Monday, November 29, 2004

High School Season Kicks Off

Saturday night's festivities took me to the brand new Milwaukee Pius gymnasium for the inaugural basketball game to be played at the location, between Pius and my alma mater, 5th-ranked Wauwatosa East. As it was the opening game of the season for both teams, many questions remained to be answered. Could Tosa East replace star point guard Allan Hanson, now at UWM? Could Pius coach Joel Claassen, winner of 14 state championships as Pius girl's coach, coach a boys team? Would the rapidly ballooning Tosa East coaching staff finally outnumber the young men on the roster? The results were interesting, as Pius won a hotly contested game by 2 points on a last-second three-point shot. Welcome to the new gym. Here are my short points:

1) For a team that didn't look like it would have much of an inside presence coming into the year, Tosa East was surprisingly lacking not underneath thehoop, but on the perimeter. Fighting through screens was not a strong point for any of Tosa's guards last night, including superstar Jerry Smith, who in addition to going scoreless in the first half, looked disinterested on defense at times. Some serious work needs to be done in order for the Red Raiders to guard effectively on the perimeter. In the meantime, Jeff Donovan did anadmirable job adjusting to the fact that he will never play guard again, and did a nice job banging under the hoop.

2) Pius is an underrated team, with a number of excellent shooters. I think the addition of a successful coach should make them more solid than most expected this year. They lack a superstar, but should be among the top teams in their conference, nonetheless.

3) Fan of the weekend award goes to the Pius student who dressed up at the school mascot, the Pope. There's nothing better than to see a 16-year-old kid dressed at one of the world's foremost religious figures, and chanting"bullshit" after bad calls. Even putting the obscenity aside, that was some inspired fanning, and I was inpressed.

4) Tosa East is going to see a lot of zone this year. Keeping Jerry Smith from getting to the hoop will be a key for opposing teams. He's a decent enough shooter, but that's not where he really makes his mark, and opponents will be aware of this.

5) This weekend's "That Takes Guts" award goes to the Pius head coach, for his play call in the final seconds. Off of a timeout, and down 1 with probably only one possession left, Claassen set up a play where the shooter would run his man into a screen on the baseline and take at 3-pointer from the corner. It was a great play, and normally wouldn't stand out as a particularly odd call. However, if Claassen's son, who does not even start for the Popes, had not hit the shot, there would have been some serious questioning going on. Hell of a play, though.

6) My thoughts on the new Pius gym? Well, it's a nice facility for the school to have. Several basketball courts, an indoor track, a climbing wall. I'd love to take gym class in this setting. As a setting for a basketball game, it can't compare to the old Pius gym, though. Anyone can play in a sterile fieldhouse, but it was fun to go to the old cavernous old gym at Pius, a gym unlike any I'd ever been in before. I'm not a Pius alum, and generally didn't like opposing teams who played there, but I will miss the old gym. It certainly had character. I suppose in the grand scheme of things, though, the new one makes sense.


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