Marquette High vs. Tosa East: Rivalry Appetizer
Friday night was the first installment of the two annual regular-season meetings between Marquette High School and Wauwatosa East, two of the most bitter area rivals in terms of athletics. As a Tosa East man, myself, I’ve always enjoyed these games. During my high school days many, many moons ago, Marquette and Tosa East didn’t ever play one another, since public and private schools playing one another was a much more seldom occurrence back when each had a separate governing body. But even back then, the rivalry seemed natural as ever, even if the actual teams never got to meet up. When you’ve got two schools with a number of students who come from the same neighborhoods, and two great basketball teams, it’s always going to be a fun time. And I’m always glad that this game can happen nowadays. Game notes below:
1) When Marquette came out for the final few minutes of warm-ups after removing their warm-up pants, they revealed that they were wearing black socks of various lengths, pulled up as high as they would go. It wasn’t a good look. And while a team looking essentially like they decided to play in dress socks is inherently ridiculous, it’s even more ridiculous when the team doing this is from one of the most elite private schools in the Milwaukee area. Most of these guys are going to be wearing black socks to their respective office jobs for the bulk of their lives, so you’d have to think that they’d enjoy the opportunity to wear some white sweat socks during a youthful game of basketball.
2) Have I mentioned before that I love the Al McGuire Center for watching high school basketball games? Sure, the court’s a little bit bigger than during a usual high school basketball game, and it had to be a bit jarring for Tosa East to play a home game on a court that had their opponent’s name on it (even if the "Marquette" on the court was referring to a different entity), but for big games, there’s no better place for fans. Walking in somewhat later during warm-ups, my friends and I still found seats in the upper deck, at exactly halfcourt (I was straddling the center court line). You can’t beat that, and again, I’m totally jazzed that not one, but two Milwaukee sectionals will be playing their finals at The Al in March.
3) One of the things that bothered me about last year’s meeting between these two teams at the McGuire Center was fixed this year. In the second half, each of the teams was shooting into its opponent’s student section, making foul shot and general heckling much more possible.
4) For two student sections that have always seemed to come up with some of the best cheers around, it was a pretty vanilla night. In defense of the sections, the one drawback to the McGuire Center is that the seating configuration keeps the students far apart, making it tough for them to play off of one another. However, there were some blatant bad fanning techniques pulled out in this game, including Tosa East’s second quarter "Scoreboard" chant (loudly pointing out that you’re up when there’s 20 minutes of game left to be played often comes back to bite you in a really embarrassing way) and Marquette’s "Let’s Play Football Chant" while there was still game to be played (a great way to throw your basketball team under the bus before the final score is certain).
5) Compared to previous games in the Marquette-Tosa East rivalry, this one felt slightly off. Part of it might have to do with the fact that Marquette has gone 1-7 in the series since the 2003-4 season. But the bigger issue is probably the lack of obvious division one talent on either team. Over the last several years, names like Smith, Pease, Mulcahy, Hanson, Harris, Merritt and Grunst have graced the scorebooks. A run like that will spoil you, and that’s why, even though there’s plenty of talent on the current rosters, the lack of a jaw-dropping athlete sort of dulls the impact of the game.
6) In all the rankings and discussions that I’ve heard about Tosa East, I figured that they’d be good. What I forgot to think about is the fact that they’re really, really small. And when I say this, I mean that they’re small on a totally different level than any other good team that I’ve seen before. Milwaukee Vincent, for example, has had several teams where they don’t have anyone much bigger than 6'5" (see this year’s Vincent team, actually). The most entertaining Tosa East team that I watched during my youth played a 6'3" guy at center. The current Tosa East team takes the lack of big people even further by giving significant minutes to five guys under six feet tall. It’s not rare to see no one bigger than 6'2" on the floor for the Raiders. Lucky for them, they’re experienced, smart, and well-coached. Their third-quarter defense was clear evidence of this. They should mow through lesser competition, but watch out for any teams with size that they may play as tournament time comes around.
Even though the excitement and atmosphere wasn’t up to its usual level, I’ll always take a rivalry win for my side, and so I left the McGuire Center happy. More than that, though, I was excited to rest up, and hopefully see an even better game the next day. It’s pretty rare that I’m rooting for the usual inhabitants of the Al McGuire Center to lose, but that’s what would be happening the next day.