Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Pius vs. Arrowhead: A Tuesday Night Grinder

Before the game recap, a special thanks to the few of you who informed me yesterday that North Dakota’s Goodwill Ambassadors will be performing at halftime of the Wisconsin-Michigan State game on January 8. And here I thought that no one knew what I was talking about. I guess those ladies really are spreading goodwill on behalf of North Dakota.

Oh, and an extra special thanks to the gentleman that let me know that during halftime of the February 8 Wisconsin-Indiana game, a young man by the name of "Rubberboy" will be performing. Mike Davis and Rubberboy on the same court? I am officially intrigued.

As for last night’s game, I’ve been wanting to see Milwaukee Pius since the season began, and tonight was my chance. A lot of people would tell you that a game between 1-2 Arrowhead and 1-3 Pius might not be that interesting, but I thought it was a stealthy pick, since both teams have played a couple of challenging early-season games already. For the most part, their losses have come at the hands of good teams. In addition, there were no other marquee games on the slate, so it seemed logical to get my first look of this season at Pius’ D’Angalo Jackson, one of the state’s top players. Oh, and the fact that Pius is really close to my apartment didn’t hurt, either. So after my drive over, here’s what I was thinking:

1) Over the years I’ve become accustomed to a standard $3 entry fee for high school games. But tonight the ticket to the Pius game was $4. I haven’t been to enough games this year to know if it’s a trend. My fear, however, is that this is going to turn into something sort of like my senior year of college, when inflation caught up to everyone and no one was quite sure if the standard price of attending a house party was $3 or $4. At $4, you sort of felt like you were getting taken by the hosts, but at $3, you were left wondering if you were attending a party that didn’t merit a higher price tag. All I ask is that the high schools pick a standard price, even if it’s the higher $4 fee–I don’t want to go through those type of mental gymnastics again.

2) Pius, as many people likely know, moved into a new fieldhouse last year. It’s a really nice facility, and it appears that everything that was done was done in a first-class manner. That said, it lacks some of the charm of the old Pius gym. The old gym was dark, had a strange seating layout, and was generally not that nice. But there was just something really cool about it. It’s sort of like the difference between the Kohl Center and the old Fieldhouse at Wisconsin. The new one is nice and comfortable, but you can’t help but think fondly of the times that you spent in the old, worn-out venue.

3) Tonight, because it wasn’t a packed gym, it was pretty easy to hear the PA announcer, but I guarantee that if it had been a bit busier, I would have heard various people around me asking "Did that guy just say Willie Nelson?" when Pius’ Willie Nellen was introduced. I know, because it’s happened at every Pius game I saw last year.

4) There are a lot of good high school nicknames in the state of Wisconsin, but I’ve always enjoyed the fact that Pius’ nickname is "The Popes." What better mascot than the head of the Catholic church? Perhaps the only thing more entertaining is the fact that the girls teams are referred to as "The Lady Popes." When you hear these things every day, sometimes you forget how great they are.

5) The first quarter ended with a score of 6-5 in Pius’ favor. If not for a scoring outburst in the final 20 seconds, the score would have been 4-2 in favor of Pius at the end of the quarter. Lots of decent shots went up, but nothing seemed to fall, and both teams remained wickedly patient on offense. So yeah, it was a rough quarter to watch.

6) It’s really rare these days, given the way that the game of basketball has changed over the years, that you ever see two actual centers on the floor at the same time. But that’s exactly what happened tonight when Arrowhead’s Kevin Solwold was in the game against either of Pius’s big men, Keith Queoff or Brad Zuiker. In particular, I saw some nice physical play down low between Zuiker and Solwold. How I miss the days of bruising centers...

7) The game was a sloppy game in a lot of ways. This would probably challenge for the most traveling calls that I’ve ever seen. I’m guessing that there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 or so. I would expect both of these teams to be a little more cautious with the ball.

8) Tonight was the first time in all my years of watching high school basketball that I’ve ever seen a coach ejected from a game. It was pretty anti-climactic. Arrowhead’s head coach was tossed early in the fourth quarter after picking up a second technical foul. Neither the first or second technical foul was related to any sort of huge outburst from the coach, and while I understand how the first one came about (it was one of those game-long things that built until a ref finally snapped), I was sitting somewhat near the ref who made the second call, and I missed whatever he heard. After a calm conversation with the refs, the coach eventually left the floor with his head shaking in disbelief. Not exactly the violent outburst that you expect to lead to an ejection.

9) If I’m a guard, Pius is one team that I don’t want to have defending me. On the occasions that Pius started trapping Arrowhead’s guards, they looked like they could cause some serious havoc.

10) D’Angalo Jackson didn’t have the opportunity to totally showcase his skills in a tight, low-scoring, physical game, but did show off some of his quickness in the final quarter, blowing by a defender or two in impressive fashion. And when I saw the box score this morning, I was frankly shocked to see that he scored 29 points. This sounds absurd, particularly in a game where his team only scored 51 points, but it was a really quiet 29 points. Nothing flashy–Jackson just got the job done.

11) What intrigued me more about Jackson, though, is that the announcer was referring to him as "Dee Jackson." I assume, since this was at his home school, that they would know his usual nickname, and this would be it. But I’m wondering if I got the manner in which it should be written correct. Is the name, in fact, written as "Dee Jackson?" Is Jackson just going by his first initial, and should "D. Jackson" be the proper way of writing it? Or is he looking to just use the first part of his name, and should it be "D’ Jackson?" Yes, these are the things that go through my head during down time at games.

12) I think Pius will actually improve quite a bit this year. Several of their passes tonight were just a split-second slow, but guys were definitely getting open in good spots on the floor. I can only imagine that the comfort level among the teammates will rise as the season goes on.

So after a fourth quarter that was extended by fouls, numerous traveling calls, the ejection, and even a minor injury timeout, Pius walked off the floor with a 51-38 victory. It was low-scoring and wasn’t the most electrifying game I’ve been to all year, but it was a game between a couple of capable teams. I’ll definitely be back to Pius for another game this year, and not just because the school is located really close to my apartment.


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