Mike Lopresti: March in Indianapolis offered bounty of stories

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Sports: Mike LoprestiHere’s one good thing about March ending: They don’t have to keep putting nets up in Gainbridge Fieldhouse for winning teams to cut down.

It has been quite the frantic month on Pennsylvania Street. When it comes to high school or college, try 40 games in 29 days. How many fools out there would be obsessed enough to have seen 38 of them?

At least one. Do you realize how often a guy has to stand for the national anthem to manage that? All those games, and none of them were one-pointers, though three went to overtime. The month reminded me how basketball can come in all flavors. Chesterton was held to 31 points in one game. Iowa scored 112 in another.

Gainbridge this March meant lots of confetti falling on the state of Iowa. Both the men and the women won the Big Ten tournaments. (Thus imbued with momentum, both teams left town and promptly fell in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. But they’ll always have Indy.)

The same building was the Bermuda Triangle for the state of Kentucky. First, mighty Kentucky went down, then Murray State, both at the hands of a fairy tale named Saint Peter’s.

Only in Gainbridge Fieldhouse the past month could you have seen thousands of visitors in Kentucky blue leaving town on I-65 South, looking as if they had taken Novocain. Or witnessed these other images that linger.

The coach of the Lafayette Central Catholic boys team living a father’s basketball nightmare …

David Barrett had to stand on the sideline with no time left and his team down three points, watching his son shoot three free throws with a chance to tie. No margin for error. Not a sliver. Clark Barrett’s second attempt was short. In a hallway later, Barrett talked about whether, at that moment, he was more a father or a coach.

“A father. It’s tough to see your kid out there in that situation even when you are the coach. I was nervous for him. You’re hoping he makes it and can get through it and be the hero, but it doesn’t always happen that way. He’ll be good. He’ll be better for this.”

The NCAA Tournament game where, on one sideline was a coach who makes $266,000 a year and on the other was a coach who makes that much in 12 days …

But salary didn’t save Kentucky’s John Calipari against Saint Peter’s Shaheen Holloway, on the night that one of the greatest Cinderella stories ever was born in Indianapolis.

Two days later, after beating Murray State, walking with his young son down one of the Gainbridge corridors, Holloway tried to put his Indy weekend in perspective.

Saint Peter’s coach Shaheen Holloway carries his younger son, Tyler, into the Gainbridge Fieldhouse locker room after his team’s round 2 win over Murray State. Holloway calls his older son, Xavier, his “associate head coach.” (AP photo)

“We came down here on a mission. We weren’t going to be intimidated,” he said. “I like to recruit guys that have something to prove, that have a chip on their shoulder, that are tough. Because you have to be tough to play for me.”

His only qualm with Indianapolis: It was a team ritual to have milkshakes after big road wins, and they don’t get much bigger than beating Kentucky. “Nothing was open,” he said. “How did the Shake Shack close at 9:30?”

And about the little boy by his side who was getting his first look at the fieldhouse and Indianapolis. ‘We lost one game this year when he was at the game,” Holloway said. “He’s my associate head coach.”

The kid would be at Saint Peter’s next game, too. The opponent was Purdue.

The state championship coach with all the cows …

Adam Lubbehusen was savoring the moments after his Tecumseh girls won the girls Class A, but then he also had to get back to the family farm.

“I’ve got 160 mama cows and it’s calving time right now,” he said. “We had a little problem this morning with a baby calf.” And the one who swims with sharks …

“Every year when we go on vacation, we try to surprise our kids with something they don’t know is coming,” Forest Park’s Tony Hasenour was explaining after his team won the 2A girls title game. That meant one year, the whole family dove in the water off the coast of Jupiter, Florida, hoping to cavort with sharks. And his sons had even seen “Jaws.”

“But we got them in the water,” he said. “We saw tigers, hammerheads, maybe 12 to 15 in all. But no great whites.” The key, he said, was to keep your body horizontal in the water. Let your feet go down too far and a hammerhead might take your toes for shrimp cocktail.

The Three Sisters of the Apocalypse from South Bend Washington …

Mila, Amiyah and Kira Reynolds scored 46 points in the girls 3A title game. The entire Silver Creek team scored 35. Kira outrebounded Silver Creek all by herself, as a freshman. Their father, Steve, coached them and the question to him was what it must be like in that house. “We’re fighting for everything. We’re fighting for the front seat, we’re fighting for dinner. We’re an extremely competitive family. It comes from my wife, Marcy. There’s a competitive streak in her that I see in my children.”

P.S. Noblesville won 4A and sensational Ashlynn Shade scored 31 points. The entire Noblesville team returns. South Bend Washington moves up to 4A with two of the Reynolds sisters still around. It’s the best setup for a sequel since “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Best session of the month …

The NCAA Thursday night that saw two overtime games—Saint Peter’s over Kentucky, Murray State over San Francisco—with a total of 30 ties and 31 lead changes. And San Francisco’s Jamaree Bouyea—who might have had the best Gainbridge performance of March by going all 45 minutes and scoring 36 points—sitting after the loss with a towel hiding his face. “That man,” Murray State’s Tevin Brown said, “can do everything.”

The battle of the bands …

This to see if Tennessee could play “Rocky Top” more times than Michigan could play “The Victors.” Apparently, it was first band to a hundred wins.

Idle thoughts while watching the state teams play in the Big Ten …

Purdue has alums coaching both their basketball teams. Not many major conference schools can say that. Katie Gearlds was a Boilermaker star as a player, Matt Painter less so. Wonder who’d win in a game of h-o-r-s-e?

Mike Woodson will win big in Bloomington if honest quotes mean anything. Trayce Jackson-Davis was having a terrific Big Ten tournament, and someone put a television microphone in front of Woodson to ask if Jackson-Davis would be able to respond the next day for another game after helping beat Illinois. “Well, he’s 20 years old,” Woodson answered on live TV. “(Bleep), he should be able to respond.”

The IU woman had the place buzzing. At 25, Hoosier veteran guard Ali Patberg is older than the fieldhouse she was playing in.

The medical doctor who ended up a coach …

Providence’s Ryan Miller spent nine years becoming an MD. Then he decided he wanted to coach. His team just won the boys 2A title. “Sometimes life takes you down certain paths and sometimes you just need to embrace it,” he said, heading back to his locker room after the awards presentation. “It’s something I still take with me every day, those experiences and what I learned from it. Hopefully, it doesn’t show when I’m actually coaching on the sidelines, but when you’ve been in that area it gives you a little bit of perspective on life. I think about it sometimes, but I don’t regret it.”

Especially last Saturday.

Painter and Tom Izzo in the house recruiting last Saturday night …

They were chatting at halftime of the 4A game, trading tales of woe from their NCAA Tournament exits. Painter had a sadder story.

On the court, Cathedral finished the 65-31 steamroll of Chesterton—blocking more shots (14) than the Trojans made (11). And a team that had somehow gone six years without winning a single sectional game was state champion beyond dispute. Jason Delaney became the first coach in history to win titles at three different schools and mentioned something about this being a night for his players that no one could ever take away.

Lots of people had such moments lately in this place.

Then the Irish cut down the last nets and it was time to go home. March in Gainbridge Fieldhouse was over.•


Lopresti is a lifelong resident of Richmond and a graduate of Ball State University. He was a columnist for USA Today and Gannett newspapers for 31 years.

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