As Garrett left the floor following its 66-39 loss to South Bend Washington in Saturday’s Class 3A North Semistate at LaPorte, there were a lot of sad and disappointed faces.
After all, it was the end of the line for several seniors who had just experienced their prep careers on the hardwood end in one-sided fashion against a team ranked amongst the top 25 in the entire country by ESPN.
But there were also some smiles. Coach Bob Lapadot didn’t hide his as he headed to the locker room. Neither did Taylor Gerke, who despite suffering a serious knee injury earlier in the season that derailed her senior season was able to find some positivity of her own.
The game was a far cry from what we saw just days before, a melee between North Side and Northrop that broke out, forcing the cancelation of the contest before its conclusion. It dominated local and state media. Instead of celebrating the excitement of girls semistate weekend, we were left with constant reminders and questions about the ugly scene that happened Tuesday evening and the ensuing repercussions.
Saturday was a good reminder of all that is good in prep hoops. When Coach Lapadot approached South Side Washington coach Steve Reynolds in warmups, he was greeted with a huge smile, handshake and hug. It was instant respect. No BS, no unfriendly rivalry. It was pure.
That carried over into the game itself. While the contest was physical as the Panthers looked to instill its will in the post, there was no crossing the line, no animosity. It was two teams doing their best to reach a Class 3A state title game.
Fans cheered for their team, not against the other or leaned too heavily on the referees. There was cordiality amongst players. Respect.
As South Bend Washington pulled away, Garrett inserted Gerke into the game. The senior, with her heavy brace on her leg and zero playing time prior, parked herself near the basket on an inbounds play. Washington stayed back as Gerke was passed the ball and made a lay-up, securing her spot in the scorebook as having appeared and scored in the semistate matchup. It was the ultimate sign of respect from Coach Reynolds and the Panthers, and a memorable moment for Gerke and Garrett fans.
Garrett’s season ended with a record of 27-2, while it fell short of the ultimate goal of reaching Indianapolis, a lot of positive memories were made along the way. On Saturday, prep basketball was celebrated and played the way it should not be. Without drama, without negative publicity.
It was a far cry from what we saw earlier in the week.
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