HAMMOND | The fans looked on with a sense of shock on Wednesday night. The Civic Center crowd saw Bowman Academy play its first sectional game in Class 3A and the Eagles' top player, Davon Dillard, never left the bench.
Eagles coach Marvin Rea spoke shortly about it after his team beat Lighthouse 111-62 to advance to tonight's Hammond Sectional semifinal against Griffith.
"Davon is not injured and he does not have grade problems," Rea said. "He sat because I chose to sit him. And he may sit again (tonight). It will be my decision and no one else's."
Rea would not comment further.
There's been a long truth in Indiana high school boys basketball tournament play. When two good teams meet in March, the stars often cancel each other out. Consequently, the teams who survive to play another day have a player or two who step up and do something few expect.
The role player gets the headlines when they matter most.
For Bowman it was 5-foot-9 sophomore guard Martin Schiele. The Bishop Noll transfer scored 16 points, right at Dillard's season average.
"You're only as good as the last player you put in," Rea said.
Schiele said the entire team knew that Dillard had been benched before they arrived at the Civic Center. In typical Bowman fashion, the "next man up" philosophy burned hot.
Schiele hit shots, drove to the basket and played suffocating defense.
"I knew I had to step up and fill in his spot," Schiele said of Dillard. "I had to help Justin (King) and Hag (Arthur Haggard) out. I had to come out with a fire. I had to play like this was my last game.
"I had to know my role on this team."
Region basketball fans saw a lot of this take place this week as area sectionals spun forward. There was a common bond among the winners. More than just the best players put up big numbers to help their team stay on the floor.
On Tuesday night at the Class 4A Valparaiso Sectional, Michigan City standout Keenan Simmons was on the bench in foul trouble for much of the game. The Wolves' bench scored 56 points in City's 83-72 win over Crown Point.
Lucas Daurer, Brad Pawloski and Michael Miller combined to score 43 points off the bench, in a game where not one starter reached double-digit scoring.
"Bench is a prevailing term in the sport because you can only put five guys out there," Boyd told The Times on Tuesday. "We've got a guy (Simmons) who's kept us in a lot of games. It just takes some time for young guys to get the confidence to go out and perform. That's why you play the regular season."
At the Class 2A Hebron Sectional, Bishop Noll got the best of both worlds. The Warriors standouts — Larry Crisler (20 points) and Tylreon Gates (16 points) — played well against Lake Station in a 67-51 opening-round win.
But Marquis Tarver scored 10 and Jaylen Hord added 11 to lead Noll to the win. And other lesser known players contributed to a great team defensive effort which stifled the Eagles offense on every front.
This theme sets up tonight's semifinals all across Indiana.
"It isn't about one guy," Rea said. "It takes a team to win."