Sunday, December 04, 2005

Hartland Arrowhead vs. Tosa East: A Snowy Rural Game

As I returned to the Milwaukee area from the Wisconsin-Pepperdine game, I was faced with choosing whether to see the UWM-St. Louis game downtown, or taking in a high school game as Wauwatosa East and Hartland Arrowhead opened their respective seasons at the Arrowhead gym. I’ve been dying to see a UWM game, and would have loved to have seen the Brad Soderberg-coached St. Louis squad that the Panthers were taking on, but chose the high school game for two reasons. First, I hadn’t done great planning going into the weekend, and would have actually had to work my phone for a bit to get someone to go to the UWM game with me, while I already knew a couple of people attending the high school game. Second, driving in the snow had somewhat beaten me into submission, and Hartland was on the way from Madison, while downtown Milwaukee would have extended my drive past where I live. So I pulled off the freeway and went to Arrowhead High. Key moments below:

1) For those unfamiliar with Hartland, it’s probably one the most outlying places that could still be considered a suburb of Milwaukee. So it’s the closest thing you’re going to find to a rural-type area in the Milwaukee area. That’s why it shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it did when I had to halt for a snowmobile as I was entering the parking lot of Arrowhead High. Not exactly an everyday occurrence when I’m going to city schools.

2) As I entered the gym, there were roughly two minutes left in a hotly contested JV game. Normally not a big watcher of the JV game, I couldn’t help but get into this one as it went to double overtime. It ended with a hard-fought win for Arrowhead, but you can’t help but think that it was a treat for both teams to begin their seasons with such a thrilling game.

3) A couple of my friends were laughing as rap music began blaring over the sound system for warm-ups as the varsity teams took the floor. Given the less-urban feel of Hartland, my friends thought it a somewhat inappropriate choice of music for the locale. Me? I just think the kids know my theories on warm-up tunes.

4) Tosa East star and Louisville recruit Jerry Smith didn’t start the game. This, combined with the fact that Hartland Arrowhead star Charlie Chapman was serving the first game of his 18-game suspension for an athletic code violation, led me to wonder if I was going to totally miss seeing any big-time prospects that night. Not to worry, though, as Smith was inserted into the game mid-way through the first quarter, erasing concerns about his health or disciplinary status, and restoring star power to the game.

5) Unfortunately, Saturday night became my first evening this year of witnessing a gruesome basketball injury. Arrowhead guard Tim Barton got his legs tangled up while coming to a stop with the ball. I didn’t get a great look at what happened (thank goodness), but one of my friends said that it looked like a knee dislocation. Whatever it was, Barton was in serious pain, and it was painful to watch him hold his knee as the teams sprinted to the other end of the court to finish the play. Barton was carried off the court shortly thereafter. Best of luck on a speedy recovery.

6) If there’s a high school player who has more fun playing the game than Tosa East’s E.G. Ortiz, I’d like to see him.

7) The seating scheme in the Arrowhead gym was one of the more counter-intuitive patterns that I see when I go to high school gyms. There was one big mass bleachers on each side of the court. On the scorer’s table side, visiting adults sat on one half of the court, and home parents on the other half. On the opposite side, visiting students sat on one half of the court, and home students on the other half, separated by nothing but an imaginary center-court line. Could there be a more conducive seating scheme for producing student fights in a heated game (even though none occurred on Saturday night)? That’s why I’m always sort of perplexed when I see this type of situation at high school gyms. At least Arrowhead had the good sense to put a supervisor who looked like he had significant time in a weight room at half court to patrol the student area. And he was on the job during the game, with a handful of ejections from each set of students.

8) Hartland Arrowhead’s Mike Bernatz’s game is more guard-like than you’d expect based on his larger frame. But he’s a smooth player with a surprisingly nice outside touch.

9) Best moment of halftime: A kid of roughly 10 years of age who must have been the sibling of an Arrowhead student (as he was sitting in the first row of the student section) did the worm down the baseline. Is there anything better than a kid randomly doing the worm for no apparent reason? I doubt it.

10) Tosa East’s depth in the backcourt is going to be maddening for opponents. Based on the play of a couple of guys listed as forwards on their roster, I’m guessing that they were designated as such due to the fact that it would look silly to have 8-9 guards on the roster.

11) Okay, the mandatory Jerry Smith update–despite a slow start, Smith netted 22 points, generally looking solid, but didn’t do anything spectacular. Word has it that his jump shot is vastly improved, and he had some success from three-point range on Saturday night, but I’d like to see him a few more times before making any sweeping proclamations. Physically, he’s just about as well put-together as any high school guard I’ve ever seen. And if he’s dropping 22 points on a fairly decent team without doing many jaw-dropping things, though, there is potential for some scary-good games this year. I know I’ll be watching.

The game ended as an 18-point victory for Tosa East. Keep an eye on Arrowhead, though, since they’ve got some players, and should be getting Chapman back in the line-up just in time for tournament season. (Of course, if you’ve been keeping up with me, you know I saw this coming last year. I’m good like that.) As for me, I excitedly exited to more completely cleared roads, and improved driving conditions. Of course, at that point it didn’t really matter, anyway. After all, at 10pm, there were no more games to get to.

That’s it for today. Stay tuned tomorrow for a basketball pet-peeve rant inspired by an element of the Tosa East-Hartland Arrowhead game.


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