MERRILLVILLE | I was excited all week thinking about Friday night's Duneland Athletic Conference showdown between Lake Central and Merrillville. That's typical when the two defending Class 4A sectional champions meet.
Then, broken information started bolting out of Connecticut on Friday morning. Heartsick, numb with disbelief, the last thing this heart thought of was a high school basketball game.
Instead, my thoughts wandered to colorfully wrapped presents under a tree labeled with the name of a child who will never experience the joy of Christmas morning or the hug from one he loves again. That's what sunk this heart on the drive up Broadway on Friday night.
There are days much bigger than Hoosier Hysteria.
Sadly, this was one.
The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. — where 26 people were killed, 20 of them children, by a lone gunmen who had allegedly already murdered his own mother — was too much to take.
How can a ball floating through a hoop mean anything?
“I heard about it when I was getting taped,” Merrillville senior guard B.J. Jenkins said. “It was awful.”
Still, a crowd assembled for the game, which the Pirates won 73-67. There was an aura of “How does something like this happen?” along with quiet conversations between adults.
The young men in the game played their hearts out. Lake Central and Merrillville are, without question, two of the better teams in the area.
Jenkins had a team-high 24 points with three rebounds and three assists. Lake Central's Tyler Wideman scored 27 points with 12 rebounds. The two were unstoppable.
Merrillville scored 26 field goals. The Pirates had 18 assists. This is the most unselfish team I've seen since photographs were in black and white.
“We preached it every day this summer and every day at practice,” Merrillville coach T.J, Lux said. “We want to be unselfish.”
In this YouTube age filled with SportsCenter highlight reels, the young men at Merrillville are taking an old-school approach.
“It's not difficult at all,” Jenkins said. “It's simple. Find the open man.”
Merrillville made a statement on a night where America mourns and prays. On a weekend where parents hold their children tighter than they have in awhile and make sure to speak those most important words: “I love you.”
One day basketball games will bring butterflies to players, fans and sportswriters again. This just wasn't one of those nights.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.