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A scrapbook contains all the newspaper clippings from a memorable season.

On Darren Warne's basement wall is a photo, taken by his brother, showing the mob scene on the court after the Portage boys basketball team won the 1988 Michigan City Regional.

"It's something I'll never forget," Warne said.

Friday night, the school will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its first trip to semistate with a reunion held in conjunction with the Indians game against Valparaiso.

"It was a special time, for sure," Eric Jones said. "The crowds were huge. The environment was great. It'll be cool, looking back, a blast from the past. It's going to be fun to see everybody."

Jones was a hulking 6-foot-6 junior that year, the inside complement to senior guard David Wayne, arguably the best shooter in Portage history. They were the only major contributors back from a roster that graduated more than 1,000 points and nearly 14 feet in post players Mike Wologo and Jim Havrilla. Despite the voids, new coach Greg Fisher didn't lower the bar.

"Coach Fisher was never one for not thinking big," Jones said. "He thought we could do anything. It goes to show you can do a lot of things with great coaching. He took Portage to places it had never been. The whole coaching staff was awesome. I remember all the hard work everybody put in. We were just a bunch of tough, hard-nosed athletes."

Fisher was a stickler for details, right down to the players having to run suicides if they went outside without wearing a stocking cap, and the style suited the group well.

"It was always about the team," Meyne said. "We did this together, that together. We had dinners at (Fisher's) house. We loved Coach 'Fish.' He was one heck of a demanding coach, but we thrived with it. We gelled. We all got along. It was a group where we all had our roles. That's what made it special. I tell my kids, 'sports, especially basketball, is all about teamwork.' That's what it takes to reach your goals. It's not one person. It takes everybody working together."

Jones remembered a one-point loss to Hobart, a game in which he hit a would-be tying jump shot at the buzzer, but had his foot on the 3-point line. With a modest 6-5 record at that point, Portage proceeded to rattle off 14 consecutive wins. It edged Chesterton in the sectional opener, the 6-1 Warne and 6-2 Greg Meyne taking on Trojans star Matt Nover after Jones got in foul trouble. After avenging the loss to Hobart in the semifinals, the Indians downed host Valpo for the title.

"It was always pretty good to beat your rival," said Jones, who's now on the other side of it with freshman son Cooper playing for Valpo. "(Sectionals) was our initial goal."

A little more than a year after "Hoosiers" was released, tiny Oregon-Davis made a Cinderella run, drawing national acclaim on its way to the Michigan City Regional, but Portage, cast in the role of Goliath vs. David, had its own script in mind. It topped the Bobcats 74-71 and Eric Dolezal-led LaPorte 50-49. Darin Archbold and Norwell ended the postseason for Portage (20-6), 60-57, in the Fort Wayne Semistate.

"The whole community was unbelievable," Warne said. "Through the season, the sectional, the regional, you'd run into anybody in the city and they'd say something. It brought everybody together. The parents sat together at games. My dad passed away two years ago. He'll be looking down from heaven, enjoying the whole thing. The 10, 12 on team, seven, eight of us are still in touch. We're pretty close. Jonesy was the best man in my wedding."

The reunion was the inspiration of Indians coach Rick Snodgrass. It was facilitated by the athletic department and Warne's wife, Lisa, a Portage grad and teacher. Contacts were made through social media and the response was strong. Players Meyne, Phil Misecko, Brent Kingery, Tony Sebben and John Homan and coaches Fisher and Keith Hipskind have confirmed to attend, in addition to several cheerleaders and pom pons. Wayne, an assistant coach at Warsaw, can't make it due to a game. He and Jones chatted Saturday at the Grace College tournament where Warsaw and Valpo were playing.

A pregame gathering will be followed by introductions at halftime.

For Jones, the big question is, will he be wearing green or red?

"Obviously, I'll be rooting for my kid, but I don't want to take away from the Portage team," he said. "We'll see."

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at


Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.