Wauwatosa East vs. Marquette High: Rivalry Weekend Kicks Off
Friday night kicked off rivalry weekend for me, with bitter conference rivals Marquette High and Wauwatosa East squaring off at the Al McGuire Center. As luck would have it, I needed to be in downtown for work on Friday afternoon, so I was able to meet up with friends beforehand and trot over to the game with ease. My thoughts below:
1) Any game in the Al McGuire Center is a special one, and in particular, you can’t help but love a regular season game like this being held there. Traditionally Marquette-Tosa East is a tough ticket, no matter which gym the game is being held in. Kudos to whoever came up with the idea to shift at least the Marquette-hosted portion of the series to the McGuire Center. The space there allowed any fan who wanted to see the game to do so. And that can’t always be said for a rivalry game like this.
2) I make a lot of decisions at games not based on actual desires, but on principle instead. And that’s exactly why I bought myself a cup of Dippin’ Dots while on the way to my seat. I’m not actually a big fan of Dippin’ Dots, but two things necessitated the purchase. First, it’s not everyday that you can get a cup of Dippin’ Dots at a non-tournament high school game. You have to take that opportunity when it’s there. Second, I’m not sure how the ice cream of the future has made it back to our primitive time, but since it has, I feel as if I should occasionally partake in the treat so that I can get some sense of what people are like in the future.
3) This game, again due to the rivalry factor, is typically a banner night for student section cheering from two spirited student sections. To be honest, while both sections were solid, neither came up with the creativity that I’ve seen in years past. Part of that might very well have had to do with the placement of the student sections behind each basket. When the students are that far from one another, they can’t really play off of one another as easily as they do in a small high school gym.
4) While I generally kind of liked the student sections behind each hoop, I would have liked to have seen a setup where teams were shooting into the opposing student section in the second half, rather than in the first half. As it was, the Tosa East student section pulled out some Duke-like moves while Marquette players shot foul shots. The potential for things like that would be awesome down the stretch of a tight game.
5) While I was impressed by my friend Beau when we went to the Wisconsin-Pepperdine game last weekend and he busted out a homemade scouting report on Pepperdine, I was almost frightened when he broke out his homemade scouting reports on Marquette and Tosa East. Where is he even getting this information? The man is nothing, if not dedicated. I definitely know how we’ve become good friends.
6) Marquette’s Dan Landisch opened the game strong, canning two three-pointers within about the first minute. Last season I wrote some comments that were somewhat critical of Landisch, a strong 6'6" forward, for spending too much time playing on the perimeter. These shots, along with several other plays in the game have shut me up a bit with regard to this topic. Landisch is an excellent athlete who can do lots of things normally only done by smaller players. Of course, I still think he could be an absolute beast down low if he spent more time there, but that might just be my big-man bias speaking.
7) It was a relatively quiet game for Tosa East star Jerry Smith, scoring only 15 points (yes, you’re pretty good when that’s a modest evening). His shooting touch was a bit off on Friday night, but he was at least able to put down a sweet reverse dunk on a breakaway. I’d say that seeing that was worth about $2 of the $5 price of admission.
8) I got a lot of comments from friends who saw the Wauwatosa East-Milwaukee Lutheran game bugging me about how I didn’t mention Tosa East's Jeff Donovan after his excellent game earlier in the week. My write-up ignored him, while the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article about the game was basically constructed around Donovan’s play. Why didn’t I mention him? Well, basically I knew he’d have more games where he was just as solid, and I wanted to use my limited time to comment about another player who I thought had a great game. Jerry Smith’s the star of Tosa East, but Donovan holds everything together with his consistent, rock solid play. When you see him play basketball, it’s almost frightening to think that most people believe that basketball is his third best sport.
9) I give credit to a Marquette team that graduated most of their key players from last season and unfortunately lost two of their better returning players to injury before the season. I was sort of expecting a lopsided game, but Marquette still fielded a team of nice athletes and kept the game close before Tosa East pulled away down the stretch. Even if the Hilltoppers don’t have their usual list of heralded names on the roster this year, they’ll still win some tough games.
10) As I left the McGuire Center, I couldn’t help but think what a great facility it is for Marquette University to have, and what a fine place it was to watch high school basketball. I’m even more excited for the upcoming Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook Shootout now that I know how great a single game can be. In fact, I can think of another event or two that should be held at the McGuire Center, but that’s a rant for another day...
So the hard-fought intra-conference battle ended in Tosa East victory. And I walked away smiling after a good game, and knowing that the next day would bring even more rivalry excitement in the form of the annual Wisconsin-Marquette game at noon. Yes, it was a good weekend to be me.