Boys Basketball | State Championship

A bond develops between 1984 L.C. team and his year's Indians

2014-03-23T17:00:00Z 2014-04-15T18:40:20Z A bond develops between 1984 L.C. team and his year's IndiansSteve Hanlon steve.hanlon@nwi.com, (219) 933-4198 nwitimes.com

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."

Kostouros concurs.

"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."

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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