SCHERERVILLE | Back in the day, high school boys basketball in the region was a different animal.
High elbows, cheap shots and a nefarious glare were often parts of the old-school game.
"In the early '90s it was that way," E.C. Central coach Abe Brown said. "We didn't like guys from other teams. There might be a couple guys you were cool with, but when the game was on, we didn't like them at all."
Brown was speaking at Monday night's 59th Annual Sportsmanship Dinner at Villa Cesare in Schererville. The dinner grew out of an ugly incident at the 1954 Hammond Sectional at the Civic Center.
The unsportsmanlike behavior at the games caused several area businessmen to host the dinner the next year. It has been a Hoosier Hysteria staple in Northwest Indiana and it continues to grow.
On Monday 29 teams from Lake and Porter counties got together to eat, greet and listen to the keynote speaker, Ball State football coach Pete Lembo.
"This event is really important," said Valparaiso coach Joe Otis, who attended his first banquet in 1975 when he was coaching at Clark. That was long before the Porter County schools were invited.
"It kind of reminds us that this is a game," Otis continued. "This has a great tradition and everyone here wants to win when the sectionals start next week. But this reminds us that there is a way to play the game and sportsmanship is a big part of that."
Several coaches said the growth of AAU basketball has changed the old dislikes of other players on other teams. Now, high school rivals spend their summers on the same team.
Their families spend a lot of time together, too. Yes, they all want to climb a ladder next weekend, but a greater sense of respect for foes has developed because of AAU and the Sportsmanship Banquet.
"This is really neat; I remember coming to this when I was a player," said Lake Central coach Dave Milausnic, who graduated from Highland in 1990. "Back then you didn't sit with your team. They split us up. I sat with a couple guys from Whiting. I still remember that."
Milausnic said the generosity of area business leaders also lets the players know that other people in the greater community watch and are concerned about area boys basketball.
The L.C. coach has seen a change in how the game is being played now.
"Back then you could retaliate," Milausnic said. "Now, if you do, it's on CNN."