It’s snowing as my fingers dance atop the keyboard. Yep, snow in April. This has got to be the 2-1-9.
My entire column’s point of view gets crushed by a simple wind shift.
The plan was to talk about how this spring has been pretty good. Not a ton of moisture and a higher percentage of sunshine, which has shown a light on the Region’s softball diamonds.
There have been more than a few surprises this spring. Let’s start in St. John, where the state finalist Lake Central Indians were expected to be in full time rebuilding mode after losing seven senior starters off last year’s squad.
Might want to check that.
L.C. is on a 16-game winning streak as the snow falls, heading into Tuesday’s game against Crown Point. Some things never change. C.P.-L.C. softball, one of the Region’s best rivalries of all.
“We knew we had some positions to fill coming in, but our kids always knew we could play with anybody,” L.C. coach Jeff Sherman said. “Our kids took notice when the preseason stuff came out and they felt like they didn’t get the love they felt they deserved. The win streak has changed our focus. We have to focus and work harder every day to keep it going.”
Freshman Sydney Doloszycki has been a beast at shortstop, making hard plays look easy and hitting with a purpose. Leadoff hitter Alexis Johnson and No. 3 hitter Olivia Peterson have also been hitting it hard and getting on base.
“When the season started we weren’t sure how our offense would be,” Sherman said. “But we’ve been on a tear the last 16 games.”
Last year Alexa Pinarski owned the circle and rarely left. She was outstanding. This season a three-pitcher rotation is being utilized. Peyton Pepkowski, Jenna Towle and Amanda Aardema. The trio has been fantastic, even being used in the same game at times.
“We haven’t had this kind of depth in a long time,” Sherman added. “It’s been a fun year so far.”
On Tuesday in Crown Point the two powers will face off for the second time this season, L.C. winning the first one 6-2.
The preseason darlings of softball were the Crown Point Bulldogs. With two sophomore pitchers already committed to play Division I ball -- Madi Elish (Arizona) and Madi Young (Bowling Green) -- it’s easy to put the crown on the head in March.
But Pete Iussig’s team lost three games in a row early and the old county courthouse lost some chips of paint.
“We lost some tough games early but we’ve won 12 straight,” Iussig said. “The girls are starting to get it going. We just have to keep doing that.”
Beth Thornburg has a very strong team at Munster. Again and again. Always under the radar the Mustangs will be dangerous when sectionals come around. Chesterton, also in Class 4A, has played great softball so far. It would be great to read about these teams and see photographs of these talented student athletes.
But I’ve been told nothing of this sort is taking place this spring. It’s a shame. Thousands of fans and hundreds of players being ignored. Every day.
This is what happens when you hire Eddie Arcaro to play power forward for the Bulls.
Ladies, keep playing the game you love. The fans will keep coming, just like they’ve done for decades. How you’re being treated by some is repulsive. But your talent and passion will not be ignored by those you matter most.
It’s been a few weeks, folks. I’ve been on sort of a Spring Break. One without any tan lines.
But it’s time to get my fingers dancing again. Maestro play the tune please.
We are just a few minutes or days before the sun warms up and all of Da Region gets to thaw out. Put all of our parkas away for awhile and bask in the heat that makes so many of us smile. For me, I can’t wait.
The crack of the bats on diamonds all around Northwest Indiana, and of course, at Wrigley Field is just awesome. But before we all begin to sweat I would like to take the next few moments and look back at the winter of 2018-19. To gaze a bit inside the gyms of our local high schools.
Player of the Year: Valparaiso’s Brandon Newman is the best player in the 2-1-9. He is a finalist for Indiana’s Mr. Basketball award. The 6-foot-5 wing led the Vikings to 21 wins and the Class 4A sectional championship game. He averaged 27.2 points and 8.8 rebounds a game. Complete stud in green, he was.
I’m not the only one with the same conviction. Purdue’s Matt Painter will be coaching Newman for the next four years. Yes, the same coach who led his Boilermakers into the Elite 8 in March losing a heart-breaker in overtime to eventual national champion Virginia.
Most years Newman would be a lock in getting my Player of the Year vote. But this is not most years.
I’m going to drive down Broadway with my trophy and hand the honor to Andrean’s John Carrothers. The 6-foot-3 “do everything” player carried his 59ers to the Class 2A state championship. His numbers -- 13.9 points, 3.1 assists, 4.2 rebounds -- aren’t dazzling or jaw-dropping. It takes a few minutes of watching him work before you realize how good his game is.
In the 59-54 win against Linton-Stockton inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse Carrothers scored 16 points and grabbed four boards before cutting down the nets.
If I was a college coach Newman would be my first pick. But I’m not. I’m looking for the high school player who did the most to help his team win which is why John Carrothers is my Player of the Year.
Have a great summer kid.
Near misses: Here is a list of Region players who were remarkable as well. Chesterton’s Jake Wadding was and is remarkable for the sectional champion Trojans. Andrean’s Kyle Ross won a state title as a sophomore and will be fun to watch the next two winters. Probably the ‘Niners best player. Munster’s Jevon Morris had a great run for coach Mike Hackett. He helped lead the Mustangs to a sectional title, something that had been missing in recent springs.
I’ll finish my best of the best list with Lake Station’s Dominique Smith. I remember watching this pint-sized freshman at the Highland Holiday Tournament four years ago and was amazed. His game got better every year after. He averaged 21.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists for the 17-win Eagles. Well done, sir.
A great group of young men who have a lot of basketball yet to be played.
Coach of the Year: This one is pretty easy. If you lead your team to a state championship then you get this honor. Period. Congratulations to Andrean’s Brad Stangel for assembling this team and finally getting over the hump.
Near misses: Here is my list of coaches who did a great job this season even if they did not make it to Indy. Hanover Central’s Bryon Clouse, Hammond’s Larry Moore Jr., Chesterton’s Marc Urban, Munster’s Mike Hackett and Lake Station’s Bob Burke.
Well done, gents.
A fond farewell: Two great coaches chose to step away from the game at the end of this season -- Michigan City’s John Boyd and Merrillville’s T.J. Lux. Boyd led Gary West Side to the 2002 state title. He attempted to get City into the upper tier but it never did happen. Lux was a true gentleman of the game, a great guy, who truly cared about his kids, on and off the court.
I wish the two of you the best as you walk into the next chapter of your life.
Part of me wants to keep writing about what was a great season this winter. But the sun is shining and the buzzer on our dryer just went off. My Speedos are ready to be worn. Can’t wait for summer.
But I’m putting my parka in the trunk just in case.
MERRILLVILLE -- The run of the 2018 Andrean boys basketball team has been an exciting thrill and a whole lot of fun. But that is not all.
Advancing to the Class 2A state championship game on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse has been damn near remarkable.
In almost all six of the ‘Niners postseason wins they could’ve lost. And in a couple cases maybe should’ve.
“What a wild ride it’s been,” Andrean coach Brad Stangel said.
In the sectional opener against Bishop Noll, Andrean trailed by eight at halftime, but went on to win 54-51. A six-point win against a very good Lake Station team, playing on its home court, in the semifinal set up a final against Bowman Academy.
These state finalist were down 10 with 4:21 left in the game but lived up to the T-shirts and bumper stickers that said, “Tradition Never Graduates.”
This mantra got this team the 70-64 win and a chance to climb up the ladder of history.
“The kids just found a way to win,” Stangel said. “It seems to be a part of their DNA.”
The regional semifinal was another instant classic, a 71-70 win over Marquette Catholic. Intense. Insane. Inside the heart you could hear the thumping passion of this group.
“We did not want this to end,” Matt Lelito said.
A 60-49 win over Westview was the only “breather” this team has seen in March. But for anyone who has seen Westview there were some tired lungs and legs after that glorious Saturday night.
That set up last Saturday’s semistate against Frankton, another outstanding team and program from outside of the Region. I’ve seen Frankton play on the big stage several times and I’ve been impressed every second on the clock. Andrean won 73-64 in double overtime. For those who took in the game that is where the moniker Hoosier Hysteria began, in games just like that.
Andrean senior John Carrothers may not be the best hoopster in the 2-1-9, but he is surely making a strong case for Player of the Year as he showed in from of a packed house at Lafayette Jeff’s gym.
He scored 20 points and almost willed his deep and talented team to the victory, which sets up Saturday’s game for all the marbles against Linton-Stockton, scheduled to tipoff at 11:45 a.m.
So in six playoff wins Andrean has won by a total of 36 total points. Expect another white knuckler in Indy.
I’ve watched this group and program grow over the last three seasons. I actually covered Stangel’s first three games when he arrived at the double 59s in 2016. Some might say dropping to 2A made the trip down I-65 a little easier. But when you look at the teams Andrean has had to beat to advance, I would say no.
The Lake Station Sectional this season was filled with talented players and teams. There were and will not be any walkthroughs playing in that field.
Stangel’s team went 5-2 in the regular season against teams that went on to win a sectional.
The 59ers are deep, talented, skilled and play the game the right way. Much of this credit should go to Stangel and his staff, along with great families supporting the young men.
“I believe in these guys,” Stangel said. “It has been a lot of fun.”
Shane Power was wearing the threads the last time Andrean played in a state final, 19 years ago. Dan Dakich was sporting the same colors the team before that, when the 59ers lost a heartbreaker in the 1980 one-point loss to New Albany.
I believe this year’s team will make history.
Many of the seniors have looked at the wall inside their gym and noticed there is no state championship banner hanging. This group will get it done.
Linton-Stockton is a great southern Indiana program. But they will lose this one. By a point.
Specialization in youth sports has robbed a lot of student athletes of countless memories and left their scrapbooks at last half empty.
We all know how it goes.
A youngster shows some talent early. A club or AAU coach starts talking about how “Junior” will go to Duke or UCLA if the family listens to him. Several years later after many checks have been cashed, reality occurs.
“Junior” gets a walk-on opportunity at Septic Tank Community College and the club coach won’t return phone calls. "Junior" missed out on several opportunities to play other sports in high school with his friends, and the club coach buys a new car.
Andrean senior Matt Lelito didn’t focus on one sport at 5959 Broadway. Although on paper you would think he would. The 59er's have one of Indiana’s best baseball programs so most all of the players put all their time into stickball.
That allowed to ‘Niners to win last year’s Class 3A state championship. But on Saturday, Lelito and his teammates will run onto the floor at Lafayette Jefferson High School to play Frankton in the Class 2A semistate. Just 32 minutes from playing for hardware at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“I’ve been playing basketball since seventh grade,” said Lelito, who is from St. John. “I loved it. I couldn’t give it up. I had to do both.”
Andrean hoops coach Brad Stangel is very happy the 6-foot-5 post did just that. While Lelito doesn’t get a lot of headlines in his role as a defensive stopper who scores here and there, he is a very important part of this talented roster. It takes a village in red and gold.
“Matt’s had the same role for us the last three years,” Stangel said. “We didn’t have many big guys his sophomore year so we threw him to the wolves. He’s athletic and strong. He always guards the other team’s best post and he’s had some really big games for us.”
Andrean’s gymnasium is one of the Region’s best gyms. A classic. Lelito and his mates have noticed that all the banners hanging in the crackerbox have state numbers underneath. Except for hoops.
In 1980 and 2000 the 59ers have made it to state in boys hoops, but have yet to chop down the nylon in Indy. They are now just 32 minutes away from having another shot at it.
“We talk about it all the time,” Lelito said. “We want to put a number up there.”
Lelito will play baseball at Kankakee Community College next year. He plans to use that experience to draw attention from a bigger school, where he will study Kinesiology.
This team has trailed in the fourth quarter of every postseason game but one. Almost all of their games have been down to the wire white-knucklers. But Stangel has seen a group of young men who will not quit.
“They don’t want this to end,” Stangel said.
“We do not want our season to end,” Lelito added.
I hope more youngsters and their families learn from Lelito. Play all the sports you can for as long as you can. Youth sprints quick. Enjoy as many experiences as you can. You never know what might happen.
“I don’t get nervous in any games,” Lelito said. “I’ve been in these positions many times. I’ve played in semistates and state in baseball. I’ve played in tough sectionals and regionals in basketball. I feel like we trust each other and we know what we can do.”
Now, that’s special.
Our days are filled with uncertainty. Often.
We know the sun will rise in the east and set out west at night. But there is no way for sure to know what will transpire in between.
Great joy in facing a historic opportunity, or insufferable pain emanating from pure evil.
These were the two emotions dribbling in the minds of the Hanover Central Wildcats last Saturday night. The boys basketball team boarded the yellow bus to travel to Calumet for the Class 3A sectional championship game against the host Warriors.
Hanover had only one sectional title in school history in 1986. That’s a long, long while.
But there was also some overpowering fear in the ‘Cats’ souls. Two of their friends and former school mates -- Thomas Grill Jr. and Molley Lanham -- had been missing for several days. A social media push was seeking answers. The Wildcats took the floor last weekend with hope of making history and a daunting fear of the dark unknown.
“I was thinking of them, we all were,” Hanover senior Luke Barach said. “We didn’t know. They were in my prayers.”
The Wildcats went out and “upset” Calumet 50-42. Climbing up that dusty, cob-webbed ladder meant the world to these kids. A huge crowd from the community was there to support them. It had been 33 years since the last nets had been chopped.
“It felt so great to finally win it,” junior Dominic Lucido said.
But on Monday the hard news let the Region know that Grill Jr. and Lanham had been killed. Valparaiso’s Connor Kerner has been charged in this crime.
When will this unspeakable horror end?
When will we start treating each other with an eternal respect?
Who will save us from ourselves?
Lucido was friends with Grill Jr.’s brother and spent many days at the family’s home in middle school. Barach played Jr. Wildcats’ basketball and Grill’s father was his coach. This wasn’t some random case of violence seen on the TV while surfing with the remote.
This awful instance hit home. And it was a direct hit.
“They are in my prayers,” Barach said. “It’s so sad. I will keep them in my head, my heart. In my mind I have to believe they’re in a better place.”
Where would we all be without such a hope to cling to?
These heavy hearts will travel to South Bend Washington on Saturday morning for a regional semifinal against Culver Academy, likely the top team in 3A in the state. These Wildcats are riding a wave of good feelings from the historical success they’ve had.
Coach Bryon Clouse has a lot of young talent growing playoff whiskers right now. He said the addition of 6-foot-6 freshman Landen Babusiak and 6-foot-3 junior T.J. Burt at midseason gave a talented group a spark and more depth.
The players at Monday’s practice joked that winning the sectional crown will finally get Clouse to stop talking about the ‘86 team.
“Climbing up the ladder was awesome,” Clouse said. “Turning around and seeing the kids (players), their families, the students, the people from our community really meant a lot. It was special.
“No one expected us to win sectionals and no one expects us to beat Culver. So we’re going to play loose and have some fun.”
Hanover hit 16 3-pointers in one game this winter and 15 in another. The ‘Cats know how to hang some nets. This is a great stone to have in your back when you’re facing Goliath in March.
I hope all who read this will remember the two families from the Hanover community in prayer, who are grieving right now, living in days where basketball scores mean nothing.
Here’s to hoping the boys in light blue can lift up their neighbors by the way they play, and the way they remember their lost friends.
“They will be in my mind when we play on Saturday,” Barach said. “They will be in my prayers.”
HAMMOND -- The wings were tasty and the sides were delicious back on Feb. 17 in Hammond. The Wildcats of Hammond High were feasting on plates and with brotherhood that Sunday afternoon.When the IHSAA’s ping pong balls revealed Hammond against Griffith at the Hammond Civic Center this past Tuesday night. The two programs will forever be joined at the hip because of what happened on Feb. 7, 2015.
A fight during a game. Ugly. A suspension from tournament play coming from Indianapolis. Not being invited to the Sportsmanship Dinner. A court fight that got both teams back into Hoosier Hysteria, which culminated with the Panthers reaching the Class 3A state championship game.
Thankfully, Tuesday night’s clash was just a basketball game, won by Hammond 76-69.The ‘Cats were 8-of-12 from beyond the arc. Jamar Styles hung the bomb three times and finished with 17 points. Ronald Harris scored 14 and Reggie Abram added 12.So much for the defending sectional champs who lost nine seniors to graduation proving the experts, like me, wrong.
“We played a good schedule,” Abram said. “It prepared us for the Griffith game.”
“I knew we were going to beat them,” Amiri Young said. “I just knew we would.”
Because of a later altercation between Hammond and Griffith during a freshmen boys basketball game in December of 2017 the two schools stopped playing each other during the regular season in all sports.Sectional play, however, is another story.
“None of our kids were here when (the fight) happened,” Hammond coach Larry Moore Jr. said. “We moved on. We don’t even talk about it. We knew Griffith had a good team and our guys were ready for it.
Back in ‘15 I got so tired of typing “the Griffith-Hammond fight” that my fingers fell asleep. It was a very important story. It is so refreshing that both communities have moved on. That’s what sportsmanship does. All who had a hand in this transformation should be applauded. Tuesday night was a great game and nothing more. That’s why people buy tickets. Not the other junk.
Friday night Hammond (15-7) plays one-win Clark in the semifinal, while West Side (15-7) plays Lighthouse (8-10) in the other one. Lighthouse and West Side have both beaten Hammond this season. The Lions also beat West Side. This weekend should be fantastic in the Region’s best high school gym.
“We want to make history,” Young said. “We haven’t won back-to-back sectionals in 20 years. We want to repeat.”
“We don’t want to lose,” Abram added.
Moore Jr. only has two seniors on this squad. The eighth grade team at Eggers Middle School is really good. Climbing up the ladder on Saturday night with the purple scissors in hand could mark a long run of postseason success for Hammond. It won’t be easy, but the lights on Calumet Avenue are burning brighter. It’s going to be fun to see what happens before the cock crows on Sunday morning.
There’s a young lady I teach at Eggers Middle School. Her name is not the most important thing right now.
It’s what she chose to do that I hope you all think on right now. It’s extremely important. A life-changer. A game-changer. She is in one of my afternoon writing classes. Her attitude about learning is at the top, a tireless worker trying to better herself every day. She follows the rules inside the classroom without complaining or coming up with pointless excuses.
Which is what kind of shocked me several weeks ago when I spoke to her the day after the Knights first girls basketball games. She didn’t play a second in the opener. She was frustrated. A little angry. Questioning why she was doing what she did.
“I think I’m going to quit,” she told me. “I didn’t get to play.”
In my former career I had close contact with some of the greatest coaches in Region history. Hobart’s Don Howell. Gary Roosevelt’s Ron Heflin. Andrean’s Dave Pishkur. Lowell’s and Crown Point’s Pete Iussig. These are but a few of the greats I had the honor of working with over the years. They, I’m sure, had to deal with student-athletes trying to understand why they were not playing very much and/or what they need to do to get back on the floor, the gridiron or the diamonds. Interacting when them for so many years helped me say a few words to this student.
“Work hard every day. Show what you can do in practice,” I told her. “Eventually, the coaching staff will see your worth and give you an opportunity. Don’t quit. Please. That is never the answer.”
I have two daughters who are athletes. One a softballer and part-time hoopster. The other plays soccer, basketball and throws in the spring. More than once through the years, they spent time on the bench more than they wanted. It isn’t very much fun, I know. I told them in those tears-in-the-eyes chats the same thing I told my student.
“Work hard every day, show what you can do in practice,. Eventually, the coaching staff will see your worth and give you an opportunity. Don’t quit. Please. That is never the answer.”
Such wisdom always works out. It may happen in different degrees, but giving it all you have helps you win in alternative ways. The biggest thing is teaching yourself to never quit no matter how difficult the situation may be.
Last Friday, I went to the Hammond City Championships for girls basketball. The young lady I opened this blog talking about played terrific. She hit a three, a nice turnaround jumper in the lane, and ended up being Eggers’ leading scorer in the game. Well done, young lady. Very well done.
Gavit won the 6th and 7th grade championships over Eggers in very tight contests, while Eggers’ 8th grade team ran away with the title in a blowout. There was a lot of talent in all three games. The best part about middle school hoops is there is still time for everyone to put the work in to get better and see where your efforts will take you.
I hope my student feels the victory of how her season went, from sitting on the sad bench to playing big-time in the most crucial contest of the game. I think she did. When I gave her a congratulatory high-five on Monday for playing so well, her smile could’ve lit up all of Hammond for an hour or two.
I hope this small story lifts your heart and helps you in your games or your childrens' games. In this age where everyone gets a trophy, which isn’t true in real life, sitting or losing often does teach much. Especially when dad starts another team down the block where you never come off the court.
This Daddy Ball can of worms has hurt a lot of student athletes over the last 15 or so years. Take a lesson from my student. Work hard. Every day. Especially in practice and the classroom. Get better. And see where this will take you.
The south side of Hammond will have a new face on the sidelines on Friday night as Gavit picked its new football coach. But it is a name quite familiar in the Gladiators’ program.
Dave Silvas was recently named as the Glads’ new football coach. Silvas, a 1997 Gavit grad, has been running the school’s middle school program the last four years.
“I love football and I love the kids at Gavit,” Silvas said. “I had a job in the mill making good money, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I want to make an impact in kids’ lives and I think football is a great way to teach kids about life.”
While playing for coach Bill Melby, Silvas was a member of a Gavit team that had a huge win against the Paul Strabavy-led Whiting teams back in 1996. Such wins were not easy against a program like Whiting for the linebacker and offensive guard.
“Those were great times,” Silvas said. “I want to bring something like that back to my alma mater.”
Silvas replaces Robert Robinson as the Gladiators coach. Robinson was 29-51 in nine years at Gavit. He said the school wanted to go in a different direction.
“I saw a lot of kids who played in middle school stop playing by the time they got to the high school,” Silvas said. “I want to do everything I can to keep the middle school kids playing now. I’m going to meet with the kids in a week and that’s something I want to talk to them about.”
Silvas is still putting together his staff and it will take some time before he knows what kind of athletes he will have in his locker room. So he is not ready to divulge what systems he plans on using on both sides of the line. Yet.But the philosophy is simple.
“We want to score more points than the other team,” Silvas said with a smile.
With a new Hammond High School being built there has been a lot of talk and whispers about whether Hammond High and Gavit might consolidate into one mega city school, with brand new athletic facilities.Silvas has heard the words and he knows he has three years to show what he can do at Gavit.
“I can’t worry about that,” he said. “I want what is best for the city of Hammond and the kids of Hammond.”
Let’s be honest. All of us, everyone, picks their/our noses. It’s not a big deal. Unless, of course, if it is seen by another human. The worst such scenario happens in a car when I didn’t see a filled station wagon laughing hysterically.
Today I plan on doing a public picking for all to see. I will let you know who is going to win the local boys basketball sectionals, which begin on Tuesday.
Another round of Hoosier Hysteria, Region style.
My picks are locks. And when they all come true I’m going to go and get a big cheese-booger to celebrate. You are all welcome to watch.
This is the 109th IHSAA boys basketball state tournament. Sectional finals are March 2. The regional nets will be cut on March 9. Semistates are the 16th and the state finals will be March 23 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
And here are your local winners, folks.
Morgan Twp. Sectional: Three-time defending sectional champion 21st Century got invited to the Porter County Conference tournament. And the Cougars got a tough draw. They will have to beat host Morgan (13-7), then likely Washington Twp. (15-6) and Kouts (19-3) in the final. 21 beat Kouts by 8 on Feb.8.
If anyone is going to get the Cougars this is the year. It will not be easy. But I think Rodney Williams team will find a way to survive.
West Central Sectional: Not sure if you can tune into WJOB in DeMotte, but Covenant Christian will win the young school’s second straight sectional title. The guard play is too good for CC.
Triton Sectional: South Central has three wins for the season. Argos will cut down the nets.
Lake Station Sectional: This is the Region’s most competitive sectional. Period. End of sentence. Andrean (14-8) opens against Bishop Noll (12-9) on Tuesday. Bowman Academy (10-11) battles River Forest (9-12) in the first game on Wednesday and Whiting (11-11) plays Roosevelt (3-14) in the second. Lake Station (17-6) will play the winner of the first game between the two Catholic schools.
There should be some college scouts in the gym since there are so many top-shelf individuals lacing them up here. I’m going to go with the 59ers because sophomore Kyle Ross is a matchup nightmare and I do not know if he can be checked.
Winamac Sectional: Marquette Catholic will have trouble with the hosts in the Blazers first game, but Colin Kenney’s shooting range and the rest of his mates will be enough to get by and take out the Saturday night scissors.
Hammond Sectional: The best venue for any local sectional is here, the Hammond Civic Center. Wish Russ McLeod could be there for the first one, Griffith (18-4) vs. Hammond (14-6). The two powers did not play in the regular season. West Side (14-7) won’t get tested until Friday night.
I’m going to pick Griffith by a hair. I think the Panthers’ defense and the play of Tim Lawson and Corey Landers will be the difference.
Calumet Sectional: The defending champs get to play at home in the fieldhouse of the sectional I went to as a kid. I think it’s going to be an all 2-1-9 final, Calumet vs. Hanover Central. Warriors’ junior guard Davion Davis is the best player in the field. If he gets hot no one will be able to hang. I think he will as Carl Traicoff smiles down from above.
Crown Point Sectional: Throw a dart at the wall in this one, full of great programs and players. East Chicago Central got the best draw needing to get past Highland and Lowell to get to Saturday night. While Munster, Lake Central and Crown Point fight it out on the other side. Last time the Bulldogs hosted a sectional a kid named Sasha hit a halfcourt shot at the buzzer to help get the win.
Sasha ain’t there anymore. I’ll take Munster by two over E.C. in the finale.
Portage Sectional: Valparaiso’s Vikings and standout Brandon Newman have won 18 games and have not lost to anyone in the field. Barak Coolman will be dressed to the nines and Valpo will win it all. But it will not be easy. At all.
I only missed one local sectional pick for the girls, thanks to Doug Nelson’s Kankakee Valley Kougars. A last-second shot or I would’ve been perfect. I feel my percentage at the line of going up. My head tells me all these picks are stone-cold locks.
If not, I’m sure some folks in a station wagon will be laughing at me next Sunday morning when I’m picking something else.
We ALL get wet from time to time. Like in the 7th grade at Taft Middle School when I had a crush on a gal many moons ago and I mustered up enough courage to ask her to go to the Crown Theater to watch a flick.
The 30 seconds of silence was only broken by the noise of some spiritual crickets chirping.
And her voice eventually screaming, “Are you kidding me?”
That was a long time ago. I got over the painful slight. Last Thursday I think it was.
We all fail.
Librarians. Pro basketball players. Aunt Bee. Preachers. Jussie Smollett. Journalists. Clueless journalists. Owners of MLB teams. The folks who sweep up the trash at the end of million-dollar games. The cabbie, teacher, iron worker, mothers, crossing guards, fathers, circus clowns, politicians, politicians and politicians.
All of us.
So what do you do if you miss the game-tying free throw with .2 seconds left on the clock? Give up a bomb in the 9th inning? Say something to someone you shouldn’t have? Or ask a girl out who is in another league?
Well, we can never stop believing in ourselves. Get up the next day to work as hard as possible to improve. Drink more orange juice. Make the adjustments needed to get better at our crafts. Never ever lose faith in what wonderful thing can happen each day.
The sun will come up tomorrow, bet your bottom …
I saw a wonderful thing on Saturday at LaPorte High School. The Crown Point Lady Bulldogs were playing Hamilton Southeastern in the Class 4A girls basketball semistate. The high-flying Royals played exceptionally, while C.P. had a dud.
As the clock was slipping to zeroes in the fourth quarter, Crown Point senior Paige Sanborn was taken out of the game that ended up at 61-28. Bulldogs’ coach Chris Seibert wanted to allow the players soon to graduate to get one last round of applause.
Isn’t that a great thing? A pat on the back no matter what the scoreboard says.
Tears were streaming down Sanborn’s cheeks, like the faces on most the other Bulldogs. They had worked so hard. Spent much of the last four months together. Every day. Almost every minute. And it was ending with a crushing thud.
Sorrow. Sadness. Understandable.
Sanborn walked to the bench and hugged every coach. The same thing happened with every teammate. I’ve seen this scene occur hundreds of times through the years. It is always emotional.
That is the way to go out, folks.
Remembering all the joys and the friendships you’ve made. The sleepovers and treats. The laughter, the tears, and always thinking of the smiles. Those things can not me taken away.
Every athlete’s career comes to an end. Michael Jordan, the GOAT, isn’t hooping it up like he once did. The clock on the wall slows us all.
For those who still have games, get up and work to get better. It will come. For those who are done, remember what this is all about. The relationships you made with peers and coaches, some of the greatest educators around.
We all trip and fall down. We all get the game-winning hit and hear the screams of adulation and get the hugs from mates. Both make our lives what they are -- absolutely wonderful.
Enjoy the ups and downs with a smile and fierce determination to get better and, please, drink more buttermilk.