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GORCHES: Hello and goodbye, Duneland tournaments

Merrillville's Fard Muhammad dribbles past Lake Central's Tyler Ross during their game held Merrillville High School Saturday December 28 2013.

Merrillville's Fard Muhammad dribbles past Lake Central's Tyler Ross during their game held at Merrillville High School on Saturday December 28, 2013. | Charles Mitchell/for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 30, 2014 7:03AM



Hello, Duneland Conference holiday tournaments. You were a nice change of pace this weekend from the old double round-robin that no one liked and hurt competitive balance in the conference.

It was also nice to have more region holiday basketball events after some long-running tourneys have gone by the wayside in recent years (namely, the South County Tournament that was discontinued a couple years ago after decades of tradition).

And now, goodbye, Duneland Conference holiday tournaments. It was nice knowing you for one year, but it seems like you were just a temporary fix to fill games on teams’ schedules after the double round-robin was scrapped about two years ago.

“It was necessary because it would be difficult to find that many games in a two-year span,” Crown Point coach Clint Swan said after his team won its DAC west boys tournament semifinals (at least that’s what we’re calling the foursome of CP, Portage, Merrillville and Lake Central that played boys games at Merrillville on Saturday and girls games at Crown Point on Friday) 60-39 on Saturday morning.

Swan, as well as other DAC coaches, stated the obvious mathematical quandary — filling seven vacant games after the horrible double round-robin disappeared. But he also confirmed — at least unofficially — that these four-game tourneys won’t be around next year.

“This is it,” Swan said. “We’re already looking at other tournaments to get into.”

Merrillville coach TJ Lux agreed that he had one year to plan ahead.

“It’s a nice transition and now we have some flexibility to find some games and other tournaments,” he said. “Most coaches are looking at getting out of Northwest Indiana to face other state teams.”

Too bad, so sad. At least I think it’s sad. Despite sparse attendance at times this weekend — I counted about 180 souls in the stands for the Portage-CP boys semifinal, and that includes Merrillville staff, the next two teams watching and four babies/toddlers who couldn’t have cared less about the action — fans seemed to like it as a change of pace from the regular season that can be occasionally boring.

There was a decent crowd for the consolation and championship of the DAC east girls tournament on Friday night with a pair of rivalry games going on — Chesterton-Valparaiso in the consolation and LaPorte-Michigan City in the final that was easily won by the undefeated Slicers.

Those four girls coaches had mixed feelings about the tourney.

“Why play somebody three times? That’s why we got rid of the double round-robin,” Chesterton girls coach Jack Campbell said. “It wouldn’t be so bad if we weren’t all in the same sectional.”

That sentiment completely fits with the east tourney with all four teams part of Sectional 2. But the DAC west tourneys are split with three of the teams joining the four DAC east teams in that sectional while Lake Central plays in Sectional 1.

“I love holiday tournaments, but not against the same teams,” Michigan City said girls coach Mike Megyese said. “We’re still playing two conference teams. But Valparaiso High School, as always, did a tremendous job hosting this and that’s what made it worth the while.”

The DAC east girls portion did give fans a chance to see one of the best players in the region and best teams in the state. LaPorte is now 11-0 after winning two games on Friday with crisp passing and proficient 3-point shooting, while Michigan City’s Michal Miller scored 56 points in two tourney games, including 37 in a morning victory over Chesterton.

“They can’t control her, but we don’t have enough to go with her,” Megyese said of Miller after he talked with Michigan State’s coach, who was on hand to watch Miller. DePaul and UIC coaches were also in attendance.

As for the future of the DAC tourneys, or lack thereof, LaPorte coach Skeeter Heath actually provided a decent solution that likely will never see the light of day.

“It’s a nice change and instead of seven games, we have two and get five other (nonconference) opponents,” Heath said. “I’d like it if the winners (of east and west) would face each other. It could still be part of the tournament and not count against our number of games and we still get five other games.”

Now that’s a novel concept. Despite liking the one-year transition, Lux admitted to being fond of local tourneys that draw fans.

“I love tournaments — the PCC (Porter County Conference) is great and I love watching it; South Bend and Elkhart have a tourney with their teams,” Lux said. “They’re fun and a win-and-advance format is a little more meaningful for the kids.”

And aren’t the kids and fans more important than what schools and athletic directors think? It doesn’t matter what I think since the DAC powers-that-be have likely already decided the fate of this one-year filler experiment that should stick around.

Heath’s idea is perfect: Keep the four-team, east-west events, and then have the winners face for a true Duneland Conference tournament. It works for the PCC and Greater South Shore Conference, so why not the DAC?

Otherwise, all we have are memories of the last two days and what could have been.



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