As Crispus Attucks won its first basketball regional championship in 47 years Saturday night, its coach was getting updates from his room at Community Hospital North.
“I tried to tell the nurse I’d get her tickets if she’d let me out,” first-year coach Chris Hawkins said. “But she wasn’t having it.”
Hawkins, 33, was hospitalized on Friday after an abscess on his inner thigh became so painful that he couldn’t walk. The infection, called cellulitis, caused Hawkins to miss school Thursday but he thought he’d be ready for Saturday morning’s regional semifinal at Greencastle against Northview.
By Friday afternoon, it was apparent the infection was only getting more painful.
“I should have gone in earlier in the week to get it taken care of,” Hawkins said. “But I thought I needed to be there Wednesday for practice.”
Hawkins received updates throughout Saturday morning’s 70-52 win over Northview. He thought he might able to check out of the hospital and make it to Greencastle for the regional championship game against Tri-West after doctors cut open the mass and drained the infection.
It didn’t work out that way.
But Hawkins had full confidence in his staff. Eric Klinefelter, a former assistant under Jason Delaney at Tech, took the reins for the Tri-West game. Attucks fell behind by nine points in the third quarter but rallied to force overtime and win, 74-69, for the program’s first regional title since 1970.
Attucks (23-4) will take on Evansville Bosse (20-7) in the Class 3A semistate at Seymour on Saturday. The Tigers haven’t played in the state finals since 1959, the last of three state championship seasons in the 1950s.
Hawkins wasn’t fully able to enjoy the regional title. But he kept in communication with his cousin, Justin Powell, who was in Greencastle for the game.
“I didn’t want to watch it,” he said. “When we were down in the third quarter I just thought, ‘If we win, we win. If we don’t, I’ll still be extremely happy.’ But I was glad to have that celebratory Diet Pepsi after we won.”
Hawkins said he hoped to be released from the hospital later in the day Sunday. The doctors were concerned that the infection could get into the blood stream, which could cause other health problems.
“I’ll probably be on antibiotics for the next couple weeks but I should be ready to go,” he said. “I’m glad we’re still playing. Two more games to go.”
• Semistate schedule: The Indiana High School Athletic Association released the semistate locations and game times for Saturday.
At Lafayette Jeff, Lafayette Central Catholic (21-6) will play Gary 21st Century (19-8) in the Class A game at 1 p.m., followed by Frankton (21-6) vs. Marquette Catholic (19-9) in the Class 2A game at 3 p.m.
At Huntington North, Fort Wayne Bishop Luers (19-7) will play Twin Lakes (24-3) in the Class 3A semistate at 4 p.m., followed by Fort Wayne North Side (26-2) vs. Merrillville (21-7) in the Class 4A game at 6 p.m.
At Seymour, Evansville Bosse (20-7) will play Crispus Attucks (23-4) in the Class 3A game at 1 p.m., followed by Castle (24-3) vs. Ben Davis (21-5) in the Class 4A game at 3 p.m.
At Richmond, New Washington (20-9) will play Tindley (22-5) in the Class A game at 3 p.m., followed by Crawford County (21-6) vs. Heritage Christian (17-9) in the Class 2A game at 6 p.m.
• Seniors lead Ben Davis: Ben Davis junior Aaron Henry is the Giants’ best player and top college prospect (Butler’s Chris Holtmann watched him in Saturday’s 44-21 regional championship win over Connersville). But the 6-5 Henry is the first to mention the team’s five seniors as the engineers of Ben Davis’ first regional championship team since 1998.
Datrion Harper, a three-year starter at point guard, said he knew the Giants had it in them at the beginning of the season.
“I felt like this was the year we could do it,” he said. “That’s what I tried to tell our young guys. We’re trying to start a new tradition. I mean, we’re capable of doing something like this every year. We have the second-biggest high school in the state. We have players. It’s just a matter of getting everybody to buy in and be unselfish. That’s what’s been holding us back. Coming into the year, I thought we were the best team in the state. I still think that.”
The Giants other seniors — Josh Brewer, Jalen Newsom, R.J. Turner and Kyle Finch — all played key roles in Saturday’s title.
“Senior leadership has been incredible the last couple weeks,” coach Mark James said. “They’ve taken the little things more seriously and it’s paid off.”
• Looking to future: Brownsburg and Center Grove both fell in the Class 4A regional semifinals to more experienced teams on Saturday. Brownsburg lost a late lead, falling 55-49 to Connersville in overtime. Center Grove battled New Albany into the fourth quarter before losing, 57-52, at Seymour.
The future looks promising for both programs, with several key players returning. Brownsburg coach Steve Lynch, who had a more inexperienced team than the sectional title teams of 2014 and ’15, said there’s a lot to build on after improving from 5-18 to 18-7.
“Each team is different,” Lynch said. “But this group had a reference point from last year and didn’t want it to happen again. They found a way to win close games and we had great leadership. We’ll have start right away again with who is going to lead us and what kind of decisions they are making for our team. But I’m excited about our talent and experience. Connersville was here this time last year and had a disappointing loss in the morning game (to Southport). You hope they use that experience and build on it. That’s why you play the game is for those life experiences.”
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.