HAMMOND | On paper, it seemed like it would be easier, that Indiana tradition of climbing up ladders in March.
Marquis Tarver was a freshman at Bishop Noll in 2011. He was on the roster that advanced to Indianapolis to play in the Class 2A state championship game. He did not dress when the Warriors lost a heart-breaker to Indianapolis Park Tudor, 43-42.
"It was exciting anyway, watching all my friends in that position," Tarver said after Tuesday's practice in Hammond.
Tarver was on the floor the next two years when Noll lost to Bowman Academy in the 2A sectional championship game. Bowman went to state both years. The Eagles moved up a class and are still alive in the 3A tournament.
And the Warriors are in the 2A field. Noll (21-3) will play Westview (20-4) in the Class 2A North Judson Regional on Saturday. The winner will get the Woodlan (18-6)-Winamac (14-8) winner in Saturday night's championship game.
So finally winning a sectional title, one might think, would have Tarver and his mates looking for a firetruck and some cupcakes, right?
Not even close.
"I was happy we won our sectional," said Tarver of Noll's 65-52 win over Whiting at Hebron on Saturday night. "All it was was a start on the road where we want to get to. We heard a lot of outside people talking, saying we were glad Bowman was out of our sectional.
"But if they were still in our sectional I believe we'd have won it anyway."
The 5-foot-10 point guard turned shooting guard grew up on the east side of Hammond, in Hammond High's district. He said his mother enrolled him at Noll to get him away from some friends who were negative influences.
The parochial setting has been good for Tarver, who averages 12.9 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.9 steals for the fifth-ranked Warriors. First-year coach Josh Belluomini has reveled in the maturation.
Last year with Tarver at the point everyone collapsed in the defense because no one believed he could shoot and he rarely showed them otherwise. But a summer in the gym got his perimeter touch going and Noll's offense changed.
"We wanted to get Marquis some shots and he wasn't getting them at the point," Belluomini said. "He is strong for a kid his size. He rebounds very well for a guard."
Belluomini knows his team has a tough first-round opponent. Noll beat Westview 51-41 in the 2011 regional final. The Warriors have good players and play an intelligent game, like most teams from that part of the state.
"They are such a smart team," Belluomini said. "They have different kids but they run the same offense as in 2011. They are well-coached and we're going to have to be ready."
Tarver and his mates want to climb another ladder on Saturday night. But they don't want a parade just yet. They want that to wait a few more weeks.
"It's just another stop on the road we want to stay on," Tarver said. "We want to get to state. We want to get to Indianapolis."