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.