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LAKE STATION — Talk about getting a cream pie in the face.

Lake Station boys basketball coach Bob Burke wasn't feeling in the holiday mood on his home court Friday night.

No jingle bells.

No gingerbread cookies.

No carolers on the porch with hot chocolate brewing in the kitchen.

There was a missile, though. Right through the Eagles' gut.

Lake Station held a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter against arch nemesis River Forest, hoping to snap a five-game losing streak to the Ingots.

But there was too much Jordan Higgins down the stretch as the Ingots prevailed 66-62 in a great high school basketball game. Yes, fantastic.

"I think Christmas dinner's going to taste a little bitter," Burke said.

Higgins scored 23 points in the game with 16 coming in the second half. Lake Station star Dominque Smith had 20 in the game and 17 in the second half.

While the big-school folks don't talk about this talented tandem, both of these guys would play a lot at any school in the area.

"No, but I need to," Higgins laughed when asked if he wished a "Merry Christmas" to any of the Eagles.

"No," answered Smith to the same question, still a little steamed about the loss.

Higgins and Smith play on the same AAU team in the summer and often spend the night at each other's houses in the summer. Can you imagine Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke doing sleepovers back in the 1960s? "Hey, Dick, could you pass me the Cheetos?"

"They're my brothers," Higgins said. "When we play we want to beat each other real bad. But when the game's over, we're brothers again."

The River Forest-Lake Station rivalry is one of the Region's best. But with the Ingots (6-3) and Eagles (5-3) both owning winning records, this is a rarity in this series.

That's why the gym was packed and it was louder than a Megadeth concert on steroids.

The River Forest student section screamed for James Dabney to be put into the game. Why? Because Dabney used to attend Lake Station. He only played about 90 seconds, but the crowd went insane when he ran onto the court.

Lake Station's Nathan O'Malley did not play until the third quarter, but the senior checked in and hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 points in the quarter to get the home crowd rocking.

He'll be talking about this game in 25 years at the Red Rooster.

Both schools should be applauded for the intensity their student-athletes showed in the game, but also for the holiday cheer displayed in many ways.

Lake Station collected food for a local pantry. Both schools had a blood-drive competition that was also won by the Ingots, so Edison administrators had to take a pie in the face at halftime.

"This is what high school basketball in Indiana is all about," River Forest coach Derrick Milenkoff said. "Give credit to (Burke) and his kids, they played their butts off. To have a game like this, right before Christmas, it's a beautiful thing.

"This was like March in December."

Yes, there is a chance these two teams could meet again. Both neighbors reside on the same block in Class 2A Sectional 33.

Wouldn't that be something?

"This rivalry is like our NBA championship," Smith said. "We got a little too excited and rushed it and let them back in the game. There is one thing that we want.

"We want to play them in sectionals. We really do."

It's not too late to put that wish on your letter to Santa.

After what I saw, I'm going to rush a new note to Kris Kringle. I would love to see these two teams go at it one more time next year.

Ho, ho, ho. Let's play one 'mo.

This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at steve.hanlon@nwi.com.

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Sports Reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.