Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Brookfield East vs. Wauwatosa East: an Evening of Strategery

With the Wisconsin-Illinois game on ESPN tonight, I wasn’t exactly actively looking to catch a high school game tonight. But my friend Gus also didn’t have to turn on the persuasion too much to get me out to the Brookfield East gym to watch Brookfield East host Wauwatosa East. It turned out to be a surprising scare for highly ranked Tosa East. Thoughts on the hotly contested game (ignore the 54-40 score, which is about the most misleading score of all time) below:

1) The thing that I was looking forward to most in the Brookfield East-Tosa East matchup was the chance to watch Brookfield East’s Jeff Smith, who played the best individual defense that I saw on Jerry Smith all of last year, get another crack at playing defense on Tosa East’s superstar. However, I didn’t get the chance to watch much of that, as Brookfield East’s coach threw a brilliant curve at Tosa East, spending much of the game in a 3-2 zone. It’s been some time since I’ve seen a team play a tough 3-2 zone, as 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones seem to be more popular choices these days. The 3-2 was a great choice, though, since it cut off penetration before it ever began, robbing Jerry Smith of his ability to finish in traffic when other zones try to stop him once he get into the lane. Tosa East didn’t seem to know what to do against the zone in the first half, and finished with a lowly 16 points.

2) In the Brookfield East gym there’s a great painting on one wall of overlapping basketballs, and a person-by-person listing of the school’s all-time scorers. Cool idea. There’s a slight problem with the painting, though. Because it wasn’t really possible to get all of the names painted directly over the orange basketballs, and the bulk of the names are painted in white with a thin black outline, there were a lot of names that were essentially painted in white on a cream colored wall. From across the gym, I was able to make out the names of the very top all-time scorers, which were done in red (I remember Steve Wright-he was awesome!), and the ones that were in white, but on top of the basketball. The white-on-white ones were impossible to decipher from my seat, though. I’d be a little sad if I’d scored 600 points, and couldn’t see my name from across the gym.

3) I picked sort of a rough seating location last night. The night began as a gentleman sat down in front of me, and took up a healthy portion of the space in front of me by hanging over the back of his bleacher seat by a totally unreasonable amount. And when I say unreasonable, I mean that the only person that wouldn’t make me uncomfortable by taking up that much space directly in front of me would be a girlfriend reclining back into me (which shouldn’t actually happen either, as I learned a several years back that it’s not exactly a smooth move to take your girlfriend out for an exciting night of high school hoops). Fortunately for me, the gentleman shifted forward after the national anthem. Of course, my overall problems didn’t stop, since the rest of the game saw the couple to my left keep shifting slightly towards me in hopes of having less of their view less obstructed by the standing student section to our left. Hey, it’s not my fault you folks picked bad seats, so stop crowding me.

4) I live in the suburb that I grew up in. I often attend basketball games featuring my old high school. I drink at the popular local bar in my suburb. I think it’s pretty safe to say that I exhibit many features of a townie. I’m still coming to terms with this. Shedding some light on the situation was an exchange that my townie friend Gus had with some local elderly gentlemen during the game last evening. Gus, noting that it had been quite some time since we had attended a Tosa East game and seen a particularly fiesty elderly gent that we refer to simply as "The Old Man," asked some of The Old Man’s friends what happened to him this year. One of his friends replied something to the effect of "He busted up his ankle awhile back and hasn’t been able to get around. It’s killing him not to be at these things." His friends went on to note that The Old Man had been to the last 47 state high school basketball tournaments, typically bought tickets to every session for the weekend, and tried to sit through every game. That’s when it hit me–I’m not just any ordinary townie. Someday I’m destined to be The Old Man. At least he seems like he’s still having a good time. And I’m told he just got his cast off, so here’s hoping that he’s back watching hoops and enjoying himself very soon.

5) Tosa East’s defense also lacked some intensity in the first half, as Brookfield East seemed to get to the baseline almost at will.

6) While the first half was marked by the excellent move of using a 3-2 zone to stop Jerry Smith, the second half was marked by adjustments. The biggest adjustments (and the ones that ultimately won the game for Tosa East) were that Tosa East came out to start the half with a bigger lineup and made more of an effort to pass the ball into the middle of the lane, the most vulnerable spot in Brookfield East’s 3-2 zone. Scoring started to get a little easier at that point. To Brookfield East’s coach’s credit, however, he recognized that this adjustment had been made, and started switching up his team’s defenses a bit more, throwing in man-to-man looks at an increased rate in the second half. In the end, it wasn’t enough, but this was a game where both coaches were definitely making good strategy choices.

7) For a game that was within three points in the final minute and a half, the 14-point margin of victory is not at all indicative of how things went. Helping to distort the outcome was the play in the final twelve seconds, which involved a meaningless, unsuccessful three-point attempt from halfcourt by Brookfield East, and a subsequent rebound by Tosa East, which was thereafter passed downcourt to Jerry Smith for a superfluous dunk. Make no mistake, though, this one was a lot closer to going down to the wire than the final score indicates.

And at the end of the day, the townie homer in me was happy to see Tosa East escape with the victory. But there was another pure basketball fan part of me that was of the opinion that if the Red Raiders had been forced to lose, I’d at least be happy that it had to be to a team with as well-crafted and well-executed a game plan as Brookfield East. It’s pretty rare that a team that I’m not a historical fan of makes me smile that much during a game.


At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Tony said...

Chris, I was wondering if high schools in the area still have mascots at games. Does anyone still dress in a costume to support the team and do crazy things like slide across the gym floor?
Just wondering if it is still prevelant or a thing of the past.

At 12:43 PM, Blogger Chris said...

A couple do, but I can't think of many. The only ones that I can readily think of are the Milwaukee King General, and the Milwaukee Washington tiger. Frankly, I'm not even sure if the tiger exists anymore. However, about 5 years ago Washington had some kid that was a phenomenal dancer wearing the costume. His head was usually off for 65% of the game, but man, could that kid ever dance!


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