GRIFFITH – Griffith last won a sectional title when Nixon was president and Archie Bunker ruled television.
The year was 1973 and the Panthers cut down the net at Calumet after winning the sectional championship.
The last Munster sectional title was a more recent vintage. It was at the tail-end of the Clinton years and the Yankees were winning their third straight world series.
The year was 2000 and the Mustangs were climbing the ladder at East Chicago so that a snippet of net could adorn many a mantle.
Turn the focus to the present and the teams, near neighbors on the Ridge, have gotten back to the exalted status of sectional champions.
Griffith, under the direction of coach Justin Fronek, downed Andrean in a thriller to win the 3A Sectional at Calumet. Munster with Mike Hackett at the helm, had a much easier time in defeating West Side for the 4A- East Chicago Sectional championship.
This coming Saturday, the Panthers (14-8) will travel to Plymouth to take on Rochester (20-3) in the opening game of Class 3A Regional play. The second game will feature West Lafayette taking on Roosevelt.
At approximately same time, Munster (22-1) will take on South Bend Clay (28-6) in the opener of the Class 4A Michigan City Regional. Valparaiso will play Elkhart Memorial in the second contest.
“We look around and see all the banners and things and most of them are football and baseball,” Fronek said. “It was kind implied throughout the school that we needed to start upholding our end of the bargain. I guess you could say that we are beginning to.”
The Panthers started to catch-up in the trophy count when Kyle Terpstra’s put-back with three seconds on the clock closed out Andrean in the Calumet title game.
“We’ve had plenty of close games like that this year,” Fronek said. “I was proud of the way our young team responded to the two close games we had in the tournament. There was no panic. We just went about our business during the timeouts and did what we were supposed to do.”
The Mustangs, who got the bye in the East Chicago Sectional, dispatched Lowell in their first game easily before taking out the Cougars in the title game.
Munster, except for a late season blip at Merrillville, was consistent in its excellence. Griffith had an impressive enough record but also had some rough patches. Most notably was a series of five losses in six games that was highlighted by Friday/Saturday home losses to Munster and Hammond High.
“I think that we, at that time, sat down and evaluated where we were at and where we wanted to go,” Fronek said. “We set a goal to get refocused and try to improve each and every game. And, I think we see the results of how the rest of the season has played out.” The Panthers are on a 7-1 run right now as the head to Plymouth getting ready to rock.
Munster has done a good part of its damage with defense. The Mustangs have allowed just 40 points per game and have not allowed more than 58 points in a game this season.
“They’re a good team,” Fronek said of Munster. “I know what they did to us when we played them and they looked great. I think they will be a tough team to beat the rest of the way.”
Munster will take on a Clay team coached by former EC Central girls coach Joe Huppenthal.
Rochester is led by point-guide Bruce Grimm Jr who will be a challenge for Panthers guard Jake Evanich who is getting the task of guarding Grimm.
“He (Evanich) has guarded a lot of good players this year so he knows what to do,” Fronek said. “We have a lot of confidence in him.”
“This is why you play the season, to win a sectional,” Fronek said. “Now it’s a matter of taking each game as it comes. We will be OK. We are playing well and our guys don’t mind the extra practice.”