Back in the winter of 1996, Chris Huppenthal walked up and down the hallways of the old Crown Point High School. The one that smelled of flooding water, ancient wood and a former student named Steve Hanlon, also known as “Beef Boat” in his salad days.
Huppenthal’s arms were up and his fingers were pointing to photos and banners on the wall and hardware behind plexiglass.
Coach “Hup” was in his first season as head girls basketball coach at Highland. He pointed to the Lady Bulldogs’ state runner-up trophy in 1983, state championships in 1984 and ‘85 and a return trip to the state final in 1997 under legendary coach Tom May.
“I wanted our girls to see where we wanted to get to,” Huppenthal said on Tuesday. “We went out there that night and they (Crown Point) just killed us.”
Huppenthal replaced Anne Equihua at Highland and everyone in Crown Point knows that lady, who led C.P. to three state championship games in the 1980s when Annie was her first name and Kvachkoff was her last name.
It seems like deja vu all over again, folks.
On Saturday at LaPorte High School Chris Huppenthal’s Hamilton Southeastern Royals will play Crown Point in the Class 4A Northern Semistate. The tipoff is at 3 p.m. and the winner will play in next Saturday’s state final at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
This is Huppenthal’s seventh semistate game. He took Highland to four, Kokomo to one and HSE to two.
Crown Point has not played in a semistate since ‘97.
“It’s an opportunity to play in the state finals,” Huppenthal said. “If our kids or if they’re kids can’t be excited about that, they should be doing something else.”
Huppenthal graduated from Highland in 1994. In those days kids didn’t have I-phones, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter or the brain-dead stare that is so prevalent these days.The relationships back then were face to face, real. And going to high school games filled his life, along with brother Joe, who is the girls basketball coach at Lake Central.
“High school events were a big deal back then, everyone rallied around their sports teams. I expect Crown Point to have a huge crowd on Saturday. We’re travelling the furthest and I don’t know how fair that is.”
But he then said he would go wherever he had to in order to play in a game like this.
The Royals have three Division I players. Amaya Hamilton is a 6-foot-2 senior who is headed to Duquesne University. Tayah Irvin is a 6-foot-2 senior heading to Northern Kentucky. And Sydney Parrish is a 6-foot-2 junior who has multiple D-I offers who has not yet made her decision.
Huppenthal’s team is 25-1, while C.P. coach Chris Seibert’s team is 28-0. The Bulldogs are extremely young, including standout freshmen Lilly Stoddard and Jessica Carrothers, who keeping with the theme of this piece, lived in Highland before moving to the county seat.
Hamilton Southeastern starts three players 6-foot or taller. Crown Point has four 6-footers on the roster.
This game should be an instant classic, and one that has a lot of Region flare.
“This is my 13th year down here and a lot of people asked me about the crime when they found out where I was from,” Huppenthal said. “They think it’s a rough place. (The Region) plays by their own rules, people do whatever they want.
“I tell them all it isn’t like that. It was a great place to grow up.”
Huppenthal misses the pizza and beverages at Traditions Pub in his old home town. He has a lot of friends up here who will likely be in LaPorte on Saturday. Expect a packed house. This one is going to be fun.
“I don’t know if it’s the same,” Huppenthal said. “They have a new school. I haven’t been there for 15 years. It’s nice that Scott Reid is back on the bench for them. I’ve known Scott a long time.
“But I don’t really think it’s deja vu.”
I do. A little bit.