I had to stifle a chuckle when the Tech and Cathedral high school boys basketball teams took the court for the Hall of Fame Classic last week in New Castle.
There were no handshakes. No smiles. Not even any eye contact, that I could see. The referee just tossed the ball in the air and the teams went after each other for 32 intense minutes.
The message was clear: let's not pretend to like each other.
"We tell each other good game after the game," Cathedral senior Garrett Hall said, before adding, "because we have to. They are alright, but when we're on the court, we're enemies."
This is not to advocate for poor sportsmanship, but you know what? There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I'd even say it's refreshing. Nothing bugged me more as an athlete -- a mediocre athlete -- than seeing a teammate yuck it up with an opponent before or during a game. The proliferation of summer basketball has knocked down the boundaries even further.
For Tech and Cathedral, the lines are clearly divided. And while the emotions are clearly bubbling near the surface, I've yet to see it spill over in the first two meetings between the teams. No harm, no foul.
Tech is 2-0 so far against Cathedral, which drives the Irish crazy. "Why can't we beat these guys?" I heard a couple of parents ask after Tech's 60-54 win in the championship game at New Castle.
Cathedral's Collin Hartman could be back from his wrist injury if the teams meet in the City tournament next week. He didn't play in either of the first two games. Tech looks like a team that is gathering confidence and momentum, centered around 6-9 junior Trey Lyles.
It could all come to a head in Sectional 10, though Lawrence North and Warren Central -- and possibly Lawrence Central and Roncalli -- could have something to say about that. I'm guessing Cathedral would gladly go 1-3 against Tech this season as long as the win came in the sectional.
After three near-misses, Lapel coach Jimmie Howell won his 500th career game with a 60-35 win over Alexandria last week in the Madison County tournament.
Howell, who is in his 32nd season with stops at Brownsburg, Mt. Vernon and Muncie South, won No. 499 against Alexandria on Dec. 21. In its toughest stretch of the season, Lapel then lost to Class 3A No. 10 Guerin Catholic (56-55), 2A No. 1 Park Tudor (46-43) and 4A Anderson (74-66).
"We've lost five games by single digits," Howell said of his 5-5 team. "We were disappointed we lost those three games, but were really pleased with the way the kids competed."
Howell, a Lapel native, is now the eighth active boys basketball coach in the state with at least 500 wins. Earlier this season, Bill Patrick of Tippecanoe Valley joined Cloverdale's Pat Rady as coaches with 700 wins.
Could Howell join them some day?
"I could see myself going for another five, six, seven years," he said. "But I have no idea. It's hard to think too far beyond the next game."
Spoken like a coach who's been doing it for 32 years.
There is a familiar face guiding Gary Roosevelt, but first-year coach and alum Renaldo Thomas can probably barely recognize the one-time state power.
It's been a precipitous fall for Roosevelt, which won state titles in 1968 and '91, producing star players such as Glenn Robinson, Winston Garland and Dick Barnett. The Panthers (1-7) have won just three sectionals since '91 and may completely bottom out this year, having already lost four games by at least 42 points.
Thomas, who led Roosevelt to the state championship game as a senior in 1982, remains upbeat. He most recently coached at Gary Wallace, which reached the Class 3A state title game in 2010, led by now-Michigan State sophomore Branden Dawson.
"That's why they hired me," Thomas said. "To make this program proud again. I just have to keep encouraging them and be positive, as I've always been. I'm going to make it happen. Like Coca Cola . . . we're going back to the original formula. Everywhere I've been we've been successful. It'll turn around here."