Monday, March 14, 2005

Pius vs. Tosa East: A Friday Night Showdown

Friday night was the much anticipated Tosa East-Milwaukee Pius matchup. A tough ticket to get, I was overjoyed that my buddy Kosta was able to secure admission for me. It was a 6pm game, so I cut out of work a bit early so that I could get home, get changed, and get to the game 45 minutes or so ahead of time. I'm glad that I made this move, since I would have had trouble finding a seat much later than that (thanks to Kosta again for holding seats for me in the Wisconsin Lutheran gym). Walking in, I even encountered a handful of people looking to scalp their way into the game. Scalping at a high school game almost ensures that it's going to be a worthwhile night. Anyway, the game was a mild surprise to many, and the Pius sqaud was largely underestimated by people who think about these sort of things, and they came out fighting. When the buzzer sounded, Pius had won the game, giving Tosa East a season-ending loss to match the season opening loss that they also handed to the Red Raiders. Thoughts below:

1) Tosa East was clearly hurt by the loss of two key players to athletic code suspensions. The bench was thin for the Red Raiders, and their only subs to get in the game were players who didn't have a ton of varsity minutes between them. And none of the starting five came off the floor in the second half.
Heck, none of the starters probably played more than 28 minutes. That's what happens when you have 2 guys suspended, and 3 season-ending injuries, though. Compounding this difficulty was the larger dimensions of the Wisconsin Lutheran College court, as compared to an average high school court. I'm betting that the five Red Raiders that played slept well that night.

2) Pius ran a zone defense most of the first half, and Tosa East couldn't get through it. Tosa East, no doubt, was familiar with all sorts of zone defenses, as that's been the primary tool for stopping Jerry Smith all season long, but Pius was simply better at at working in zones than any other team. I'll probably say it several more times before I get to the end of my thoughts on this game, but Joel Claassen didn't win his ridiculous string of girls state championships with the Pius girls team because of talent alone--the guy can coach.

3) Wow, D'Angelo Jackson didn't look like much to me the first time that I saw him, but it was tough to ignore his quickness on Friday night. No one on Tosa East could check him, and no one was getting help on him quick enough. He's going to be a fun one to watch next year, and Pius is only a 5-minute drive from my apartment. I think I know where I'll be spending some of my time next year.

4) My initial thought about Pius after seeing this game was that they would surprise someone in the state tournament, since they basically look like a bunch of skinny, only somewhat athletically above average white kids (Jackson excepted). Then it occurred to me that that description pretty much fits the bill for most teams at the state tournament. This is Wisconsin—not Chicago.

5) If it wasn’t clear from the description of entering the game, the atmosphere was great. This was a big time game. The stands were full, and virtually no one was there to see the second game of the night, so everyone was into the game. There was even a press row next to the court, complete with radio and television broadcasters, and a guy handing out stat sheets as the game went on. Where these broadcasts were going to, I don’t know. Well, except for the Time Warner broadcast, since it’s tough not to pick out that old guy with the flat-top haircut who calls the games on Channel 1111. I’m itching to hear his analysis of the game.

6) The PA announcer at the game was brutal. Every point he made was over-explained, as if the crowd had never seen a basketball game before. Perhaps his two biggest highlights came near the end of the game. First, in the middle of the 4th quarter, he began giving exit instructions to the crowd, to leave through exits “B as in barnburner, and D as in dog.” B as in barnburner? Is there really a need to show your personality during the exit instructions? Perhaps more entertaining, however, was the announcement made with 26 seconds left in game, when the game was still in doubt. Apparently two cars were illegally parked, and the PA guy was instructing that if the cars were not moved immediately, they would be towed. Be that as it may, I didn’t see too many people willing to leave this “B as in barnburner” at that exact instant. Thanks for the heads-up, though.

7) In an email to a friend earlier this week, I stated that the winner of the Pius-Tosa East game had a 78% chance of advancing to state, given the weakness of the teams from the other regional. Well, that prediction nearly came into question, as Bay View took Pius into double overtime on Saturday night before Pius prevailed. Thankfully, Pius won. It would have been truly bizarre to have Bay View in Madison representing a sectional that contained Pius, Tosa East, Milwaukee King, and Milwaukee Tech. The sectional’s always been loaded, so this is probably the closest that a team that wasn’t uber-talented has come to advancing to state.
Okay, so I watched a bunch of college games this weekend, and saw all three Wisconsin games (great shot against Iowa, Mr. Tucker!), but I’ve just pumped out a ton of high school comments, so forgive me if I don’t have the crack analysis that you have come to expect from me on Wisconsin college teams. Plus, I watched several of these games at bars, where the distractions around me keep me from being totally tuned-in to the game. In lieu of me gushing about how great the ACC championship game was, or discussing


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