Pius vs. Waterford: What the Heck, I'll Check Out the Game
Last evening took me to Pius XI High School to watch Pius play host to Waterford. I had seen that Waterford had a pretty good record, but honestly, even if they hadn’t, I probably would have shown up anyway. With all due respect to Waterford, I was really just looking to get a good read on Pius, since they’re going to be an intriguing team after their mild upset to go to the state tournament last year. I had actually sort of meant to make Pius my pet team this year, due to the school’s proximity to my apartment and the comfortable set-up of the gym, but just never had time to go to the marquee games. So on a whim, I dropped in tonight and got my third look at the Popes. Game thoughts below:
1) Prior to the game I used the restrooms in the Pius fieldhouse, and overheard two guys inside talking about the Milwaukee Bucks game going on tonight. As it turns out, one of the guys was being taken to the Bucks game by his wife. I’m not sure which warmed my heart more–to know that one of these guys had a wife who was willing to treat him to a pseudo-basketball game on Valentine’s day, or hearing the conversation itself, which involved both of these guys trying to figure out who would be on the floor for Charlotte tonight as they took on the Bucks. It always makes me happy to find more basketball fans that couldn’t care less about the NBA. (For the record, Milwaukee’s actually playing Seattle, not Charlotte, tonight. Hence, the story is even better.)
2) One of the big reasons that I wanted to get a look at Pius was to get a look at how they played with the addition of senior guard Kevin Maciejewski, who had been out with an injury both of the previous times that I saw the Popes. I clearly had remembered his name from last season, but had just assumed he had graduated. But then after the first time that I saw the Popes play, I received an email from a Pius fan who noted that his absence had somewhat affected the team’s play. I couldn’t really gauge that tonight (for reasons that will become apparent in my next point), but he definitely was another talented player in the line up, which never hurts.
3) Pius star, and the top unsigned senior in the state, D’Angalo Jackson was dressed, but did not play last evening. I have no idea whether this was illness related, injury related, discipline related, or related to something that I can’t even think of. I was a bit disappointed, partly because I didn’t get to see the exciting Jackson in action, but more because I couldn’t get a total read on how Pius is playing these days. The Popes looked very solid, but you’d have to think they’d show an entirely different look if their best player was in the lineup.
4) Interesting call by the PA announcer after the opening tip, as he noted "Tip goes to Pius. Next possession will go to Waterford." Correct me if I’m wrong, but if Pius and Waterford are the only teams playing, is that second sentence even necessary? Doesn’t the next possession, by definition, go to Waterford? This is true whether we’re talking about the very next possession of the game, or the next time that the possession arrow comes into play. Thus, this is a totally superfluous comment.
5) On Pius’ second possession of the game, they had the ball for upwards of 30 seconds (I’d guess 45 or so if I had to). I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a possession quite like it. Once Pius got into its halfcourt offense, the ball touched the floor only two times during the entire possession. And it wasn’t as if they were attacking a zone–Waterford was matching up. Whatever Pius was doing, it was working, though, since they got a good shot off.
6) I see that I was not the only person checking out the Popes tonight, as I noticed during the second quarter that what appeared to be the entire Wauwatosa East team was seated in the section to my right. Barring something incredibly odd happening at regional seeding meetings, the Red Raiders should be slated to meet Pius in the second round of the high school tournament. So it only made sense that they’d check this one out on their night off. Actually, it’s very possible that the reason that I wanted to see this game was a subconscious desire to get a better read on that very match-up.
7) One of the more odd moments of the game, from my perspective, came after a charge call on Pius that happened in front of the Pius bench. Pius coach Joel Claassen protested a bit after the call, which wasn’t so odd. What was a bit odd was that one of the refs (it was a three man crew that did a pretty good job on the evening) started yelling "Good call! Good call!" as if he was congratulating his reffing partner (Actually, I wasn’t sure which of the refs made the call, because hey, who pays attention to the refs when there’s a game going on?). I assume that, as usual, I’m missing something in my observation of the situation, but from where I was sitting it seemed like the ref went out of his way to yell this right in front of the Pius bench and bother the coach. Whatever the guy was doing, it was an odd departure from an otherwise non-eventful night.
8) With Pius’ star player on the bench, other guys had to step up their games. The guy that impressed me most was Frank Nellen, who seemed like he was scoring or deflecting a pass every 30 seconds during the third quarter. Also of note was the play of Keith Queoff, who had an excellent rebounding night. I hadn’t been blown away by either of these guys in my previous viewings of Pius, but last night they really stepped up their games.
9) I was sort of shocked by how docile the crowd was at Pius last night. There was a decent-sized student section, and they were sitting near the court, but none of them really cheered. Adults really shouldn’t be out-cheering students at these things–even if it’s not a big-time game. Watching that crowd really made me miss the days at Pius when I could go to a game and see a student in the front row dressed as the pope and participating in an off-color cheer. I assume things get closer to that edge for big games, since there really is a lot to cheer about at Pius these days.
And with the end of the game, I met up with my friends Gus, Austin and The Franchise, largely to get an update on how the Villanova-UConn game went. That morphed into checking out the Kansas-Oklahoma State game, and making fun of Olympic figure skating on the next television over. All in all, I’d say it was a pretty solid night. And if all goes as planned, tonight could be another solid hoops night. I’ll elaborate tomorrow, if things work out.