Boys basketball: Lake Central send-off ‘a dream come true’
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent March 26, 2014 11:28PM
Lake Central's Joe Bannister signs a photo for Lily Lane, 10, of Schererville at Lake Central High School on March 26, 2014. | Jim Karczewski\For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 28, 2014 7:56AM
ST. JOHN — A little March Madness took over Lake Central High School on Wednesday as fans of the varsity boys basketball team gathered for a pep rally to send off the state-bound Indians.
It is the first time the team has advanced to the 4A state championship in 30 years.
Several hundred parents, students and young fans of the boys in blue rallied support chanting: “We Are ... LC.”
Head coach Dave Milausnic, who was 12 when the Indians first went to the finals, said it was that trip in 1984 and the games that led up to it that cemented his love for the sport.
“I really, really fell in love with the tournament process and how hard it is to get this far,” Milausnic said, praising the team’s selfless style of practice and play.
Milausnic brought in a little inspiration for the team in the form of Chris Kostouros, who was on the 1984 team and later went on to play professionally in the European league for Greece.
“We had a great year, a magical season, but for us we fell short. These guys are going to go there and take care of business and bring home the state championship,” Kostouros said to cheers from the crowd.
Fans lined up after the rally for a chance to have their signs, flags and T-shirts autographed by the team members. Young boys and girls clamored for a spot in line to make sure they were able to have their banners signed.
Junior guards Amir Ransom, 16, and Joe Bannister, 17, were smiling at the attention as they signed autographs for Tim Praski and his son Trenton, 11. Bannister’s mom, Lucretia Gosberry was busy taking pictures of her son and his teammates interacting with the crowd.
“It’s kind of hard to describe the feeling. I’m just happy we are here,” Ransom said.
“They will be bringing it home,” the elder Praski said, adding the team has been enjoyable to watch all season. The father and son will be joining many in the crowd who will be making the trip to Indianapolis on Saturday to show their support. Trenton has high hopes for the Indians.
“Since it’s been so long, I think they are going to try their hardest,” Trenton said. The pair left with a shout of “Go LC!”
Gosberry said the team is comprised of hard-working boys who are good students as well as good athletes. She too has high hopes for how the team will fare Saturday against Indiana Arsenal Tech.
“They came together as a team. Teamwork beats talent any day,” she said, adding, “I’m probably more excited than (Bannister) is. I’m just so happy for him. It’s a dream come true.”
Senior Tye Wilborn, 18, and junior Ian Martin, 17, were soaking it all in as well.
“It’s pretty crazy. I’m enjoying the ride. Words can’t really describe how happy I am. It’s like floating on a cloud,” Martin said.
Wilborn shared Martin’s excitement. He said it was awesome to see all the hard work pay off and bring the team back to the finals after such a long time.
“It’s a great feeling, not only for us, but as a school,” Wilborn said.
Teacher Ralph Holden agreed the accomplishment means a lot for the school. Holden brought his son Nicholas, 10, and five of his friends to the pep rally. The group will be heading to Indianapolis to cheer on the Indians.
“It’s awesome. This is the first time in a long time. It’s exciting,” Holden said.
Kristy Czaja and her daughter Brooke, 12, self-described superfans, agreed the trip to state will be exciting for both the school and fans. Brooke plays on the sixth-grade traveling basketball team and is looking forward to seeing the finals in person.
“It’s good motivation,” her mom said. As for what will happen Saturday, she said, that is what is great about basketball in March.
“Anyone can bring it,” Czaja said.
The Indians (22-3) will take on Indiana Arsenal Technical (26-2) for the Class 4A championship Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for about 8:15 p.m. Eastern time.