Mike Lopresti: March in Indianapolis offered an abundance of stories


Here’s a good thing about the end of March: they don’t have to keep setting up nets at Gainbridge Fieldhouse for winning teams to be eliminated.

It’s been a frenetic month on Pennsylvania Street. For high school or college, try 40 games in 29 days. How many fools out there would be obsessed enough to have seen 38?

At least one. Do you realize how often a guy has to stand during the national anthem to achieve this? All of those games, and none of them were within a point, although three went to overtime. The month reminded me of just how many flavors basketball can be. Chesterton was held to 31 points in one game. Iowa scored 112 in another.

Gainbridge in March meant a lot of confetti was falling on Iowa State. Both men and women have won the Big Ten tournaments. (Thus imbued with momentum, both teams left town and quickly fell in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. But they will always have Indy.)

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

It wasn’t until Gainbridge Fieldhouse last month that you might have seen thousands of visitors in blue Kentucky leaving town on I-65 South, appearing to have taken Novocain. Or witnessed those other images that linger.

The coach of the Lafayette Central Catholic men’s team is having a father’s basketball nightmare…

David Barrett had to stand on the sidelines with no more time and his team wasted three points, watching his son shoot three free throws with a chance to equalise. No margin of error. Not a shine. Clark Barrett’s second attempt was short. In a hallway later, Barrett asked if, at that time, he was more of a father or a coach.

“A dad. It’s hard to see your kid in that situation, even when you’re the coach. I was nervous for him. You hope he gets through this and can get through this and be the hero, but it doesn’t always turn out that way. He’ll be good. He’ll be better for it.

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

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

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

Saint Peter’s coach, Shaheen Holloway, carries his youngest son, Tyler, through the locker room at Gainbridge Fieldhouse after his team’s second round win over Murray State. Holloway calls his eldest son, Xavier, his “associate head coach.” (AP picture)

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

His only problem 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 seeing the fieldhouse and Indianapolis for the first time. “We lost a game this year when he was at the game,” Holloway said. “He’s my associate head coach.”

The kid would also be at the next Saint Peter game. The opponent was Purdue.

The state championship trainer with all the cows…

Adam Lubbehusen was relishing the moments after his daughters Tecumseh won Girls’ Class A, but he also had to return to the family farm.

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

“Every year when we go on holiday we try to surprise our kids with something they don’t know is coming,” Forest Park’s Tony Hasenour explained after his side won the 2A women’s title match. That means one year the whole family dived into the water off Jupiter, Florida, hoping to frolic with sharks. And his sons had even seen “Jaws”.

“But we put them in the water,” he said. “We saw tigers, hammerhead sharks, 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 drop too far and a hammerhead might mistake your toes for shrimp cocktail.

The Three Sisters of the Apocalypse of South Bend Washington…

Mila, Amiyah and Kira Reynolds scored 46 points in the 3A girls’ title game. The entire Silver Creek team scored 35 points. Kira passed Silver Creek on her own, as a rookie. Their father, Steve, coached them and the question for him was what it should be like in this house. “We fight for everything. We fight for the front seat, we fight for dinner. We are an extremely competitive family. It’s from my wife, Marcy. There’s a competitive side to her that I see in my kids.

PS Noblesville won 4A and sensational Ashlynn Shade scored 31 points. The whole Noblesville team is coming back. South Bend Washington moves to 4A with two of the Reynolds sisters still in attendance. It’s the best setup for a sequel since “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Best session of the month…

The NCAA on Thursday night which saw two games in overtime – Saint Peter’s against Kentucky, Murray State against San Francisco – with a total of 30 draws and 31 lead changes. And San Francisco’s Jamaree Bouyea – who might have had Gainbridge’s best performance in March by going all 45 minutes and scoring 36 points – sat after the loss with a towel hiding his face. “This man,” Murray State’s Tevin Brown said, “can do anything.”

The battle of the gangs…

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

Vain thoughts watching national teams play in the Big Ten…

Purdue has alumni coaching both of their basketball teams. Few top conference schools can say that. Katie Gearlds was a Boilermaker star as a player, Matt Painter less so. Wondering who would win at a game of horseback?

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 TV microphone in front of Woodson asking if Jackson-Davis would be able to meet the next day for another game after helping beat Illinois. “Well, he’s 20,” Woodson replied on live television. “(Beep), he should be able to answer.”

Woman IU had the place buzzing. At 25, veteran Hoosier guard Ali Patberg is older than the court she was playing on.

The doctor who ended up coaching…

Ryan Miller of Providence spent nine years becoming a doctor. Then he decided he wanted to become a coach. His team just won the 2A boys title. “Sometimes life takes you down certain paths and sometimes you just need to embrace it,” he said as he returned to his locker room after the awards show. “It’s something that I always take with me every day, these experiences and what I learned from them. I hope it doesn’t show when I coach on the sidelines, but when you’ve been in this, it gives you a 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 Game 4A, trading tales of doom from their exits from the NCAA Tournament. Painter had a sadder story.

On the field, Cathedral finished Chesterton’s 65-31 steamroller, blocking more shots (14) than the Trojans (11). And a team that had somehow gone six years without winning a single sectional game was the clear state champion. Jason Delaney became the first coach in history to win titles at three different schools and said it was a night for his players that no one could ever take away.

Many people have had such moments lately in this place.

Then the Irish cut the last nets and it was time to go home. March at 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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