I blog therefore I am.
This thought penetrated by skull on the long drive to LaPorte High School on Saturday afternoon. I had good company, my daughter Gracie, and the two of us were excited to watch the Crown Point Lady Bulldogs take on Hamilton Southeastern in the Class 4A semistate.
Gracie had played against C.P. in the regular season before an injury and she knew we were going to watch my alma mater play for a bus ride to Indianapolis, and yet another state championship appearance.
Echoes of the past, a gym full of people screaming “We are C.P.” just before the nets are cut down, shot through my brain again, just like all those times in the 1980s and ‘90s. The pulse quickened as we walked into the orange-tinted gym.
Saw a lot of old friends. Saw a gym that looked 75 percent full of people in red and white, many with the “We are C.P.” emblazoned on their chests. Then, I saw about 15 students from HSE wearing chef aprons. I thought, wow, this could be a noise mismatch to the 10th degree.
But not once did I hear the age-old chant from the folks from The Hub. Not once.
That’s how good the Royals were. Period.
An early lead kept growing like Jack’s beanstalk. This children’s tale ended in a 61-28 loss. This game wasn’t as close as the score.
“We obviously wanted to get off to a quick start,” said HSE coach Chris Huppenthal, the former Highland coach, and Highland native. “But we knew they hadn’t played the schedule, the people, we played. We just didn’t feel they could match up with us.”
The Lady Bulldogs were 0-for-8 from behind the 3-point line, while the Royals hit five in the first quarter. C.P. shot 20 percent from the field. Crown Point had 0 assists while its foes had 15.
This is why the chefs were dancing and screaming “Why so quiet” throughout the fourth quarter.
On the other side of the gym, the sound of silence and Simon and Garfunkel were absent.
“They hit is in the mouth right off the bat,” Crown Point coach Chris Seibert said. “It wasn’t a good day for us. But like I told the girls after the game, this loss does not take away the season we had. It was remarkable. The kids have come so far. We just have to keep working hard to get better so we can get back here.
“Nothing is guaranteed.”
Freshman Lilly Stoddard had nine points along with senior Ellie VanDeel. Freshman Jessica Carrothers had seven. Two of C.P.’s best players are ninth graders. The junior varsity went 22-1. The ninth-grade team was 16-2. And there is more talent coming from the middle schools.
This was an incredible run by these talented young ladies. The tears will likely be there for awhile. But I hope the athletes and the fans give a standing ovation to these Lady Bulldogs for putting the program back on the map.
John Dillinger can move over now.
“This meant a lot,” Carrothers said. “We got Crown Point’s program back to where it hadn’t been for years. Look at all the people who’ve come back to support us.”
One day young lady you guys will play in a game this big and they will be standing chanting, “We are C.P.”
It’s going to happen!
For Huppenthal, coaching in his seventh semistate, he did not have a Steve Young “Would somebody please get this monkey off my back” moment. He took four Highland teams to semistates before getting pushed out by some stupid politics, which is popular these days. He took Kokomo to one and Saturday was his second semistate with Hamilton Southeastern. He was an 0-fer in wins. He had kissed his sister six times before getting this win.
“In the other six semistates I was in we were never the favorite,” Huppenthal said. “This time we were. And we got it done like I thought we would.”
He had a smile on his face after that statement and I had one, too, as I was leaving Seibert smiled and said, “Hey, I heard you’re blogging now.”
See. It’s getting around. Me? A blogger.
I blog therefore I am.
There are several reasons why high school basketball in Indiana is historic and generational. The biggest, in my humble opinion, is the weather.
Go back 100 years when most Hoosiers worked on farms, and you’ll find folks who spent 10 months or so with their backsides on a horse or a tractor. And when it got cold and snowy or both, they went inside.
On Friday and Saturday nights they went inside the local gymnasium. It was the one place you didn’t need mittens or ear muffs or knee-high boots. Watching teenage kids shoot a ball through a hoop became a pastime.
A wonderful one, too.
This week has been colder than a witches’ ice tray, whiter than an Edgar Winter concert in Anchorage, and as boring as reading the local newspaper of late. It seems like the clock on the wall hasn’t budged in four days.
As of Friday morning not one game in Da Region had been played in the IHSAA girls basketball sectionals, traditionally the most exciting week of the year for the ladies.
We’ve all been "polar vortexed" to the 10 degree, below zero.
This madness has been vexing for the IHSAA, the local administrators, coaches and most importantly, the players.
Joe Huppenthal’s Lake Central Indians won the Class 4A sectional at Crown Point last February and it was a thrill. Police cars made a parade back to the school and the team, coaches and families celebrated at a local grub joint.
But twice when he was the boys basketball coach at South Bend Clay he won sectional titles on a Monday night. The gym was empty, the voices muffled and there was no time to celebrate because getting ready for regionals was immediate.
“It wasn’t very fun,” Huppenthal said of the Monday night net-cutting. “It just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t the same.”
Every local girls basketball sectional but one will crown its champion on Monday due to Mother Nature’s bitter cold breath, Bowman Academy’s finale will be on Tuesday night.
The Arctic winds have kept most of our schools closed this week. So Lake Central’s tough task of repeating at Lowell was to begin on Friday night. Three games will be played tonight -- Morton vs. Munster at 5 p.m., Lowell vs. Crown Point at 6:30 p.m. and L.C. vs. East Chicago Central at 8 p.m.
But the School City of Hammond cancelled school on Friday and did not make a decision on whether Morton would be allowed to play against Munster. District policy says that if school is not in session teams do not play.
If that rule isn’t bent a bit, the Lowell Sectional will not begin until Saturday. Hammond High is also scheduled to play on Friday night at Griffith.
“This is crazy,” Huppenthal said. “You could have two sectionals starting on Saturday night because of this. Saturday night is supposed to be the championship game.”
The IHSAA agreed and when this impending Siberian front was forecast, assistant commissioner Sandra Walter sent a contingency plan to all schools. The semifinals and championship games could’ve both been played on Saturday, forcing two teams to play twice.
I’ve seen Gus Macker tournaments tap the brakes better. The goal is this isn’t to get it over with as soon as possible.
“I’ve had some parents ask why they don’t bump the whole tournament ahead a week,” Huppenthal said. “But they can’t. They’ve got Bankers Life Fieldhouse rented for the state finals. They have to try to get back on schedule. This has just been awful. These games mean so much and we’re all pressed up against the clock.”
So this is where we’re at. Much of Northern Indiana is facing the same plight. Ans this is why basketball got so big in our state. Because the weather super sucks for three or four months every year.
I hope all the fans out there get out of your igloos and support these young ladies in the coming days, They deserve it. They’ve worked their entire lives for moments like this. Let them go out and compete for the hardware in a packed gymnasium.
We can do it. We’re Hoosiers.
The announcement is coming. Soon and very soon. The IHSAA will likely have a press release on Sunday.
Al Gore, our beloved and esteemed former Vice President, will be the official spokesperson for the 2019 IHSAA girls basketball state tournament, which tips off on Tuesday.
What a perfect choice, I say.
After “inventing the internet” and spending eight years in Washington D.C,, Gore made millions preaching about “global warming.” While writing books and cashing checks, he had time flying private jets all around the world to climate conferences, living large in a mansion with a carbon footprint bigger than Bob Lanier and telling the rest of us to warm ourselves huddled around a candle,
For those of you left of winter, I mean center, I hate pollution. I recycle like a mad man. I’m in favor of clean, renewable energy. I hate when I see fat guys in SUVs by themselves. But I also dislike arrogant know-it-alls who melt the ice caps with every word they say.
Global warming. Get it while it’s hot.
I plan on picking the winners for the local girls basketball sectionals that are scheduled for next week. But with a foot of snow forecast along with about 12 minutes of temperatures above zero next week, I hope we can find out who the best of the best is.
So here are your local winners. I will pick the state champs at the end of these words.
Marquette Catholic Sectional: The defending state champion and host Blazers have more Division I players than their first-round opponent, 21st Century, has wins, 2-1. While Morgan Township and Westville have had solid seasons, this one will be over quick. Don’t turn the heat on in the gym too high. Blazers will burn the place down.
Oregon-Davis Sectional: I don’t know. I’ve never been there.
Bowman Academy Sectional: Here’s a clear example as to why the blind draw needs to go. Four teams with winning records -- Andrean (13-10) plays Whiting (14-8) and Bishop Noll (18-5) plays Lake Station (13-6) -- play on Wednesday night, when it’s supposed to be 11-below zero, and then the winners will play each other on Friday.
The other three teams on the other side of the bracket have a combined 10 wins. Talk about a hanging chad.
Noll wins here and Indiana will lose as long as the blind draw continues.
North Judson Sectional: Every team in the field has a winning record. Boone Grove and Hebron have had very good seasons. But they will open against each other. Ice, Ice Baby. North Newton has had a turnaround winter, too. All these teams should be proud.
But this will come down to either the hosts or Winamac. I’ll take the Blue Jays.
Griffith Sectional: Defending champion West Side has the most talent and the best draw. Boy, Rod Fisher must be living right. Well, mmm. Never mind. The Cougars also got a great draw. But be careful with Gavit on Saturday night.
The Gladiators’ Darlisha Reed is as cool as the other side of the ice tray. The kid can flat out play. But I’ll take West Side. In a game closer than many may think.
Hanover Central Sectional: The host Wildcats have had a tough winter with a rash of injuries. And this is not a crutch to lean on. You can’t find one for sale in Cedar Lake right now. But Hanover got the bye and has a shot against the Calumet-Twin Lakes winner. But whoever gets to Saturday night will be the Titanic and Knox will be the iceberg.
Lowell Sectional: There are several good teams with good players in this tourney. Very good coaches, too. But there is only one great team here and that is the Crown Point Bulldogs. So good that legend Tom May might put on the parka to view the Bulldogs cutting down the nets.
C.P. should have little issues dispatching of Lowell, Lake Central and Munster,
Merrillville Sectional: While defending champion Kankakee Valley got the best draw, the Duneland Athletic Conference foes have a score to settle with the Kougars. I think Michigan City will get through the other side of the meat grinder and coach Mike Megyese will chop down the nets.
Hannah Noveroske is the best player here and she will shine while the crowd asks if they can buy a vowel.
The 44th IHSAA state finals will be held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on February 23rd. Your champions will be Marquette in Class A, Triton Central in 2A, Mishawaka Marian in 3A and Crown Point in 4A.
Have fun. Give it all you have ladies. Make memories that will last a lifetime.
And for God’s sake, stay warm.
Broken neighborhoods. Cracked hearts and minds. Separated souls on each side of a tall wall.
Race relations in Northwest Indiana have been a historical nightmare for much of the past century.
Does anyone recall when Lake County was the most segregated county in the United States of America?
This distant but ever present reality was inside the school bus last Jan. 27th as Gavit’s girls basketball team traveled to Lowell for the final regular season game of the season. These emotions had nothing to do with the Red Devils.
Just whispers of things from the past.
“Driving down there we thought it might be a hot mess,” Gavit coach Alana Anderson recalled. “We had never played them before. We had expectations about how the game might go that were based on some things that had happened in the past.”
“A lot of people see us on the floor and just think that we’re ghetto,” Gavit guard Dominique Johnson said. “Because we’re from Hammond they think we’re going to have bad attitudes.”
Do you see how the shadows of the past can dim the future?
But on that night in Lowell, the whistle blew, the ball went up and two teams began competing at a very high level. They were aggressive. The girls competed with reckless abandon.
They did not, however, care one bit about skin color in the game Lowell won 54-39.
In the final minutes, however, Johnson and Lowell’s Sarah Richardson collided going tor a loose ball. Johnson injured her leg and needed to be helped off the floor. Ultimately, the pain would keep her out of postseason play.
Richardson felt awful about it.
“After the handshakes, after the game I wanted to go see if she was okay,” Richardson said. “I went up to her and said, ‘I am sorry for what happened and I hope you’re going to be alright.’ I said a few more encouraging words to her. She was a good player and they had a good team.”
Coach Anderson was waiting outside the Gavit locker room that night waiting for the Gladiators to finish dressing. One by one Lowell fans walked by and collectively said that they were impressed by the way the girls played and they wished that Johnson would be feeling better very soon.
Then, Lowell coach Kelly Chavez walked over to talk to Anderson, a peer she had never met before. Chavez also praised the play of Gavit and hoped the best for Johnson.
“We had two diverse teams from two different worlds and we all showed respect for each other,” Chavez said. “It was wonderful, awesome. It was great to see what happened that night. This is how it should always be.”
Email exchanges between the coaches continued the past year and a friendship was formed. An idea was formulated that will take place on Jan. 26th at Gavit. Celebrating the sportsmanship of Johnson and Richardson, and the rest of the players and fans from both schools, a Sportsmanship Night will take place before, during and after the game to be played at Gavit.
Lowell has made T-shirts for both teams to wear during warm ups. A big sportsmanship banner will be displayed as Johnson and Richardson will be honored for the way they acted during, and after last year’s game.
The IHSAA has been pushing for greater acts of sportsmanship in high school events for several years and I hope Bobby Cox is paying attention to this great event.
Both teams will sit down and eat dinner together in the Gavit cafeteria after the game.
This is how it should be all the time. The coaches and players from these two teams should be very proud about leading us in this togetherness dance.
“It’s really cool that something like this has come out of our game last year,” Richardson said. “They plan on doing this every year. This is something the players from both teams can be proud of. I know I am.”
“The game was pretty sticky and sometimes in games like that you might think, ‘I don’t like her,’” Johnson said. “But afterwards every girl from Lowell came over and said, ‘You okay No. 4?’ They apologized and wished me the best. And now this.
“We can play hard and still be kind to each other. This makes me feel proud.”
Sports have been bringing people together in America for the last 50-plus years.
It’s great that these young ladies are bringing the same thing to the Region. You should all be very, very proud.
Hanover Central football coach Brian Parker was on his knees with his hands over the top. His 6-year-old daughter Cecelia was next to him in the same pose.
Like much of Chicagoland last Sunday, the two were in front of the big screen almost praying. Begging. Pleading. That’s the kind of anti-faith that Bears kicker Cody Parkey brought to the masses in blue and orange.
The clankety clank clank of Parkey in the regular season had white knuckles from East Chicago to Wheatfield.
“We were getting ready to celebrate,” Parker said. “But I knew they had another timeout.” Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson called the TO right before the snap and hold and boot right between the pipes. It didn’t count. And when it did matter, the potential game-winning field goal hit the left upright, dropped down and dinged the cross bar.
Eagles 16, Bears 15.
Parkey hits irons better than Phil Mickelson, to our dismay.
“My daughter knew he had missed some field goals during the regular season,” Parker said of Parkey.
Yes, 6-year-olds knew the 43-yarder was a longshot, too. Parkey, who is guaranteed $9 million dollars in his contract, was 23 of 30 on field goals during the regular season and wasn’t a lock on PATs either.
Parker had a similar situation as an assistant coach at Merrillville in 2015. Before long the Pirates were going for 2 after every touchdown. That’s one side of it. This year at sectionals however, Andrean’s J.J. Wadas kicked a 48-yarder against Hanover.nHad Wadas been at Soldier Field instead of Broadway, the Bears would be playing this weekend.
“When you have a kicker like that, it gives you peace of mind,” Parker said. “I can’t see how you can bring (Parkey) back. At that level you have to try to always improve your roster. I don’t see how you can do it.
“He’s out there on an island. All by himself.”Lake Central football coach Tony Bartolomeo didn’t enjoy his Sunday much either.
“I’m a Bears fan and a Sox fan, I know what suffering is all about,” he said.
Like Parker, Bartolomeo agreed the Bears could have won the game in several other ways. Had they played better on offense, defense and special teams, it never would’ve came down to the wobbly toes of Parkey.
“Being a coach it’s hard being critical of a guy who failed,” Bartolomeo said. “On one point I would be the last guy who would say to get rid of Parkey. But I’m a fan, too, and he’s a professional. Everyone wants to make him the goat, and I don’t mean Greatest of All Time. But he hit the goal post twice. That will go down in Chicago lore.”
Parkey was scheduled to be on the Today Show on Friday, while some Bears fans have started a GoFundMe page to try and buy out the rest of Parkey’s contract. Could any of us get paid this much to be so bad?
“It was so exciting to have and watch a home playoff game and then to have it come down to that, it’s heartbreaking,” Bartolomeo said for all of us.
Every high school coach must develop a plan to help teenagers deal with failure. It happens to all of us. But the sophomore DB at Lake Station isn’t guaranteed a thing.
“The Bears handled it, he handled it, there are a lot of teachable moments for kids,” Bartolomeo said. “Learning how to lose is just as important as learning how to win.”
When asked if Parkey should be back next year, there was a long pregnant pause before Bartolomeo spoke.
Clank. Clank. Clank.
“I feel horrible,” Bartolomeo said. “Just like everybody else.”