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.