Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Tournament That Wouldn't End

It was 11:07pm last night when I saw one of the most upsetting things I'd seen all night. I glanced at the scoreboard in the Wisconsin Lutheran College fieldhouse and saw that there were about two and a half minutes left in a close game between Milwaukee Bradley Tech and Wauwatosa East, and that between them, both teams had 7 timeouts remaining. An already long night was about to get longer. I left the gymnasium about 10 minutes later, after Tech pulled themselves within 7 points of Tosa East (who had gone on a run in the previous two minutes) with 15 seconds left on the clock, and promptly called time out. I assumed that Tosa East wouldn't find a way to give three possessions to Tech in the ensuing 15 seconds and that it was safe to exit early.

I love holiday tournaments, and think that the City/Suburban Holiday Classic is a particularly brilliant idea, but here's a memo to the prospective organizers of any future high school tournament--games don't fit as neatly as you think into that one and a half hour time period that you've blocked off for each game. The games themselves might last that long, but when you factor in warm-ups for each game, it would be shocking to see four back to back games start and finish within a 6-hour window. Case in point--last night's festivities featured four games (and keep in mind that warm-up periods, at least for the two games that I saw, were abbreviated from 20 minutes to 15 minutes) that started at 4:30pm and ended just before 11:30pm. 11:30pm was my weekend curfew until my senior year of high school. Here's a good rule of thumb--if a sophomore couldn't sit through the entire game without asking special permission from his/her parents, you're starting the game too late.

So the final game of the night tipped at 9:55pm, predictably almost an hour late. I got to sit through two and a half games (half of Milwaukee King-Kettle Moraine, and all of Milwaukee Custer-Hartland Arrowhead and the aforementioned Tech-Tosa East). Afterward, despite the entertainment, I was more than happy to head home. Some notes on the tourney below:

1) It's tough to get a good program put together for an early season tournament, since up until about a week ago, most rosters probably weren't set. The program handed out at the tournament last night was no exception. There was some guessing to be done on player identities for Milwaukee Custer, as only half of their players had numbers listed. This was still better than Arrowhead's profile, which simply read "Roster to be determined..."

2) During the King-Kettle Moraine game, I immediately tried to identify Ed Reed and Silas Mills, the two King players that I remembered from last season. The impressive Reed was easy to identify, but Mills was a tougher find. It was only later in the half that I would notice him sitting on the bench without shoes on, implying an ankle injury. Seems this must have been the case, as Mills hopped on one foot through the line to shake hands at the end of the game. I can't imagine how awful it must be to wait for the season to arrive, and then injure yourself in the first game of the year. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery for Mr. Mills.

3) I'll admit that I knew nothing of Kettle Moraine coming into the night, nor did I expect to see more than 2 minutes of their game against King, given when I arrived. But since things were running behind and I did get to see most of the second half, I definitely came away impressed with their backcourt. Upon returning home I saw that they were picked by the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook to finish second behind Arrowhead in the Classic Eight Conference. King was the stronger team last night, but then again, there are few teams in the state that King isn't generally stronger than.

4) The word on Arrowhead is that they're supposed to be young (for some reason, it seems like Arrowhead is always young). Despite their youth, there is some talent there. In fact, the player that stood out the most to me, Charlie Fischer, is only a sophomore (according to the box score in this morning's paper, I somehow missed Arrowhead's Russ Finco dropping 35 points on the Custer, so my observation skills might have been off a bit last night). So look for some good times for the Warhawks in coming years. As it was, they notched a nice victory over Custer last night.

5) During the announcements before each game, the PA announcer read a statement that noted that one of the goals of the tournament was for everyone to conduct themselves in a manner that "doesn't offend anyone." Isn't that kind of a high bar to set? I mean, I was sitting quietly in the corner of the gym, but I even I can't be totally sure that I wasn't offending anyone by the way I was sitting, or with my shoddy-looking clothing for the evening, or even with the smell of the soap I'd used that day. The lawyer in me wants the tournament to change their goal to having everyone conduct themselves in a manner that could not reasonably be expected to offend others in their proximate vicinity. I'm not holding my breath for that change.

6) Forgotten by me until last night is that the three-point distance change in college basketball also affects the division three level, as Wisconsin Lutheran's court had the new line in place. I would guess that high school coaches aren't going to be real excited to play on college courts this season, as about 75% of the three pointers that I saw attempted last night came from behind the college arc, even though the other arc just inside is the standard for high school.

7) The real intrigue of last night was seeing if Wauwatosa East's Larry Bradley, a transfer from Milwaukee Vincent and the top sophomore in the state, would play for the Red Raiders. While I had seen nothing in the media beforehand about any potential issues with Bradley's eligibility to play for Tosa East, I've heard plenty of rumors flying around Tosa for the past few weeks. Bradley was with the Tosa East team last night, but was not in uniform, leaving plenty of questions to be answered about the situation. Fortunately, the Journal Sentinel finally picked up on this story this morning, giving some insight into the situation. We'll see how things work out, but based on my read of the story, it doesn't sound good for Mr. Bradley.

8) Other than the late end to the evening, the most annoying aspect of the night had to be when Milwaukee Tech held the ball for a final shot with two and a half minutes to go in the first half. I doubt that Tech was actually trying to hold the ball for a final shot. More likely, they were holding the ball to try and get Tosa East to come out of its zone, which made no sense at that juncture of the game. With Tosa East holding a 6 point lead and another half of basketball to be played, the Red Raiders didn't have much motivation to let Tech choose how they wanted to be defended. So the crowd was treated to nearly three minutes of 10 guys standing around. Then Tech failed to score. Not a fun way to end the half.

9) Lots of credit to Tech for a nice rebounding effort last evening. Second chances against the Trojans were tough to come by for Tosa East, even though they had a very capable player with a distinct height advantage over the Trojan big men.

10) Besides Bradley being out for Tosa East, returing starting point guard Michael Cupertino was suited up, but did not play last evening. While the Red Raiders looked good without Cupertino, once can only imagine that they'll look even better once their most consistent returning player returns to the floor from whatever issue was keeping him out.

11) In Cupertino's absence, Tosa East starting point guard Eric Neal was nothing short of spectacular, throwing a pair of jaw-dropping assists through traffic to big man Frazier Reiland, and stealing the ball from Tech's guards with impressive regularity. Neal has some of the quickest hands that I can remember seeing on a high school player.

With my first pair (and another half) of high school games in the books, it was time to call it a night. I was able to keep my eyes open long enough to check my DVR and see North Carolina show how ridiculously good it is this year by dismantling a tough Notre Dame team. Some people associate Thanksgiving with football, but those of us in the know realize that the weekend is really about basketball. Here's hoping your Thanksgiving is as happy as mine.


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