GARY | The banners above were not just cloth with a deep maroon color. They were a symbol of basketball supremacy, not only in the region but the state of Indiana.
Chesterton boys basketball coach Tom Peller knew what his Trojans were facing on Tuesday night at Times No. 5 Bowman Academy. The Eagles own two state championships since 2010 and have been to Indianapolis three out of the last four years.
“This is a step up,” Peller said before the game. “We have to be ready for their pressure.”
The Trojans survived a 90-86 win in double overtime to remain perfect at 4-0, their first 4-0 start since 2007.
Chesterton led 38-30 at halftime. A big 23-point second quarter helped. A huge part of that was Bowman's aggressive defense, which crossed the line too many times when the whistle blew. And blew again.
The Trojans reached the free throw line 15 times and hit 12 tosses in the first half. Palombizio had 10 first half free throws, making eight and had 19 first-half points.
He finished with 34 points and 15 rebounds.
"I didn't think I played very well," Palombizio said. "They gave us a whoop'n last year. We knew their press would be the best we'll see all year. But I was disappointed in my performance. I missed a lot of shots around the basket I should've made.
"But I did hit my free throws down the stretch so that was good."
Palombizio was 6-for-6 in the second overtime to help the Trojans survive the efforts of Martin Scheile, who scored 11 fourth-quarter points to force the first OT. He scored four and five in the two OTs and finished with a team-high 26 points.
"He played a great game," Peller said of Scheile. "I had my fastest guy on him and he was still hard to contain."
Chesterton hit 11 3-pointers with Palombizio hitting 4, Rhyss Lewis 3, Antwan Beeks 2 plus Niles Dolisa and Jack Mullen each hitting one.
The Trojans play Roosevelt and E.C. Central in the next week. Peller loves competing against the physical, athletic style of these Lake County teams.
“Games like this are great for our kids,” Peller said. “It helps us get ready for our conference. It's a different style and it's good for us to see. It's good for our program.”
But getting out with a win underneath all those banners was big.
"It's intimidating," he said of Bowman's recent runs. "Our kids know what they've done. This is a big win for us against a very good team that's only going to get better."