GRIFFITH — Griffith superintendent Peter Morikis chose to have a closed boys basketball practice Tuesday afternoon, hoping to keep the intense media attention from this group of young men who have been through a lot since Saturday.
The Panthers were traveling to Lafayette Jeff on Saturday midday for their semistate game against Marion when a car hit the school bus near the DeMotte exit and the bus flipped and ended upside down on the side of the road.
National attention followed this story as the badly mangled bus shocked all those who saw it, but the players were not seriously injured.
But what kind of shape the Panthers will be in against Marion may not be known until tipoff.
"We've got two or three kids we won't know about until Wednesday," Griffith coach Gary Hayes said Monday night. "The kids have to be released by their doctors and we just may not know until game time."
The Griffith community showed its support Sunday afternoon at a gathering at Central Park in downtown Griffith and more plans for the semistate game were released Tuesday.
The Griffith police will escort the team to the Lake-Newton county line. Panthers athletic director Stacy Adams spoke about the team's energy in a press release.
“Our boys have been ready for this game for more than a week,” Adams said. “They are eager to get out on the court and play ball.”
Adams added more about what this group has been through the last few days.
“These kids get mentally prepared before every game, and 24 hours before what could arguably be the biggest game of their lives, they are in the zone,” he said. “They hunker down with each other. They don’t say much. They just get on with the business of basketball.”
The buses will depart the high school between noon and 12:30 p.m. from the parking lot north of the football field. It will travel south on Raymond to Elm, go west to Wiggs and south on Wiggs to Main Street.
Then, on to Lafayette. The school is inviting fans to line the route to send the Panthers "off in style."
There will be early dismissal for all Griffith students. Elementary school students will be dismissed at 12:30, while middle school and high school students will be let out at 1:15. The student fan bus will leave at 2.
All after school activities have been cancelled for Wednesday.
All tickets purchased for Saturday's game will be honored at Jeff.
While there is no way to be certain at what percent the Panthers will be for the semistate, Hayes was sure of one thing, emphatically.
"I don't know who will play or how we'll play after everything these kids have been through," Hayes said Sunday. "But the one thing I know for sure is these kids will compete, just like they have all year.
"They will give it everything they've got."