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E.C. Belongs In the Hall

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There is nothing more special in life than when the past meets the present, a chance for the former to pass the torch to those who are younger.

This occurred on Nov. 22 inside the John A. Barrato Center at E.C. Central. Crown Point’s girls basketball team was there to play the Cardinals. Members of the 1977 E.C. Roosevelt state champion girls basketball team were honored.

E.C. junior Jenasae Bishop got to meet LaTaunya Pollard, one of the greatest basketball players in Region history.

“It was an honor meeting her,” Bishop said. “She accomplished so much. It was great to talk to the former players who were in the exact position that we are at now.”

In more ways than one. Pollard and her Rough Riders are well known inside the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. Pollard is there individually along with her 1977 and ’79 teams.

And on Tuesday, the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame announced that E.C. Central’s girls basketball team will play in this year’s HOF Classic on Dec. 29 inside New Castle’s 9,325-seat fieldhouse.

“I was really excited when coach told us we were nominated,” junior Zariah Frierson said. “It’s a great honor. They ask the best teams in Indiana to come, so we feel great about that. We’ll get to play against some of the best teams in the state so it will help us get ready.”

The Cardinals will play Zionsville in one semifinal, while Martinsville will play Carmel in the other.

E.C. coach Eric Kundich said that West Side coach Rod Fisher suggested a couple of years ago that he should try to get this group onto the biggest stage in the state. Hall of Fame executive director Chris May came up to watch the Cardinals during sectionals.

Along with playing in the games, Kundich’s team will visit the Hall of Fame, which is just a block away from the gym. And the past will meet the present again.

Central’s Bridget Pettis will be inducted this year. Roosevelt and Central coach Bobbie DeKemper is also in Indiana’s Hall of Fame, among many others from the “twin cities.”

“A lot of the older East Chicago fans called and congratulated us because they fully understand how big this is,” Kundich said. “The kids, they’re starting to get it, how prestigious this is. But they’re excited and I know that will grow as we get closer to it.”

Bishop was named a Core 6 members of the Junior All-Star team. Tai-yanna Jackson, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, has the same opportunity in front of her. With a great summer of work, this young lady’s talent is ready to explode.

And playing in front of the fans and media in Central Indiana will only help these players in their quest for postseason honors.

Carmel’s Amy Dilk and Martinsville’s Kayana Traylor are considered Miss Basketball candidates next season. Kundich said that Bishop has worked her way into that conversation, too.

“She will have a little motivation to play in this,” Kundich said. “And for Tai-Yanna, I don’t think she knows how big of an event this is for her. If she plays up to her ability, Jr. and Sr. all-stars and Miss Basketball is a possibility for her.

“I don’t think she’s shown her talents to the Indianapolis and state media. She has a chance to open some eyes.”

Six other Region teams have played in this event — Crown Point (1984), Valparaiso (1991), Lake Central (1994), Highland (2000), E.C. Central (2004) and West Side (2014).

Lake Central won it and Kristina Divjak was named MVP. Highland won it and Jenny DeMuth was named MVP. E.C. finished second but Dee Dee Jernigan was named MVP.

When the past meets the future, it is pretty cool.

“We have a lot of big goals, we want to go out with a bang,” said Bishop, who is being highly recruited by Xavier and Boston College. “Going there will let us feel what it’s like playing in a state game, the environment, the ref-ering and the competition.

“It’s going to be a great time. It’s really an honor to be chosen.”

This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him atsteve.hanlon@nwi.com.

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