After writing way too many game updates last weekend, I actually got a life and hung out with some friends in a non-basketball setting this weekend (other than watching the Marquette and Wisconsin games on TV at a bar). Of course, I still watched plenty of basketball, culminating with the phenomenal double-overtime thriller between Michigan State and Ohio State.
But before all that, I got to a high-profile high school game between Wauwatosa East and Brookfield Central, the top two contenders to win the Greater Metro Conference. I took in the game with my friends Dez and Kevin, who most of you already know are some of my more entertaining game-watching pals. So for today’s notes, I’m primarily offering my game thoughts from that game. Here they are:
1) I arrived at the Wauwatosa East gym with Kevin about 35 minutes or so before tip. Kevin hadn’t eaten yet, and requested a stop at the concession stand. He eyed up the offerings of the stand and then questioned me as to whether the chili was good. I was probably the wrong person to ask, since though I’ve been to tons of high school games over the years, I almost never stop at a high school concession stand. Nonetheless, I think my response of "They have chili? Wow, I never would have guessed that," was probably the response that most people would have given in that situation. In fact, this is pure speculation on my part, but I wouldn’t be shocked if this was the only high school basketball venue in the state of Wisconsin where chili is readily available as a game time snack.
2) Though I’ve taken in many games in the Wauwatosa East gym, it wasn’t until Friday night, when I sat at the far eastern end of the gym, that during the national anthem I noticed that it’s probably about time that the school looked into purchasing a new American flag. Unless, that is, the new colors are red, beige and blue. There was some serious yellowing going on in that flag. Although, it was comforting to know that the flag was probably old enough that back in my student years I probably bounced an errant volleyball or two off of it in gym class.
3) Part of my motivation for coming to the game, aside from the fact that it was the marquee high school game in the area on Friday night, was that, shocking as this may seem, I had never seen Brookfield Central’s star guard Scott Bagguley play before. For some reason, I’ve just not seen any Brookfield Central games over the past couple of years, which is odd, because it’s a team that’s typically well-coached and has some talent. In any event, Bagguley didn’t totally blow me off the court on Friday night, but he did do a lot of good things. Most notably, I liked the way that he kept an even keel, and kept coming back after big Tosa East plays. I can think of at least two instances where Tosa East had impressive baskets, and Bagguley pushed the ball right back up the court for easy Brookfield Central scores. Nothing rattled him, which I found impressive.
4) Speaking of not getting rattled, my friend Dez pointed out something that I think I had sort of noticed before, but never really thought much about–Tosa East’s point guard, E.G. Ortiz seems completely unfazed by the actions of his head coach, the always-animated George Haas. It’s not that he’s not paying attention, but he just takes things more in stride than the average player. Where most players might nod their head furiously or show frustration in their body language, Ortiz just takes in the info and goes about his business. Shortly after Dez noted this calm demeanor, Haas reinserted Ortiz into the game, and as Ortiz finished getting instructions, he just nodded at Haas and patted him on the butt. There’s not a lot of guys out there cool enough to make that move look completely appropriate, but Ortiz is one of them.
5) Tonight was my first game this season at the Tosa East gym, which reminded me of just how uncomfortable a place it is to watch a game that’s well attended. I spent the entire game trying to strike that balance between not allowing my knees to jut forward into the back of the person in front of me, but not sitting far enough back on my part of the bleachers to take away the space that the person behind me was rightly entitled to. I’ve decided that if I ever win the lottery, one of my first orders of business will be to donate fieldhouses to the high schools in the area which have the least comfortable gyms for watching basketball. Sure, I’ll destroy some charm that comes with taking in a game in an old gym, but at least I’ll have a place to stretch my legs.
6) As per usual, Tosa East’s Jerry Smith was phenomenal, with the highlight of the evening being back-to-back breakaway dunks that both occurred within about a 10-second time span. After the number of great things I’ve said about this guy over the years, I can’t use any more superlatives to describe this guy. Even when he was taking bad shots, his ability to get free to take those bad shots was mind-boggling.
7) Brookfield Central had a fairly solid roster of players alongside Bagguley, perhaps the most notable of which was David Kersey, who in addition to leading the team in scoring with 19 points, drew the assignment of being the primary defender on Jerry Smith. It was unfortunate to watch Kersey be involved in a fluke play near the end of the game where the ball bounced off of his foot and out of bounds, helping to seal the Lancers’ fate, because he really had played a great game. Anyone who can chase Smith around all night and still find the energy to drop in 19 points is okay with me.
8) Since this was a big game, with lots of cameras, and a couple of spirited fan bases, it was time for another game where the student sections created the atmosphere. I have to say that Tosa East’s students put on one of the better displays of creative, good-natured cheering that I’ve seen in some time. Perhaps the highlight was during a break in play in the second half when the began chanting "Stand up Brookfield!" at the opposing fans, and once the Central fans stood up, changed the chant to "Sit down Brookfield." The evening on a whole was maybe the best display that I’ve seen from a school that typically has an impressive body of fans. And there was only one cheer that drew a supervisor out of his seat, so it was mostly clean stuff, as well. My only criticism of the Tosa East students would be their early liberal use of the "Scoreboard!" chant, which can really come back to bite you if you’re not careful. I recall very clearly from my student days that there’s nothing sweeter than winning a game and throwing a "Scoreboard" chant back in the face of someone that’s used it prematurely.
9) As per usual, Tosa East’s Jeff Donovan deserves note for his solid, steady play. I’m probably going to just come up with a code phrase for this, since it happens so much that it’s almost not worth typing the whole thing out.
10) The game itself ended up being a pretty good one. Brookfield Central had its chances down the stretch, but just couldn’t sink free-throws. If they fix that problem, and are a bit more effective at closing down the lane on defense, this could be another game that goes down to the wire again. And it’s another one that I’m pretty sure I’ll be at.
And with the Tosa East 61-57 victory, I headed out to meet up with some friends who for some reason wanted to go bowling. It was kind of a creepy night for me, in that watching high school basketball at my old school and going bowling is pretty much exactly the type of thing that I would have done about 10 years ago when I was in high school. At least I didn’t end up calling my mother for a ride home. Actually, I ended up as the sober guy who was driving my friend home after he had a bit too much to drink. So it really was as if I was 17 again...