Bryon Clouse received a text a week ago Sunday. The words got straight to the point.
Followed by, "Don't blow it."
Talk about not mincing words, right?
Clouse's Hanover Central boys basketball team saw the results of gravity and ping pong balls that came from the IHSAA headquarters in Indianapolis. The Wildcats received the bye game, playing the winner of Tuesday's Calumet vs. Wheeler game.
Hanover has only won one sectional championship in school history, in 1986.
"I think about it," Clouse said after the Calumet Region Sportsmanship Dinner last Monday. "This is why I'm in this (business). I want to win championships."
As the 108th IHSAA state tournament tips off Tuesday night, there are five Region schools that have never won a sectional championship — Covenant Christian, Hammond Academy, Lighthouse, Michigan City and Washington Township. The Senators' streak is the longest because the Senators have been hooping it up a long time.
Porter County Conference historian Keith Nuest said the first sectional he has the school playing in was in 1925. He said they might have played before that but it was not recorded in the newspapers.
Washington Twp. played in the Valparaiso Sectional for much of the single-class basketball days, which made cutting down the nets almost impossible. Now, the Senators will play in the Class A Kouts Sectional.
They open against two-time semistate qualifier 21st Century.
Coach Scott Bowersock talked the night of the draw with confidence, considering his team has 15 wins and had beaten recent power Marquette Catholic in the regular season.
"We've proven we can beat teams like that," Bowersock said. "We're not going to back down from anyone. It's not a one-way street. They have to worry about us, too."
Lake Station coach Bob Burke is at a school where Indiana tradition doesn't apply. The Eagles have one sectional championship in school history. Lake Station won its lone title in 1941, about eight months before the United States' entrance into World War II.
"It's been so long we don't even have a banner hanging in the gym," Burke said. "So we want to use that as motivation for our kids. We want to hang a new banner in our gym."
Lake Station opens against defending sectional champion Roosevelt at the Class 2A Whiting Sectional on Tuesday night. The winner of that game will play Andrean in the semifinal. The road to redemption is not easy.
"It was not the draw we wanted," Burke said, "but we're going to come out and play our A game. We know we can compete with anyone. It's sectionals. You have to be in your game every second of the game."
The Eagles have beaten Griffith, Bishop Noll, Hanover Central and Portage this regular season.
Burke's team also won its first conference championship since 1998, gaining a share of the Greater South Shore Conference title.
"We've had a lot more support since we've been winning," said junior point guard Dominique Smith, noting his team only won two games two years ago. "That gives us more confidence. It makes us want to play harder to get the Dub (win).
"We want to play our game and move on to the next round."
Clouse coached at Lake Station before moving to Cedar Lake, so he's been at two of the schools with the Region's longest winless streaks. Four years ago Hanover won one game, also proof that rebuilding programs takes some time.
When Clouse was at Lake Station he put "41" on T-shirts and made the streak a mantra. The number "86" has been used as motivation for the Wildcats this winter.
They started the season with a school-record 9-0 mark, but have played .500 ball over the last month. With defending state finalist Twin Lakes hosting this sectional, making history will not be easy.
"We hear about it every day," Hanover senior Joe Jackson said. "It adds a little pressure. We all want to make school history. That's our motivation. We just have to take care of the ball better and defend.
"We have to play better defense if we want to win sectionals."
Sectional is the first week of a month-long drama that will culminate at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on March 24.
West Side coach Chris Buggs did not win a sectional game as a player during the first two years of John Boyd's tenure. But Buggs' senior year, in 2002, West Side finally broke through to win the 4A sectional title.
And they took it all the way in winning the state title.
This year West Side drops to 3A and will play in the challenging sectional at the Hammond Civic Center.
"The sectionals are important," Buggs said, "but you have to play your game. You can't try to do too much. Our sectional is very tough this year. But you can't make too much out of it.
"It is just a game."
How the teams play will dictate what kind of texts their coaches will receive on Saturday night.