When the Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School Boys Basketball Team defeated Tri-West Hendricks High School in the IHSAA Regional game on March 11 in Greencastle, it was the program’s first regional title in 47 years.
Flash forwarded a week later, and the Attucks Tigers are ready to take on the next team that stands between them and another state championship win for the school that saw its last one in 1959 — when Attucks was an all-black, segregated high school.
On March 18, the Tigers (23-4) will battle Evansville’s Benjamin Bosse High School (20-7) at Seymour High School for the Semi-State title, and the chance to play in the 3A State Championship game on March 25 inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Semi-State game will air live at 1 p.m. March 18 on WHBM, Channel 40.
Attucks has seen success throughout the season, claiming a victory in the Holiday Hoops Tournament in Vincennes in December and the PAAC Conference championship in February.
But the team’s road to Semi-State has not been all roses, featuring a few hiccups along the way. Attucks faced its toughest defeat of the season in January during the Semifinals of the City Tournament at Arsenal Tech. Holding a one-point lead with time expiring, Attucks fell victim to a half-court buzzer beater from Emmerich Manual High School, eliminating them from City title contention.
This loss would seemingly add fuel to fire for the Tigers, as they finished the regular season strong and started the Indiana Boys Basketball State Tournament with the largest margin of victory in IHSAA tournament-class basketball history, thanks to their 77-point win over Herron High School. Attucks went on to avenge the loss to Manual before claiming the Sectional crown with a victory over Bishop Chatard High School.
The Tigers faced a tough challenge during Regional competition, playing without the leadership of their first-year head coach, Chris Hawkins, who was hospitalized with an undisclosed ailment. Assistant Coach Eric Klinefelter filled in during his absence, galvanizing the young men when it mattered most as they climbed their way out of a 9-point, third-quarter hole on their way to a thrilling overtime victory against a stout Tri-West team.
During his debut season at Attucks, Coach Hawkins has formed a special connection with his players. Since coming on board in May 2016, Hawkins has been dedicated to pushing his players to excel, hitting the court at 6 a.m. for individual workouts with his players only days after being hired.
“At the start they had to get used to me, trusting that I can bring the best out of them and help them showcase their abilities and strengths. I have a lot trust in them, knowing that they have my back as well,” said Hawkins.
Their success comes on the heels of an impressive campaign from the Crispus Attucks Girls Basketball Team, which won its Sectional title and advanced to the Regional finals, inspiring the boys to dig deeper and make a push of their own.
Crispus Attucks Athletics Director Joshua Varno knows the value of what his young ladies accomplished this season. “It shows just how talented the student athletes are here at Crispus Attucks, and it’s important not to overlook the girls. They really set the path for the boys to embark on their own quest to the Final Four and hopefully the state championship.”
Attucks’ historic run has energized the entire district, sparking an outpouring of support from around the city with IPS families of all backgrounds cheering them on. Gyms have been filled with IPS students, staff and alumni from various schools rallying behind the Green and Gold.
A pep rally for the Tigers will kick off at 1:30 p.m. Friday, March 17, at Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School. The rally will feature all IPS high schools — from the players to the coaches to the fans — cheering the team on before Saturday’s game.
Bill Hampton, a member of the 1955 Crispus Attucks championship team, is also rooting for his alma mater. He has been keeping an eye on this year’s squad as he prepares for his induction into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame on March 22.
“These kids have a lot of potential, and they’re realizing it right now. They play hard and they’re doing it the right way,” said Hampton. “I’m thrilled to see the support they’re receiving as well. We’ve come a long way.”
With four teams remaining in their bracket, only two wins stand between the Attucks Tigers and a 2017 IHSAA Boys State Basketball Championship.
The accomplishments of the Crispus Attucks teams of the 1950s are known across the nation (1955, 1956 and 1959 State champions), but this year’s team is not willing to rest on the glory of years past as they strive to cement a legacy of their own; this time, with the support of their city behind them.