The Michigan City-Marquette Catholic boys basketball series is back on again at long last, and while we missed out on what would have been some high-quality games between the cross-town schools in a decade’s time, you’ll have to bring a compelling argument to convince me this isn’t a good fire to rekindle.
Attendance is down at high school athletics here and most everywhere, and there’s nothing like a backyard battle to stir the pot and get rear ends in seats. This doesn’t have the vitriol of a Michigan City and La Porte, but at least in this sport, it’s in the team photo.
“It’s one of those games where if it’s here or if it’s at Marquette, people are going to be there,” City coach Tom Wells said. “And that’s a neat thing.”
Marquette’s been the headline grabber in town in recent years. It’s only had one losing season in the last eight winters, a span that includes six straight sectional titles, either in Class A or 2A, plus two trips to the state finals in Class A, one of which netted a state championship. While City, a 4A school, has been generally decent in that span, producing several Division I players, it hasn’t advanced in the post-season in the consolidation era. Blazers coaches former (Donovan Garletts) and present (Fred Mooney) have poked the needle at the “drought on the lake” phrase, referencing City’s empty boys basketball trophy case.
The fact that the schools haven’t met on the court has denied the Wolves a chance at any kind of bragging rights. Ex-City coach John Boyd, already struggling in efforts to break through in the Duneland Conference and the sectional, didn’t need the added burden of losing to a Class A school, albeit a really good one, on top of that.
Wells knows it’s still largely a no-win situation for his side. If City wins, it’s, well, you should beat a small school, If it loses, it’s, well, you know. That’s OK with him. He’s taken over a young program and has the bigger picture in mind. If a kid’s going to pick a school based on the result of one game, there’s nothing he can do about it. He has enough other issues to occupy his mind.
“I’m not going to junior high games, recruiting seventh graders,” Wells said.
Marquette filled one of several voids on the City schedule and playing the Wolves probably saves a tank of gas or two for the conference-less Blazers, who have done plenty of traveling the last few years since being squeezed out of the Greater South Shore.
The teams have played sporadically since the Elston-Rogers merger, first meeting in 1996 in the sectional during the single-class tournament era. They met for the first time on Nov. 24, 1999, and for the subsequent three years, the game served as the season opener. After that, they didn’t play again until 2008 and haven’t matched up since Nov. 25, 2009. In case you were wondering, the Wolves are 7-0 all-time against the Blazers.
Wells doesn’t want to stop with just the Marquette game. He likes the idea of playing a game, whether it’s this one or another, at Elston, as La Porte did on occasion at the Civic Auditorium there.
“As long as we’re reviving things, I think it would be good to utilize that facility,” Wells said. “It was always a good night when we did it (in La Porte).”
Also a big fan of the holiday tournament concept, which back in the day featured MC, LP, Valpo and Portage, Wells would like to see the Wolves, Slicers, Blazers and a fourth school collaborate on that
“I don’t know if that’s something that would help La Lumiere,” he said. “I loved that and I think it would be a great idea from a Michigan City standpoint.”