Gorch on the Porch: No, LaLu didn't pull a fast one on Marquette

Photo by Robb QuinnMarquette's Max Willoughby (left) has his shot attempt challenged by La Lumiere's Grant Beucler on Friday night at the Scholl Center.

So after I sat down with Michigan City boys basketball coach John Boyd on Friday night about an hour before the Wolves’ 41-37 victory over Lake Central, I got a text from a friend who was attending the La Lumiere at Marquette boys game across town.

It said, “What the (heck) … it’s LaLu’s B team! Just checked the roster they turned in vs. the one on Maxpreps.com … only like 3 names are the same!”

Later on, he sent another text saying, “Found out everyone on the A team for LaLu is sick.”

Marquette assistant athletic director Brad Collignon said he was told something similar in that a few of the well-known players from the team that has played on ESPN were sick — namely, Jaren Jackson, Jordan Poole, Tyger Campbell (man, I love that first name spelling), Brian Bowen and Jacob Epperson, who are all being highly recruited by huge NCAA Division-I programs.

It would have been nice for La Lumiere to tell Marquette before the same day — 11:25 a.m., to be exact, when the roster was sent in an email with the comment “here is our roster for the evening.” But Lakers’ athletic director Sean Murphy confirmed that it was an unfortunate set of events.

“As a school we were bit by the flu bug,” he said. “Three of our White team players were diagnosed with Influenza-A that morning, and others had symptoms of the flu.”

The roster was very different from LaLu’s White roster on maxpreps.com. It was much closer to the Lakers’ Blue team, which is equivalent to a JV squad that plays local games. The White team is the one ranked No. 3 in the nation and finished runner-up in a tourney on ESPN last year.

How do I know they’re ranked No. 3? Because the La Lumiere Basketball Twitter account clarified it in a snarky response to a neutral, non-snarky Marquette tweet.

“Just to be clear…you lost to our second team, varsity blue. And for the record our varsity white team is ranked #3 in the nation, not 10.”

That was a reply to a simple tweet from MQT Athletics recapping the game: “Final: No. 10 La Lumiere 69, MQT 63. Three Blazers scored in double figures (Kenney 16; Goodwin 15; Willoughby 13) #BlazerPride”

La Lumiere’s response almost felt like an early-morning POTUS tweet talking about fake news or the “failing New York Times.” Thing is, the Lakers are ranked No. 10 on maxpreps.com, so that’s where Marquette’s info came from.

Turns out the tweet was deleted soon afterward, likely because someone realized that admitting the school breached a contract wasn’t smart. But nothing’s ever completely deleted since I and several others have a screen shot of the Twitter exchange.

Oh, and yes, it’s technically a breach of contract.

“The contract was for the La Lumiere Varsity White basketball program,” Collignon said. “However, the contract also stated that a 35-second shot clock will be utilized for all games involving that team. Now, we don’t have a shot clock at the Scholl Center; however, the Blue Team showing up is rather irrelevant to that detail.”

Now the breach of contract isn’t that big of a deal since Murphy’s hands were tied. Sickness happens and they did everything possible to rectify the situation.

“We only had three options,” Murphy explained. “We could reschedule or postpone, but it was Marquette’s homecoming, and that wouldn’t be fair to them. So we decided to put out the best team we could.”

Which was a cross between the White and Blue teams. News-Dispatch reporter Michael Raines called it “Varsity Blue-Plus” in his game story in Saturday’s paper, but it’s more like a gray area.

The other inaccuracy about the contract is the shot clock. Obviously it’s not a requirement from LaLu’s standpoint because the Lakers’ White team played at Michigan City earlier and a shot clock wasn’t used.

One thing that makes Marquette look bad is that it charged $8 for presale tickets all week promoting what they called LaLu’s “ESPN team.” It was $10 at the door. And why not? That’s just good business, and the Scholl Center was packed. Thing is, Collignon feels bad about it.

“I can honestly say we wouldn’t have done it had we known it wasn’t their ESPN team,” he said.

What gives credence to the unexpected illnesses is that La Lumiere purchased around 200 presale tickets from Marquette at the inflated price (it’s normally $5 or $6 for basketball games, depending on the school). If they were trying to pull a fast one and knew about the illnesses days ahead of time, would they have bought that many tickets at the higher cost?

In the end, both schools felt bad because of the unfortunate timing of kids getting sick, and fans spending more to see future college (and possibly pro) basketball stars didn’t get the product they expected. Hey, it happens in the NBA, too, when teams rest stars such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and the whole starting lineup of the San Antonio Spurs (because that’s how head coach Gregg Popovich rolls) without notice.

Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at sgorches@thenewsdispatch.com or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.

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