HAMMOND | Each December for more than 20 years, graduates of Bishop Noll’s 1964 and ’65 classes have gathered to feast and reminisce while they watch their alma mater play a boys basketball game.
The legends grow with each year, and stories increase in length and magnitude, but the pregame destination, El Taco Real in Hammond, remains the same.
“It’s just a great time,” local attorney Jim Wieser, Class of ’65, said. “We’ve all been friends since high school, and some of us have known each other since first grade.”
The contingent Friday night watching Noll outrun visiting North Newton 81-32 in Greater South Shore Conference action included Wieser, former basketball coach Jerry King, John Wohadlo, Dave Croner and Dan Hoffman of the Class of ’65 and ’64 grads Ray Zipko, Ivan Zimmer and Mike McGill, the latter a former Notre Dame football player who suited up for a pair of NFL teams.
The Warriors (3-0, 2-0) were hotter than a flaming dish of fajitas at El Taco Real, jumping out to a 23-3 lead in the first quarter and cruising with their speed and ability to disrupt passing lanes.
Junior Larry Crisler, one of just two players left from Noll’s 2011 state finalist squad, missed a breakaway dunk but proceeded to erupt for 15 of his game-high 26 shortly thereafter. He had a three-point play and came back on the next possession to hammer an alley-oop from senior Matt Sandoval.
“I wanted to make up for (the missed dunk) — on defense first, then let the offense flow,” Crisler said.
“It started from all of the defense our team played.”
“(The alley-oop) was a called play. It motivates us to keep going and turn up the defense.”
Crisler scored 20 in the first half. In the second quarter teammate Tyreon Gates spearheaded the transition game and dropped 13 of his 16 points.
Twelve Warriors scored, with Crisler and Gates the only two in double figures.
“They are a tough tandem to guard,” Noll coach Drew Trost said of the 6-foot-3 vets.
“They usually guard each other in practice, and I take for granted how good they are side by side.”
Noll led 48-16 at halftime, and the only drama left was the announcement of the 50/50 winner after the third quarter. It happened to be Wieser, who donated the winnings back to the school.
North Newton (0-3, 0-2) tried to stick to a tenacious half-court defense, but the Spartans couldn’t stop Noll’s dribble penetration, nor could they break the Warrior press to get decent looks on offense.
“We’ve got a lot of team speed,” Trost said. “We have three guards who are small but really, really quick and stay on top of their guys on defense.”
Chad Schultz led North Newton with nine points.