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Hutton: Bad weather turning hoops season upside down

Griffith's Tremell Murphy (right) tries block shot Highland's Demetrius Abram during their game held HighlHigh School Friday December 20 2013.

Griffith's Tremell Murphy (right) tries to block the shot of Highland's Demetrius Abram during their game held at Highland High School on Friday December 20, 2013. | Charles Mitchell/for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 3, 2014 1:27PM



Come settle around the fire, boys and girls, and let me tell what it was like when I went to school.

They didn’t have two-hour delays. If the temperatures were subzero outside, bundling up in an Eskimo coat and wearing long underwear, hats and gloves was recommended. They started the buses early so they’d have plenty of time to warm up.

There was no such phrase as it’s a “liability issue” for kids who have to wait outside for the buses. We, um, toughed out the cold because that is what was accepted. Now, it’s different. The subzero temperatures do create liability issues, which causes school to be delayed, which in turn mucks up the rhythm of a basketball season.

For young teams, like Merrillville and teams on the verge of being good like Griffith and just teams in general, Mother Nature has been extremely hostile.

Come snow or freezing temperatures, Griffith is going to play basketball Wednesday.

They have to. They have to try to recapture their season, which was going pretty well until this latest stretch of bad weather created unprecedented chaos for coaches and teams.

It’s time to check in again. They need to see what they have.

No program has been affected more than the Panthers, who are 8-2.

“We are just going to wing it, “ Griffith coach Gary Hayes said of the make-up game with Gavit that should be played.

Trying to figure out the games and practices that were cancelled or changed for the Panthers requires special computer tracking software. They last played on Jan. 15 against Hanover Central. They were rusty, but they still won 53-46 after coming off a post Christmas break, which cost most school systems in the area two days.

Their next three games were postponed.

The Lowell game on Jan. 18 was moved because the Red Devils were waylaid by traffic problems on I-65.

The Gavit game on Jan. 22 was postponed after Griffith had 22 inches of snow dumped on it.

And they elected not to play against East Chicago on Jan. 25 because they hadn’t practiced virtually all week.

Given the extreme cold and snow that has enveloped the area, Hayes wasn’t surprised about the latest two-day delay.

Most schools, Griffith included, weren’t in session Monday and won’t be Tuesday. The weather report looks good enough for at least a partial day of school on Wednesday, but that is subject to change. The Valparaiso school system already has instituted a two-hour delay for Wednesday because of extreme cold.

The Panthers have played only two games since December. January is typically the transition month for teams. It’s when, after taking inventory of their early season challenges, they make changes.

Griffith is still stuck in December. They were rocked with 22 inches of snow last Tuesday and Wednesday. That paralyzed them for three days. Other nearby communities, like Highland and Hammond, had snow but not as much as Griffith.

Hayes has only had a handful of practices. He was relieved to get in a good two-hour practice on Saturday, but frustrated at the situation when he realized school was out for Monday and Tuesday.

Hayes said his kids are working out on their own, hitting the YMCA or Omni in Schereville.

They have a tough stretch coming up with games against Andrean, Munster and Hammond after they play Gavit.

Other schools, such as Merrillville and Michigan City, have practice but it’s all voluntary and it feels different because the kids aren’t coming in after school and the next game, at least for the last couple weeks, has always been in doubt.

It’s virtually the same for every program, so the teams that are the toughest mentally and the most experienced should have an advantage.

This is one time, though, it really does seem like it was better in the old days.

Correction department: In Lake Station’s 66-51 victory over River Forest Friday, Ryan Slavey was whistled for a technical. The name of the player identified in the story was incorrect.



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