GARY | Keontae Bridges needs a new Walmart portable basketball setup. The one out on the street, in front of his house, is falling apart.
The 6-foot-1 Lew Wallace guard spends so much time shooting and dunking on it, neighbors wonder when they don't hear that constant THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! outside their window.
Gary's mean streets have called him, loud and often, but the honor student refuses to listen.
"There be a lot of stuff goin' on out there but if you have a court in front of your house and play basketball all day, it blocks everything else out," Bridges said.
"My court's from Walmart but I've dunked it down. It was 10 feet but (the rim) is hangin' a little bit. I gotta get me a new one."
THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!
"I shoot around every day, like 6 o'clock in the morning, the moment I wake up, no matter the weather," Bridges added.
Coach Melvin Yancey can attest to that.
"If there wasn't snow, he'd be shooting out there every day," Yancey said. "I coached him in seventh and eighth grade and he hasn't changed one bit. He's developed into a very mature young man, a very good basketball player."
Bridges and the Hornets (14-7) play Andrean (20-3) in Game 2 of Saturday's Plymouth Regional. The 59ers won the earlier meeting, 78-65, on Nov. 27.
Lew Wallace, with eight seniors on its roster, is the state's highest scoring team at 79.43 ppg.
"We press the whole game so we get a lot of transition points," Bridges said. "At the end of the game, if we got the lead, we try to stall the clock out."
Only a junior, Bridges averages 14.5 points and eight rebounds a game.
"I'm not that tall but I can rebound good," he said. "I work hard trying to get the ball. We're not that tall but we can play with anybody."
As for Bridges' role, name it, he can do it. He also averages four steals a game and shoots 37 percent from beyond the arc.
With four consecutive sectional titles now to its credit, the Hornets are hoping for some long overdue respect.
"It makes us hungrier to prove everybody wrong," Bridges said of the doubters. "We want to show there's talent at Lew Wallace.
"We're real balanced. We have seven, eight guys capable of scoring double figures in a game."
Bridges said the 70-69 loss at South Bend Adams on Nov. 30 was a winnable game. The Eagles enter regional play this weekend at 21-2.
Yancey and his players know the keys to beating Andrean in the rematch.
"The game is going to be won or lost with rebounds, our half-court defense, our ability to work against their press and their ability to work against our press," Yancey said.
"Those are the variables."