HAMMOND | The lights were on, bright and burning. Some emotion and star-gazing filled the fans at the Hammond Civic Center on Wednesday.
The weather-challenged crowd came to see Logansport's Whitney Jennings and West Side's Amari Ferguson, DeJah Joshua and Dana Evans.
The Times Region Roundball Rumble, No. 15 during a snowstorm, was overshadowed by a player no one outside of Gary probably knew much about.
With 3:24 left in the second quarter, West Side coach Rod Fisher hugged junior “forward” Lexus Fox. He'd spent much of this season yelling at the 5-foot-6 role player.
“That was shocking,” Fox said of the hug. “He yells at me a lot. But I love him. He's a great coach.”
Fox had five points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals at the time of the embrace. Her unnoticed energy helped the Cougars jump out to a 31-22 halftime lead over the Class 4A No. 6 Berries.
It was Fisher dancing at midcourt after Joshua nailed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give West Side a 52-51 win.
“That was the best half Lexus has ever played,” Fisher said.
The problem is this. Last year she was a perimeter player, a 3-point shooter. Then all the height graduated, and a new guard, Dana Evans, took minutes away from another “guard.”
So Fox was asked to be a power forward. A, well, garbage player.
“I didn't like that,” Fox said. “At first, anyway. But I'll be Dennis Rodman. I'll be a garbage man, garbage girl.”
She said nothing about being an ambassador to North Korea, but she's OK with her new position on a team that sent a message to the state of Indiana.
That has Fisher dancing on the track in the underbelly of the Civic Center.
“She's been complaining to me all year,” Fisher said.
She whined about playing time, Fisher said. She complained about where she was on the floor. She cried about being in the post.
Kids, playing time and doing what the coach asks go together. Don't ask mom and dad or you AAU coach about such things. This is not new math.
“I've told her, no one can stop you in the paint,” Fisher said. “No one. If she plays all the time like she did the first half, she'll be begging me to be taken out of the game.”
West Side outrebounded the Berries 42-21. That changes the win column. Fox had nine rebounds.
Fox gets made fun of by her teammates because of her musical taste. She likes, “Pop,” she said. Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus. French fries are her favorite food. Her fave color is red.
Now, though, shooting the 3 is staying in the locker room. Bruises, scrapes and hugs from the coach are in the future.
“This win was so big to me,” Fox said. “When she hit that 3, I just knew we could do anything.”
Yes, these Cougars can. But they need to follow Fox's lead. The little things matter. Big time.