GIRLS BASKETBALL

Highland girls basketball team dedicated remainder of season to Ryzewski

2014-01-17T19:00:00Z 2014-01-18T01:40:09Z Highland girls basketball team dedicated remainder of season to RyzewskiHillary Smith hillary.smith@nwi.com, (219) 933-3233 nwitimes.com

HIGHLAND | Hannah Ryzewski wore a black top and blue and gold warm-up pants, and sat on the bench cheering on her Highland girls basketball team.

The rest of her squad wore matching black arm bands when they played against Morton on Thursday in their first home game since Hannah's father collapsed in the school gym.

The arm band read: RIP TAL. The one Hannah wears reads: RIP DAD.

On Jan. 10, as the Highland and Hobart girls basketball teams warmed up for their Northwest Crossroads Conference matchup, Tal Ryzewski collapsed while talking to another Trojans fan near the stands on the north end of the gymnasium.

Reese Ryzewski, Tal's sister-in-law and a physical education teacher at the high school, was working in the nearby concession stand and rushed to his side. While she administered CPR — the same directions she teaches in lifeguarding classes at the school — the automated external defibrillator (AED) machine located less than 50 feet away was brought in to help the 48-year-old father of four.

Tal was stabilized at the hospital while fluid was drained from around his heart. The family was optimistic for his recovery, until he died the next day. An autopsy will determine cause of death.

His daughter, Hannah, a 5-foot-7 junior point guard, wasn't scheduled to play against Hobart, but Tal insisted on attending the game anyway.

"Tal went to watch because he loved the game," said his wife, Marianne Humpfer-Ryzewski. "He had coached some of those kids when they were younger and he wanted to see them play."

Highland beat Hobart 59-55 and create at three-way tie at the top of the Northwest Crossroads Conference standings. Marianne said that Tal never regained consciousness around his family for them to tell him that the Trojans won.

The Brickies sent flowers to the wake.

"You know when you go to a wake that there are always pictures," Highland girls basketball coach Tracie Mezera said, "at his wake, there was row after row after row of Bitty Ball photos. Years and years and years of them, all the teams that he had coached."

Marianne said that they didn't bring all of the photos, unsure of how many the funeral home could display.

Tal Ryzewski began coaching basketball after a career at Manchester College in which he played for both the baseball and basketball teams, and scored 1,187 points as a basketball player.

When his son, Tyler, now 20, began playing sports, Tal coached his son and all of his son's friends. When Hannah, 17, started in sixth grade, Tal switched from coaching boys to coaching girls.

"He wasn't serious all the time," said Kelly Lee, a senior forward on the Trojans team, who had played Bitty Ball for Tal. "If you were down, he'd do what he could to bring you up."

"He had such a love for the game," senior Kara Randall said. "He wanted you to love the game."

His youngest daughter, Hallie, is 12 and he was most recently her coach.

"He was the one that took them to practice, usually because he was coaching the team," Marianne said. "He did all of the running around."

All of his children are or were athletes. His oldest step-son, Andrew Humpfer, was a wrestler, Marianne said. Tyler Ryzewski played baseball and basketball at Highland, signing a scholarship at IU Northwest.

"He wanted every one of his kids to be involved in sports," said Hannah, who plays basketball, volleyball and softball. "He pushed us to play sports and made us who we are today. The only sport he didn't help me play was volleyball, my mom helped me with that, but he liked basketball more."

The girls basketball team said they are dedicating the remainder of their season to Tal. The Trojans have two more NCC games, and must win both to capture their share of the conference title.

Tal played baseball and basketball at Clark, pitching for the Pioneers in their their first sectional title in 1983.

"Everything he did was related to sports," Marianne said. "He always saw the best in the kids. He thought they were all going to be so good. He thought this year's team could go to state. He said, 'they can do it.' He knew they could do it, he knew they could do it."

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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