Rivalry Week: Marquette vs. Tosa East
It’s rivalry week on ESPN, and I suppose that’s the case for high school basketball, too. Last evening took me to Marquette High for the second meeting of Wauwatosa East and Marquette, in the most intense public-private rivalry in southeastern Wisconsin. Last night didn’t figure to be much of a match-up, with Tosa East presenting a much improved squad from earlier in the season, and Marquette entering the game at 5-4 in the Greater Metro conference and missing one of their best players, but you never know what’s going to happen with rivalry games, so I had to check it out. Tosa East got off to a great start, though, and the lead never really dipped below 10 points before the ultimate 65-52 victory, making Tosa East 2-0 vs. Marquette this year. Thoughts on the always-exciting matchup below:
1) The JV game was a surprisingly entertaining game, and served as a fine prelude to the varsity contest. As in the last meeting, the game was very well played in the final quarter until Marquette made a key late error. Last time it was a technical foul on Marquette’s coach when the game was still in doubt, and last night it was an intentional foul on one of the Hilltopper players with Marquette down 4 with about a minute to go. In both instances (particularly the former), it was sad to see such a lapse in judgment close out an otherwise well-played affair. At least games like these ensure that the rivalry will stay strong at the next level.
2) Much like last year’s triple-overtime game at Marquette, this was deemed the Time-Warner game of the week, which is good for two reasons. First, I’ll be able to catch the game on cable on the Wisconsin On-Demand channel and add it to my video archives. Secondly, the same two old men that called the game last year were back. Last year’s call was phenomenally entertaining, as one guy referred to Marquette’s coach David Cooks as “Coach Crooks” throughout the game, and the tandem at one point mentioned that Marquette was running a “triangle and one” defense. Maybe this year they’ve learned the coaches’ names, and are picking up the fifth Marquette defender as they watch the game, but either way, they should be hilarious.
3) A point of correction here—I was informed last week that Marquette forward Matt Mulcahy was out for the year with a broken ankle. Apparently the grapevine at Marquette High isn’t 100% reliable, since the Journal-Sentinel reported this weekend that according to coach Cooks, the ankle is just a severe sprain and that Mulcahy should be back for the playoffs. Good news, though they could have used him last night, too.
4) Upon walking into Marquette High, you always have to walk down this hallway with photos honoring friends of the school, and people of some importance. Ever since I noticed the guy in one of the photos who’s wearing an eyepatch, I have to look for him every time. I’m sure he had a legitimate eye problem, and he’s some highly successful business mogul, but when I walk by all I can think is “Arghhhhh!” Yeah, I’m immature like that.
5) Tosa East finally found a way to get to Alexis Pease, who nearly dropped 30 points on the Red Raiders in the last meeting. Strangely, some of the best work on Pease was done by back-up forward Charlie Birts, only in the game due to foul trouble on everyone else. Birts was physical with Pease, and Pease looked somewhat frustrated by this style of play as the half wore on. In the second half, Pease managed just two points as the Red Raiders alternated between this physical style of play, and a sagging zone that effectively double-teamed Pease. Add to that the fact that his teammates couldn’t deliver him the ball in a reasonable manner, and Pease had a rough night. He also took a few hard fouls. I still love watching the guy play, though.
6) Tosa East’s all-state junior, Jerry Smith, went to the bench in the middle of the third quarter with 4 fouls. The fourth was picked up on a push-off on an inbounds play. In my totally biased opinion, it was a cheap foul. The player guarding Smith, who shall remain nameless, had drawn one earlier foul on Smith, I believe, and it seemed to be his job to fall down every time he got within 2 feet of the superstar. I’m generally pretty liberal when it comes to watching guys flop for a foul, but even this was a bit much for me. Smith should have been smart enough to see what was going on, but nonetheless, I hated to see someone looking so hard to draw a foul. The irony, of course, is that if there was someone on the team that I liked goading people into cheap fouls, I would find it highly entertaining.
7) Tosa East pretty much kept the game even while Smith was out, which was an extended period, reaching almost until there were only 3 minutes left in the game. Were I the coach, I perhaps would have let Smith sit the rest of the game, if only just to give my team confidence in its ability to win without its biggest weapon. Then again, I guess they had that chance in their last game, when Smith sat out with back problems. My mistake.
8) Marquette’s Dan Landisch has uncanny athletic ability for a man of his size. He could also stand to use his size a bit more, since his jump shot wasn’t working real well last night.
9) I’d have to look at a box score to confirm this, but one of the keys to the game had to be that Marquette didn’t hit a single three-pointer until the last 30 seconds of the game, when victory was already out of reach. It’s tough to win when you can’t get back points three at a time.
10) Marquette didn’t exactly show a lot of urgency in trying to get back into the game in the second half. There was one possession early in the fourth quarter when the Hilltoppers were down about 15 points, and spent an entire minute on one possession. It’s one thing to be patient on offense, but it’s another thing to hold the ball for a minute when you’re down 15. At some point you’ve got to pick up the pace.
11) The fans always take center stage at the Marquette-Tosa East matchup, and the students were fairly subdued last evening. The fourth quarter heated up to normal levels, though, as Tosa East started doing victory cheers, and the Marquette students responded with chants of “MATC,” implying that their public school counterparts would be heading to inferior colleges after graduation. Tosa East responded with the always popular “Jesus Love Us” chant, a dig at their Catholic school counterparts. All in all, it was a good fourth quarter of cheering and a classic round of cheers. In some ways, I don’t feel like it’s a true Marquette-Tosa East game if there’s no reference by the students to Christ, and Marquette’s superior academic standards.
12) While I find the Marquette “MATC” chant pretty funny, I amused in a different way by the one Marquette student near me as I was walking with my friends to the car we had come in. This particular young man was shouting at a Tosa East student as he ran by, something to the effect of “Have fun next year when you’re pumping my gas. If you do it quickly, I might give you a big $5 tip!” And you wonder why some people don’t like guys from Marquette High. It’s hilarious when you do a tongue-in-cheek chant at the game, but the absolute anger in this kid’s voice was disturbing. I guess every group has a couple of jackasses that make them look bad, though. I see it plenty when some of my more foolish Wisconsin alumni brethren discount the value of a Marquette University education. Either way, the irony of a Marquette High student expecting a Tosa East student to pump his gas while standing next to me, a Tosa East alumnus who’s now an attorney, was not lost on me.
And with that, my friends and I headed out, and stopped off at a local tavern, where we grabbed a couple of beers and watched Florida hang way too close to Kentucky. Tonight brings a challenge, as Wisconsin takes on Iowa, the best rivalry in sports, Duke-North Carolina takes place, and Marquette takes on TCU. I’m not sure how I’ll cram in all of these games, but perhaps a Marquette radio listen during the Wisconsin game could work. It still boggles my mind that Marquette can’t get a game broadcast in Milwaukee, but I guess those are the breaks. Happy viewing!