Vincent-Arrowhead: A Glimpse At Greatness
Saturday evening, right after the thrilling Wisconsin-Iowa game, I headed out to Homestead High School with my friend Kevin to see the Milwaukee Vincent-Hartland Arrowhead game. I had sort of hoped I'd be watching a Milwaukee Vincent-Waukesha North game, but Arrowhead pulled off the upset. So, even though it wasn't going to be quite as big a game as I had been hoping to attend, I was still seeing the best team I've seen all year (Vincent) and getting my first look at Arrowhead's star sophomore point guard, Charlie Chapman. My thoughts below:
1) If you have not been to the Homestead fieldhouse, you should check it out. Everything there was first class. I always liked the old Homestead gym, but the new place is absolutely gorgeous. This year I've also seen new fieldhouses at Cedarburg and Milwaukee Pius, but Homestead is better than both of them. Kevin commented to me that what he thought was great about the fieldhouse was that it was big, but the arrangement of the basketball court had an intimate feeling to it. I couldn't have said it better myself.
2) Let me get this straight--Arrowhead's school colors are powder blue and red, and they didn't go with uniforms that are predominantly powder blue? I like red, but there's no better uniform combination than powder blue with red trim, as shown by several of the Arrowhead students wearing old Arrowhead jerseys. It just doesn't work quite as well when red's the main color. Someone should talk to the AD about this.
3) I hadn't seen Arrowhead before, but I doubt that they normally play as they did when they started out the game on Saturday. They were basically trying to get up shots as quickly as they could. Because Vincent had two 6'7" athletic guys guarding the lane, this typically resulted in either a quick jump shot or a spectacular block by Vincent. In any event, any attempt to pick up the pace against the methodical Vincent was misguided for two reasons. First, Arrowhead didn't prove that it was up to the task, missing somewhere around its first 15 shots. Secondly, I don't know if Arrowhead's coach got a look at Vincent's bench, but there were a few decent guys over there ready for backup duty if anyone got tired. I admire taking a unique approach, but this one didn't work.
4) Fortunately for Arrowhead, Vincent wasn't hitting all of their shots, either. So, after a quarter in which it looked like Vincent would take a commanding lead over a scoreless Arrowhead squad, Arrowhead hit several three quick shots in the final 2 minutes to tally 8 points, and give the illusion that they would have a chance going forward.
5) I don't know how many points Marcus Landry had on the day for Vincent, but he probably had more rebounds, and his multiple first-quarter blocks changed the game. I've only seen Vincent in person twice, but both times teams initially tried to take the ball inside, and gave Landry easy and spectacular blocks. Then they quickly learned their lesson.
6) Not a great shooting night for Elliott Johnson, who in the last game that I saw him in, looked nearly as good as Landry. Not on Saturday, though.
7) Vincent's best play is perhaps its simplest, but works because of its athletes. It starts out as if the Vikings are going into the 4 corners, with Johnson and Landry in the corners on the baseline, the two guards in the corners near halfcourt, and the last guy in the middle near the top of the key. The guards exchange in a weave-type motion, though it's not as fluid a weave as, say, Michigan State runs. The guy with the ball cuts toward the center, as the player at the top of the key exchanges with him and if he doesn't see anything, he kicks to the guard in the other corner. Then this repeats. This continues until the guy with the ball is able to get a step on his defender.
He then takes it down the lane. Meanwhile, Johnson and Landry, both 6'7" and phenomenal leapers, start heading from their corners directly toward the hoop. Inevitably, one of either Johnson or Landry's defenders will come up to cut off the man with the ball and prevent an easy layup. Once the man with the ball sees this, he tosses a lob to whichever of the superb athletes has just had his defender leave and give help. Then there's a dunk. That's all there is to it, but I doubt there's one other team in the state with the athletes, and heady guards to run this play.
8) Upon the third consecutive time that Vincent ran the above play, one of the Vincent parents behind me leaned over to his wife and said "They're running that play that they use to embarrass us again." Well, I don't know that that was actually the objective, but well, mission accomplished even if it wasn't.
9) Wow, maybe I was spoiled by Friday's game, and the prior weekend's Tosa East-Milwaukee King game, but this was one of the least electric crowds that I've ever seen. Most of the cheers, even in the student sections, were led by men in their 40s. And Arrowhead proved that yes, it is possible to have a student section that cheers even less than a Milwaukee City Conference team's student section. I actually felt like I cared more about this game than lots of the people there, and I had no personal connection to either school in any way. Thank goodness I'll see some passion next weekend at the state tourney.
10) Vincent has lots of sophomores. Arrowhead has lots of sophomores. Look for this meeting to occur again in a year or two. It still probably won't be completely exciting, but at least Arrowhead might have a fighting chance next time around.