ST. JOHN | It was Ground Zero for Hoosier Hysteria. Lake Central was playing poorly in the state championship game. All the dreams of a lifetime had spun out of control into nightmare mode.
The Indians best player, Tyler Wideman, had walked off the floor in the second quarter with blood pouring from his head. Lake Central trailed Indianapolis Tech , 27-12, at halftime of the Class 4A state final.
With all this negative energy in the locker room, the 6-foot-7 senior center walked in after being treated by trainer Chris Hall. He had a strange-looking mask over the wound.
That's when coach Dave Milausnic spoke up.
"You look like the Karate Kid," he said.
Wideman laughed. The Indians laughed. Everyone in the room giggled.
Then, in this more relaxed atmosphere, a different team ran onto the floor for the second half at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. A 23-point deficit was reduced to three with 10.9 seconds left in the contest.
Yes, Tech hung on for the 63-59 win, but Lake Central gave Indiana one of the greatest comebacks possible. Wideman was wax on and wax off.
Even with the vision-altering face-guard, the Butler-bound big man was a beast against All-American Trey Lyles. He had three poster slam dunks in the final 16 minutes. He finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Wideman is The Times Player of the Year for the 2013-14 season.
"We knew the game wasn't over," Wideman said. "We knew there was a lot of time. We knew we didn't play the half we wanted to. We started playing for our pride.
"We didn't want to get embarrassed."
Wideman averaged 15.7 points with 6.9 rebounds a game, for the Indians, who broke a 30-year Indy drought by getting back to the state finals. He impressed those in St. John and outside.
Just ask Crown Point coach Clint Swan.
“I saw him their opening game against Andrean and I said, 'Oh no, we're all in trouble,” Swan said. “He has a bounce in his step he didn't have before. His body is in the best shape it's ever been and he's playing the best basketball of his career.”
Then, ask Swan again.
“I'm going to his commencement. I'm going to make sure he walks across that line,” Swan said.
Swan said this on Feb. 21, after "Big Cat" and his mates beat the Bulldogs, 77-43. Now, Swan will likely have a shot of coaching Wideman. Swan is an assistant coach for the Indiana All-Star team.
It's the last high school dream Wideman has.
"I want to make the Indiana All-Stars bad," Wideman said. "It's important. To be recognized by the coaches around the state is a great honor. It's a great time. I hope to get that opportunity.
"We want to beat Kentucky."
Milausnic has seen the wonderful evolution of Wideman. When he arrived at L.C. he weighed 285 pounds and had a lot to work on in his game.
"He would play for two minutes and have to come out for a break," Milausnic said.
But Wideman sweated heavily when few were watching and began to chisel his broad frame. It all came together this winter.
In the regional championship game against Penn, Wideman only took four shots until the final seconds. His fifth shot was the game winner, a tip-in at the buzzer to send the Indians on.
Then, his hands were flying in the championship game.
"He battled down there against Trey Lyles, who was everything everyone said about him," Milausnic said. "Tyler played great. He put himself up there with the greatest post players in our area's history."