The broken white lines vanished rapidly underneath the bus. Snow and ice were the only breaks from the late-night darkness. An adult in one seat looked again at an illuminated wristwatch. Then, quietly moaned.
In the back of the bus, the teenagers were having fun. Laughter and conversation continued to grow.
"Hey," Bowman Academy boys basketball coach and athletic director Marvin Rea screamed, walking back to the commotion. "I just got my (butt) kicked by 30. I'm glad you're all back here planning a parade.
"This bus costs money. The way we played I shouldn't be hearing anything out of any of you."
The bus continued down the road on a recent Saturday night, after two-time defending Class 4A state champion Carmel pounded Bowman, the defending 2A state champion, 74-52.
If a movie was made about Bowman's program, it could well be filmed inside a bus. The Eagles, in seven years of varsity play, have traveled nearly 20,000 miles to play regular-season games.
At first the numbers were high because Bowman did not have a home gym and no area teams would play the Eagles. So the team toured like a rock band to Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan for games against top-tier programs.
It worked. Bowman won the 2010 Class A state title. In 2012 the Eagles were the 2A runner-up and in 2013 they won the 2A state crown.
"This is who we are," Rea said. "This is what we've done. We play one of the top schedules in the state every year. To do that we have to go to where those teams are. We're happy that more region teams are scheduling us now.
"But we still want to get on the bus and find the best teams out there."
In the 2009-10 season, Bowman was playing in Kentucky. The Eagles were also playing around in the hotel. So Rea blew his whistle at 6 a.m. and the team ran sprints in the parking lot while other guests ate waffles.
"Rico still talks about that," Rea said of DePaul's DeJuan Marrero who was part of the pancake marathon. Bowman has had six players make a Division I roster. This time next year the number will be nine.
So Rea believes a college-like schedule helps prepare student athletes for college.
Another long road
On the drive to Carmel the scene was the same on every bus seat. Earbuds on. Music playing. Eyes closed. Senior Justin King said that is what it's like on all the road trips.
"It took me a while to get used to the trips," King said. "I'm tall. I have tall knees. I get cramped sitting here for all those hours. It's a blessing. It's a time we get to bond with our teammates."
Rea prefers to travel a day ahead on the long trips. Bowman's junior varsity seemed stiff against Carmel, jumping off the bus and onto the court. The varsity did run and shoot in a fieldhouse, but it's easier to sleep in your own bed.
It's not all business.
Arthur Haggard talked about fun times on the road. Like the time at a Detroit mall where the Eagles danced in front of the entrance while shoppers cheered them on and shot video. Or the trip to Dayton where the Eagles played 22-Foot Academy, a good team with a weird name.
"We get to play teams we don't know and they don't know us," Haggard said. "It gets us ready for sectionals. That's why we do this."
Eagles fans follow
The thrill most area parents have watching their kids compete in hoops is big. At Bowman, it's different. A fan bus went to Carmel and many of the Eagles' parents were able to see their sons play.
"When we're not there I know Arthur reads his Bible and prays," Latoya Haggard said of her son. "The boys have fun, too. Arthur is real good at doing imitations."
LaSharri Barfield, mother of sophomore Montrell Barfield, said she has to take over some of her honor-roll son's chores after he returns from a long bus ride.
"I have do to the laundry," she said. "And I have to get him his snacks. That's important."
After the Carmel game, the buses stopped at a McDonald's at a truck strop. More than 100 high school students and fans got in line. An hour and a half later the bus was put in gear again.
It didn't roll into the charter school in Gary until 1:30 a.m., where scores of cars were waiting to give rides home.
"It isn't easy," Rea said. "It would be easier to play all of our games within 30 minutes or so. But we didn't get to where we're at doing that.
"If we have to drive 500 miles to play a great team, we'll do it. That's who we are."