HAMMOND | Back in the day, Jose Rosario was the name everyone mentioned when they went to a seventh-grade game at Bishop Noll. He was the guy opponents had to stop. He was the one signing autographs after a game.
But as Class 2A No. 2 Noll (26-0) takes on No. 4 Indianapolis Park Tudor (25-2) at 11:45 a.m. today at Conseco Fieldhouse with a state championship on the line, it is very likely the Warriors' season would be done of not for Rosario.
In last Saturday's 53-50 win over Tipton in the semistate, Rosario got a steal and a layup that gave Noll its first lead in the fourth quarter. And the 6-foot-3 junior forward also got an offensive rebound off a miss at the free-throw line and put the ball back in the basket to get the lead up to three.
Without either of those plays, Noll is likely watching today's final on TV.
"This has been the experience of a lifetime," Rosario said after Wednesday's practice. "It's something I will tell my kids about. I will be talking about all of this forever."
Rosario averages 5.9 points and 3.2 rebounds a game. He is likely not on Park Tudor's radar. There are several Warriors on the roster that Panthers coach Ed Schilling is game planning for -- Adonis Filer, Ronnye Beamon and Milos Kostic.
But Rosario? Who is he?
"When I was in seventh grade at Bishop Noll I was 'The Guy,'" Rosario said. "I miss it every now and then. But we're winning a little bit more now. And first and foremost I like to win more than I like to score a lot of points. On this team my job is to play good defense.
"I need to play smart with the ball. And I have to get rebounds."
The century-old nature of Hoosier Hysteria often has tales about guys like Rosario. The no-name kid, the one coming off the bench, who steps into the limelight and wins a game with a small play that is huge only because of the time of year that it is.
And offense rebound and putback in November is nice. In March it's historic.
"It's unbelievable when the crowd goes crazy because you've done something," Rosario said. "It's beautiful. Cutting down the net last Saturday was the greatest feeling in the world. No, it will be the second greatest feeling in the world.
"I plan on us winning (today) and I want to do that again."