We just wanted to play basketball. We were aware of Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement.
"A few years before (1963) Loyola beat Cincinnati with four black starters and that I think opened some eyes."
He said the night before the championship game, he and his teammates were playing cards in a Baltimore hotel when Haskins came in after a meeting.
"He was so mad at Adolph Rupp because he said, 'No way no bunch of (deleted) are going to beat us. They don't have the brains to beat us,' he told us," Artis said. "We just kept playing cards and said. 'OK, Coach.' We were mad, but we controlled it and we knew we were going to win the game."
The book and movie "Glory Road" is about the 1966 season. Both Texas Western and Kentucky started the season 23-0 and both lost on the same day with the Wildcats falling at Tennessee and the Miners losing at Seattle.
As far as his career as a detective, Gary's crime rate escalated in the late 1970s, so Artis and his fellow officers were busy to say the least.
"We had a good force, in fact, we had about 400 police officers then," Artis said. "We worked together gather evidence and getting convictions. We were always busy, but I loved my work. I loved being a police officer in my hometown. It was frustrating at times, but you just kept at it."
He still remembers the games at historic Memorial Auditorium, the city's palace for basketball, at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Massachusetts Street.
"Man, it held 5,500, but when you were on the court and looked up, it seemed like there were 10,000 people in that place," Artis said. "When we played Roosevelt, that place was packed. I think the downtown stores closed early that night. The players sat below the stage, where the visiting team's fans sat, which was on one side.
"Those bleachers would be jumping and I mean literally moving. When the other team's fans were sitting on that stage, I wanted to stay on the floor."
INDIANAPOLIS | It's been 30 years and a lifetime for Lake Central's boys basketball and coach Dave Milausnic. On Monday inside of Bankers Life Fieldhouse the mystical dream began to take shape.
Milausnic was at the IHSAA's boys basketball state championship press conference as his Indians (22-3) take on No. 2 Indianapolis Tech (26-2) for the Class 4A state crown.
"This has been a blast," Milausnic said of the meeting with state media. "But it will be more fun to see the floor."
On Jan. 3 L.C. traveled to Indianapolis to play Tech, losing 80-61. It was tied with a minute to go in the third quarter, but the Titans took off after that, outscoring the Indians 34-19 to pull away.
"We learned what we can do against them and we also learned what we can't do," Milausnic said.
Tech All-American Trey Lyles will play at Kentucky after this Saturday's game. He was in foul trouble the first L.C. game. Both Lyles and Indians' big man, Tyler Wideman, practiced against each other last summer as Indiana Junior All-Stars. They are friends.
In the first game Wideman and Tye Wilburn each scored 16. Lyles scored 20.
L.C. hasn't been to Indy for a state final since 1984. Tech was the state runners-up in 1929, 1934, 1952 and 1966, with seven state appearances. But before this season, the Titans had not won a sectional since 1978.
So when they played Bloomington North in the semistate on Saturday, big alums were there cheering on the team. Comedian Mike Epps and former Indiana University star Landon Turner were there.
They all went through the same emotions that current coach Jason Delaney did, when a 28-point lead with three minutes left turned into a near nightmare as North got within three and had the ball before Tech held on.
"They're going to hear about it (Monday) and then we'll move on," Delaney said.
Lyles is not the only standout on the team. Rashaun Richardson and Jeremie Tyler are both Ball State recruits. Lyles is averaging 24 points and 12.9 rebounds per game. Richardson has 5.4 points per game and Tyler is scoring 16.1 points per game.
Even though his team ran away from Lake Central, Delaney was scouting Carmel and Indianapolis Pike with his staff and they were wondering who might come out of the north.
"I really thought Lake Central had the pieces to get here and we said that in January," Delaney said.
Tech point guard C.J. Walker (8.4 ppg., 3.1 apg.) did not play against L.C. the first time.
"You can't simulate a 6-10 All-American," Milausnic said of Lyles. "We don't want a fast-shot up and down game. We want to work the ball to get a good shot. We have to play good defense and rebound the ball.
"We'll watch some tape and work on getting better."
Pep Rally on Wednesday: Milausnic wanted to get the word out about a community pep rally for the Indians at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Lake Central's gymnasium. Members of the 1984 L.C. basketball team are invited to attend.
INDIANAPOLIS | After a 24-2 season that ended with a one-point loss in the regional final, Barr-Reeve opened the 2013-14 campaign perched atop the Class A poll.
From the first tip of its opener to the last buzzer of its 21st game, the Vikings' status remained unchanged, its only blemish a Jan. 11 loss to Elizabethtown (Ky.).
"We've taken the floor every night with the bull's eye on our backs and the kids have handled it just fine," coach Bryan Hughes said at Monday's state finals press conference. "It's been one of those years where we've had everyone for every game. If someone would've asked me to write out how I wanted it go, it's gone that way."
The final chapter will be penned Saturday morning at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where the Vikings (26-1) face No. 3 Marquette Catholic (19-6) for the state title.
"From what I've seen, they're very athletic, quick and have good size," Hughes said. "They get up and down the floor and shoot the ball well. We have to be very aware of their transition game ... emphasize getting back on defense and setting up. If we can get back and keep the ball in front of us, we're very good at guarding. One of the things I'm really proud of with this group is it's defensive effort. They've bought in on the fact you have to play every possession."
Barr-Reeve has allowed an average of 39.9 points per game. Marquette, in turn, scores at a rate of 69 per game and was held in the 40s four times, all losses.
"We match up well with them and they match up well with us," Blazers coach Donovan Garletts said. "We're a little bigger than them and they're maybe a little quicker than us. If there's one thing that stands out, it's how hard they play. On offense, they're a very fundamental, patient team. On defense, they don't try to do anything special, just man-to-man, press a little bit. They don't beat themselves."
The Vikings are led by 6-foot-4 senior Micah Bullock (15.6 ppg.) and 6-4 junior Addison Wagler (15 ppg.), the only double-figure scorers. Bullock gets to the rim, but also leads the team with 59 3s (43 percent), nearly half of Barr-Reeve's total. Like Marquette, it's had its share of heroes.
"It's a group of guys who really don't care," Hughes said of the scoring. "It's been all about the team from day one. Everybody's on the same page."
Located in the small southwestern Indiana town of Montgomery, Barr-Reeve is classic 'Hoosiers,' a place where the team is embraced by its residents and kids grow up wanting to be Vikings. Hughes has won 384 games in 22 seasons there, never finding offers to go somewhere bigger appealing enough to take.
"The community loves basketball and loves its teams," Hughes said. "It's the thing to do on a Friday night. I know the kind of support we have and they'll be here in force in black."
INDIANAPOLIS | One might think that Greensburg boys basketball coach Stacy Meyer knows nothing about his opponent on Saturday in the Class 3A state championship game.
More than 200 miles and a couple of cultures separate Greensburg and Gary, home of the Bowman Academy Eagles.
Small-town, rural Indiana meets big city, blue-collar Indiana.
"We're throwback Indiana basketball," Meyer said at Monday's press conference at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the 104th IHSAA boys basketball state championships.
For the first time ever, two defending state champs will meet in the Class 3A state final. Top-ranked Greensburg (27-1) won the 3A crown last March. No. 3 Bowman (22-4) won the 2A title last year.
The two titans will tipoff at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
"We've had quite a buzz the last two years," Meyer said. "We have a gym that seats 5,000 and it's packed every time we play. It's been a thrill for a 17-, 18-year-old kid to experience."
Meyer replaced former Hobart coach Keith Hipskind at the southeastern school in 2006. Meyer also coached Southwestern High School to the 2003 Class A state final.
Meyer was also on the 2011 Indiana Junior All-Star staff with Bowman coach Marvin Rea. The two formed a friendship that still stands today. While many talk about the raw talent that the Eagles have, Greensburg is not without its own headliners.
Sean Sellers, a 6-foot-7 Ball State recruit, leads the way with a 20.1 scoring average with 7.6 rebounding mark. Bryant McIntosh, a 6-3 Northwestern recruit, is scoring 14.1 points and getting 9.1 assists per game.
"Stacy is a great guy and a good coach, we had a good experience together with the All-Stars," Rea said. "They have a good team with some great players, Sellers and McIntosh. They are very disciplined. They make the extra pass and are a good 3-point shooting team.
"It's going to come down to who controls the tempo of the game. We want to get it to Bowman speed."
The Pirates shoot 44 percent from beyond the arc.
Meyer, though, does not want people from the region to think his team is a 30-pass-before-a-shot offense. His team does push the ball, and they can also slow the game down, too.
It is likely that will be part of the game plan against the Eagles.
"We haven't seen anything like what Bowman does," Meyer said. "I saw them last year in the state game and wow, they dig into you. We've got to get ready for what they do. We have to handle their press. We have to get stops on the defensive end.
"They've got two great players in (Justin) King and (Davon) Dillard. But we've got two good players, too. It should be a great game."
If Lake Central shocks the state on Saturday night and beats heavy favorite Indianapolis Tech in the Class 4A state championship game, a secret agreement will unfold in front of Indy eyes.
L.C. senior guard Tye Wilburn will climb up the ladder and cut two pieces of net. One for him. The other, smaller one will go to Chris Kostouros.
"I've been waiting on that for 30 years," Kostouros said. "It still haunts me."
When the Indians (22-3) take on Tech (26-2) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Saturday on the state's biggest stage, the members of the 1984 state finalist Indians team will be in a suite above the Pacers home floor, rooting on their alma mater.
Kostouros spoke to the 2014 Indians on Thursday, before they beat Homestead 79-57 on Saturday to win the Northern Semistate. He spoke of the strong similarities between the two teams.
"First of all, I thanked the players," Kostouros said of his pep speech. "I sat at Michigan City with my son and brother and watched them cut down those nets, it was a great moment for me. I know how long the community has waited for this.
"So I thanked them."
Kostouros was the junior point guard on the 1983-84 team, coached by the legendary Jim Hammel. The Indians went .500 the winter before. Outside of St. John, not many were expecting success from L.C.
"But all the pieces fell together," Kostouros said.
Larry Govert was the tough, defensive stopper. Milan Petrovic was the star shooter, leading scorer. Mark Sarros was the point forward who did a little of everything. And Bo Cucuz was the 6-foot-10 center who was recruited out of the hallways to play.
He was on junior varsity as a junior and didn't come on until his senior year. Then, he played at Northwestern.
Chris Velligan and John Wallace were the two standouts coming off the bench.
Like this year's team, Cucuz said the friendship among the players was extreme. He remembered a team lunch at Sarros' house in November. It was supposed to last an hour. It went on for much of the day, playing games, having fun and getting on the same page.
"Everyone had their role, we were a family," Cucuz said. "No one cared about who was shooting the most or things like that. The team was most important in all of our minds."
L.C. had three losses in the regular season, West Side, Merrillville and Bishop Noll. The Warriors pounded the Indians in the last regular season game.
"We started getting more aggressive on offense in the postseason," Kostouros recalled. "We didn't want the season to end. We wanted to get some payback."
In the Calumet Sectional championship, the Indians beat Merrillville to cut down the nets. At the Gary Regional at West Side, L.C. edged a good Hammond team, then beat No. 4 Noll in overtime.
"Nobody picked us to do anything," Cucuz said. "We proved a lot of people wrong."
The semistate was at Purdue's Mackey Arena against No. 2 Anderson, led by eventual Mr. Basketball Troy Lewis. The Indians had a chip on their shoulder. It was big.
They couldn't find a hotel in Lafayette because Anderson fans had them all booked. The Indians learned that they had already booked hotel rooms in Indianapolis for the following week.
When L.C. came out of the tunnel for the pregame they looked at 7,000 fans in red and green. Anderson's traditional Indian was dancing at midcourt. Then, it went too far.
"Their Indian was dancing and taunting us," Cucuz said.
"It really pissed us off," Kostouros said.
Hammel wanted to send a message. On the first play an alley-oop was thrown to Cucuz, who slammed it home. Then, by design, Govert was guarding Lewis.
"Coach told Larry to knock him on his ass the first time he got the ball," Kostouros said. "And he did. We took them out of the game in the first few minutes."
L.C. won, then ran away from Lebanon that night to reach the Final Four in Indianapolis. That's when everything changed.
Suddenly, Lake Central was the favorite. The players started believing the hype. They tracked down some tape of Vincennes, the semifinal opponent. It was one game, Vincennes lost and looked bad.
"I wish we wouldn't have watched the tape," Kostouros said. "Their nickname was the Alices, a girls name. And we lost to them."
This is where the two teams diverge some. The 2014 version of Lake Central lost to Tech 80-61 on Jan. 3. This Indians' team is the underdog. Tech will not be overlooked.
Current coach Dave Milausnic is planning a pep rally on Wednesday night for fans. He hopes that the 1984 team will return.
"Chris gave our kids a great, great speech," Milausnic said. "He compared the two teams and why both have been successful and how our success has brought them back together. But he also talked about not being complacent.
"As great as their season was, he has an empty feeling because they didn't win down there. It's an empty feeling. He wants our kids to finish the job."
The '84 Indians get it. They want to share their experience with this team.
Cucuz played Big Ten basketball. Kostouros played seven seasons of pro ball overseas. They understand what this week means.
"I can't remember anything of my college years," Cucuz said. "But I can remember everything from that month back in 1984. High school is so much bigger than college or pro.
"What happened 30 years ago still brings us together."
"Indiana high school basketball, Hoosier Hysteria, is full of upsets," Kostouros said. "I'm hoping this year's team can add another chapter to that book."
LAFAYETTE | All that was missing was a giant beanstalk through the roof of the Lafayette Jeff Fieldhouse, and maybe some beans scattered along the court.
Saturday's 4A Lafayette Semistate was a battle in the Land of The Giants for Lake Central, which blew away Homestead 79-57 for its first trip to the state finals in 30 years.
Those first two quarters, though, were an uphill climb against a Spartans' team that featured two 6-foot-8 players in sophomore Caleb Swanigan and junior Dana Batt.
"I played against (Swanigan) in AAU and he's a lot more physical now," said LC's 6-7 Tyler Wideman, who scored 14 points but didn't grab his first rebound until 6:30 of the final quarter. "We rebound as a team and I think he started getting frustrated by the way we play defense."
The heavier Swanigan led Homestead (20-8) with 22 points and 13 rebounds, but missed 12 of his 20 shots and showed late fatigue. Batt had a game-high four blocks.
"He's got 45 pounds on Wideman, seriously," LC coach Dave Milausnic said of Swanigan. "He didn't have a good rebounding day but we collectively have a lot of guys who get 4-5 rebounds a game.
"We fly around, so consequently get a lot of rebounds as a team."
Tyler Ross added 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Indians (22-3), who shot .474 from deep.
It was no tea party under the basket for him, either, trying to stop Homestead's two giants.
"This (Swanigan) kid was HUGE. In all my four years of high school ball, I've never played against anyone that big," Ross said. "We tried to simulate that size in practice, using our big guys and battling.
"With our amount of experience – seven seniors – we know what has to be done. I wanted to get in there and do the dirty work. That's my job."
Leading 27-25 at the half, Lake Central blew it open by hammering Homestead 52-32 after intermission, with guard Joe Bannister getting 15 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter.
"I let the game come to me. I didn't force anything," Bannister said. "Coach told us to play hard and play defense and that's all we'd need; treat the next possession like it's the last possession of your life.
"We've been working on that all season."
That mindset has helped the Indians keep both feet on the ground amid extremely high expectations.
"It's never gone to our heads, whether we're playing a team that's top 10 in the state or not rated," Bannister said.
Guard Ty Wilburn caught fire the second half, scoring 12 of his 15 points to go with eight rebounds to help secure L.C.'s ninth straight win.
The Duneland Athletic Conference reps also showed great poise with only eight turnovers.
"My first year, I might've thought about (high expectations) and what everyone was saying," Milausnic said. "But now, all I think about is what my staff and my administrators think.
"That makes life easier."
HUNTINGTON | Most of the time parents need to be stern and strict with their kids, leading them in the right direction through life.
But once in a while, it’s good to let the kids roam free and let loose.
Basketball is like life and Bowman Academy coach Marvin Rea likes to say how he thinks of his players as his own children and how they’re brothers to each other.
So when senior guard Anthony Cole launched a long alley-oop pass from the other side of half court with 25 seconds left, and junior forward Davon Dillard slammed it home one-handed, it was Rea’s way of giving his kids a cookie.
In the end, the crowd-and-player-pleasing play sealed an 85-71 victory over Fort Wayne Dwenger in the Class 3A Northern Semistate at Huntington North, even though the Saints had cut a 21-point lead down to five in the fourth quarter.
“These guys play loose,” Rea said, sounding just like a parent defending his kids when they are a little reckless. “I guess they’re risky like their coach. I would have preferred he pull the ball out and run some clock, but I need Dillard to be happy and if that’s what it takes …”
He also added a second dunk about 10 seconds later after another Dwenger turnover.
Dillard spent much of the second half on the bench in foul trouble, but his two dunks were part of an 8-0 run to finish the game after the Saints (17-9) had cut the lead to 77-71.
“Cole came to the bench saying, ‘I need you,’ so I knew I had to come back and contribute,” said Dillard, who had nine points. “We knew (Dwenger) was going to fight and not give up.”
Bowman (22-4) advances to its third straight state championship game Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to face defending 3A champ Greensburg, which defeated Guerin Catholic in the southern semistate.
The Eagles led by 21 points at halftime before the Saints gradually chipped away in the third, then had a 9-0 run midway through the fourth.
“We came out a little flat in the third quarter,” Rea said. “I told the guys at halftime it was 0-0 and (Dwenger) would come out hard. You have to expect teams to make a run. It’s semistate and no one’s going to give up.”
Bowman built that 21-point cushion on the strength of some hot shooting from Austin Daniels, who scored 16 points in the first half – 12 of them coming from four 3-pointers.
“I was feeling it and my teammates kept feeding me,” said Daniels, who only added one more point to his total after cramping up early in the third quarter and needing time to recover. “Coach tells us to keep shooting when we’re feeling it and I wanted to be legendary in a game like this.”
The other factor in building the big lead was turnovers. Bowman’s active defense caused 16 Dwenger miscues in the first half, while the Eagles only committed four.
Cole led the Eagles with 21 points off the bench, while Justin King added 10 in limited time due to foul trouble.
Dwenger’s Grady Eifert led all scorers with 23, while Kyle Hartman and Michael Fiacable each had 16.
HUNTINGTON | It could've gone another way. It's happened before. West Side in 1972. Lew Wallace in 2010. And countless other times.
A Gary team with a Lake County basketball style, tough and in-your-face, gets out of the area and the game is officiated differently. Much tighter. Much differently.
That happened Saturday in the Class 3A Northern Semistate at Huntington North. Bowman Academy was playing Fort Wayne Dwenger and the first half looked like it was going to be a breeze.
Then, the whistles started blowing. A 49-28 halftime lead was reduced to six points in the fourth quarter, as the Saints continued going to the free-throw line.
"We teach our guys the same thing every year," Bowman coach Marvin Rea said. "We can't get caught up in any calls," Rea said. "We have to play right, work hard and find a way to survive."
The win set up Saturday's state championship game against defending state champion Greensburg at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Still, the Eagles (22-4) were called for 29 fouls and Dwenger was 26-of-35 from the line, while Bowman was 10-of-19, with eight of the charity tosses coming in the last three minutes when Dwenger was forced to foul.
Region praise: Rea was pumped that Northwest Indiana is sending three teams to Indianapolis on Saturday, with Marquette Catholic (Class A) and Lake Central (4A).
He said he plans on having his Eagles in the stands in the morning rooting on Marquette.
"We're sending from the region; that's great," Rea said. "This will let people from the south know that we've got some players, we've got some teams in our area. I think people overlook us a lot of the time.
"I hope they remember this when they start picking the all-star teams."
A big, tasty sweet role: With Justin King and Davon Dillard saddled with foul trouble, Bowman had to go to some other players to get the job done. And boy did they.
Anthony Cole came off the bench to score 21. DeShawn Franklin only scored four, but played great interior defense with King sitting. Martin Schiele played well at the guard spot, too.
"Everybody has a role," Cole said. "We work hard to live up to that and help the team out. Whoever is in the game, it's their job to keep it going. It was very hard. We had to keep fighting and play smart.
"We made it. I'm proud. We have a chance to win another championship."
Injuries galore: Besides dealing with Dwenger’s comeback attempts, Bowman also had to deal with three players suffering injuries.
The first looked like the worst when Austin Daniels went down with five minutes left in the third quarter. It looked like a knee injury as he laid on the floor writhing in pain and needing to be carried off the floor by teammates. But it turned out to be a cramp. He returned midway through the fourth and helped with a rebound and a steal. That came after scoring 16 points in the first half on the strength of four 3-pointers.
“He cramps up hard sometimes,” Bowman coach Marvin Rea said. “But I’ll take him cramping up a little if it means a 20-point lead in the first half.”
Despite the initial anxiety on his face, Daniels said he wasn’t worried.
“I thought I just needed five minutes to ice it,” he said. “I was in pain, but I knew I had to play through it.”
Joining Daniels on Bowman’s walking wounded list were Martin Schiele and Kendall Simms. All three kept well-known trainer James Dye pretty busy at the end of the bench.
“They did all right in getting better,” Dye said.
H-I-S-T-O-R-Y: With Bowman's win they become the first team in Indiana history to play in three different classes in state championship games. The Eagles won the 2010 Class A state title. They finished runner-up in the 2012 Class 2A state title game and won the 2A state crown last year, forcing them up to 3A due to the IHSAA's tradition factor.
"I don't know what it means right now," Rea said. "It really hasn't sunk in yet."
-- Times Correspondent Steve T. Gorches contributed to the story.
LAFAYETTE | Marquette's one-point losses to Triton in the last two sectionals are a distant memory after Saturday's Class A semistate victory, but junior JoVonte Peals remembers a message he delivered after the 2013 sectional.
"I told the team we were not going to lose this year, that we were going to state," Peals said. "It feels good to go. It's been my dream since our freshman year."
Marquette coach Donovan Garletts called the past the past, but didn't discount the motivation the consecutive bitter ends may have had on his players.
"It's truly a blessing be in a situation like this," Braxton Miller said. "There are a lot good teams and they don't always make it."
The Blazers will face Barr-Reeve for the state championship.
"It's something I've always dreamed of," Richard Mitchell said. "It's a big accomplishment. Hopefully, we can stay focused and get it done there, too."
"We’ve come this far..." Ryan Fazekas said. "It’s something we talk about at practice every day; how much we want it.”
Closing time: Marquette continued its trend of putting together big second halves, turning a two-point game into a rout.
“I don’t even know that it’s necessarily that we’re in better shape, but we’re deeper,” Garletts said. “We played nine guys in the first half, and they all gave us good minutes. Whenever you can get your starters a significant amount of rest throughout the game, that’s a huge positive.”
The Blazers quickly pushed the spread to double digits in the third quarter and ran away in the fourth.
"I think we just wear on teams," Mitchell said. "Speed is our biggest thing."
Marquette also finished 21 of 26 at the foul line.
"Conditioning's a really big factor," Miller said. "At halftime, we get a break, then we're able to go right at them right away."
Peals sparked the bench contribution with eight points, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
"Coach just told me at halftime he needed me to come out and be a vacuum cleaner, get every rebound I could get," Peals said. "My role on the team is to bring as much energy as I can. We came out in the second half with a lot of energy. We just need to do it in the first half, too."
Blazer balance: Marquette put four players in double figures -- Mitchell, Fazekas, Nate Flores and Miller -- and had two others a basket away.
"Anybody can be our leading scorer on any night," Mitchell said.
"As you can see, we've got five dudes who can score at any time," Miller said. "We don't have to worry if somebody's off. It's really truly a group effort with our team, which is rare in high school."
Cherishing the twine: Fred Mooney accumulated plenty of celebratory nets in his years at Hammond Baptist. That didn't make the small piece of string in the Marquette assistant's hands any less precious.
"It's a real blessing," Mooney said. "What a treat."
Blacked out: More than an hour before the game, Lake Central fans were already lined up deep outside the door, the majority dressed in all black.
Homestead also wears blue, so the strong Lake Central contingent donned black attire, including a popular shirt boasting of the Final Four trip.
“The idea was generated by students, and we have a great group of seniors backing this team,” L.C. principal Robin Tobias said. “It’s been a very exciting week. We started spring break this weekend, and all week we were able to honor all of the great accomplishments of our winter athletes.”
The school took an allotment of 1,000 tickets. Nearly 800 of them were sold with hundreds more planning walk-up purchases.
“Basketball is Indiana’s sport,” Tobias said, “and it’s easy to follow.”
No cheering in press box: Former Merrillville coach Jim East did the Marquette-Liberty Christian Class A opener on Region Sports Network but opted out of the 4A game because Homestead's coach, Chris Johnson, once coached with East.
Mark Smith filled in for East.
-- Jim Peters, Paul Trembacki and Al Hamnik contributed to this story.
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