Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Milwaukee Lutheran vs. Port Washington: Two For the Price of One

Last night I headed out to Milwaukee Lutheran to watch the Red Knights play host to Port Washington. The draw of this game was three-fold. One, I wanted to see Wisconsin recruit Josh Gasser, who based on the Badgers’ roster make-up, has the potential to play an important role for them next year. Two, I wanted to see Milwaukee Lutheran star Chim Kadima, who I have somehow not managed to see over the past two years. And finally, I just wanted to see a good game, as I hadn’t been to a high school game in a month (save for my trip down to the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook Shootout). All three objectives were met (at least until Port Washinton pulled away in the fourth quarter). My thoughts below:

1) Milwaukee Lutheran is always one of my favorite places to watch a high school basketball. I’ve been to a handful of games there over the past few years, and I always leave smiling because of the atmosphere. There’s always a huge student section (they were quiet last night, but are typically very spirited), an excellent pep band, and generally a larger crowd that you see at most high school basketball games. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big game or not–the Milwaukee Lutheran fans always seem to show up. It’s something that most schools should be envious of.

2) For all of the good things about Milwaukee Lutheran, I find its fieldhouse to be one of the least awe-inspiring of the handful of huge high school fieldhouses that have popped up around the Milwaukee area in recent years. And it all boils down to two things–lighting and color. The vast grayness of the Milwaukee Lutheran fieldhouse makes you forget that it’s probably about the same size as the fieldhouse out at Cedarburg, or that the bleachers at Milwaukee Lutheran are far less flimsy than those at Milwaukee Pius. All that said, even if the Milwaukee Lutheran fieldhouse can be sort of drab and depressing at times, it’s still better than no fieldhouse at all. I can’t tell you how jealous of today’s students I am every time I walk out of a school that has a climbing wall. Where was that when I was a teenager? (Side note–I’m told that Brookfield East and Central both have new fieldhouses, and I’m anxiously looking forward to checking those out).

3) Because high school basketball is much lower profile than college hoops, I often find myself in the amusing situation of having read oodles of material about a given player and being very familiar with a name, but having no idea what the guy actually looks like. Such was the case last night with Josh Gasser and Chim Kadima. Whenever this happens, I like to play a game with myself and see if I can figure out who the star is during warm-ups, before numbers and identities are revealed to everyone. Usually, it’s pretty easy to guess who the star is due to a unique height, race, or abundance of athletic ability. Kadima, for example, was given away by the superior athleticism that he displayed during warm-ups. Gasser was nearly impossible to pick out, though. He’s a 6'4" white guy with short brown hair. A brief perusal of the program revealed that six of Port Washington’s twelve players were 6'4", and nearly the entire team had short brown hair. Part of me wonders if the reason that Milwaukee Lutheran played a lot of zone defense in the first half is that they couldn’t tell anyone apart. As to my attempt to figure out who Gasser was, I got it wrong, guessing that he was teammate Cory Steinmetz. I was disappointed in my effort, but at least I picked another starter, and one of the more solid players on the team.

4) I can’t say that last night was always fun for me to watch, as the first half featured both teams playing a lot of zone defense (I don’t know if I ever saw Port Washington go man-to-man). While I don’t necessarily have anything against zone defense, both teams were sort of at a loss regarding how to attack a zone defense for a good portion of the early part of the game (Milwaukee Lutheran didn’t score its first points until nearly 5 minutes into the game). It was a bit better late in the game once both teams figured out what they were running (and Milwaukee Lutheran increased the amount of man-to-man played), but the start of the game dragged a bit and tainted my opinion from the onset.

5) Because of the size of the Milwaukee Lutheran fieldhouse, a ball boy or girl is deployed at each end of the court to chase down any loose balls that happen to make their way into the vast abyss that is the area beyond the baseline. Last night the public address announcer mentioned the names of the two kids working the game and noted that both were part of a program where fifth graders at a local Lutheran school that recognized a student’s positive performance by granting them the honor of serving as ball boy/girl. Part of me wondered if it really was an honor to be stuck sitting on a 2x3 rectangle of carpet with nothing but a towel and bottle of water for roughly an hour and a half, with the only reprieve being the moments when it became necessary to chase down a sweaty basketball. Of course, much as it seems like a punishment to me now, in fifth grade I probably would have totally loved doing something like that.

6) Beyond Josh Gasser, the other big name in last night’s game was Milwaukee Lutheran’s Chim Kadima, best known for an array of injuries over the years and his backing off an acceptance of a scholarship to Iowa State. Kadima showed no signs of his prior injury last night, and while not a superior athlete, is still pretty athletic. Add in a nice night from three-point range, and I was generally pretty pleased with Kadima’s 20-point performance.

7) In addition to scoring 17 points and looking like Port Washinton’s top forward, Pirate forward Shane Kennedy wins last night’s Andreas Helmigk Award for outstanding achievement in sweat production. Port Washington’s team colors did him no favors, but Kennedy managed to easily sweat through his jersey quickly.

8) How did Gasser look to me? To borrow a phrase from Steve “Homer” True, solid but unspectacular. He’s not a guy that wows people with his athletic ability, and while he has a nice looking shot, nothing managed to fall for him beyond the three-point arc last night. It was tough to get a read defensively, due to Port Washington’s reliance on zone defense. Gasser does excel at passing (kudos for his teammates for being able to catch some of his more impressive assists last night), which bodes well for where Wisconsin may need to use him next year. But beyond that, he’s basically like a human version of the Wisconsin team–no glaring weaknesses, but no characteristics that are going to get you overly excited at first glance, either. So he should fit right in with the Badgers.

9) I do have to admit that I left the game wondering exactly how hazardous it is to be a cheerleader at Milwaukee Lutheran. During pre-game and time-outs, there were several instances where team members pulled mats out onto the floor with them for routines, and my unofficial count revealed that the team was wearing a grand total of six braces on various body parts, as well as three patellar bands. Maybe some of the girls should go out for something more safe–like the football team.

10) I understand that every moment of a game is important to a high school team, but I really wasn’t too excited to see Milwaukee Lutheran calling timeouts in the final minute and being instructed to foul while down by 11 points with 35 seconds left. As a fan, there comes a time when you just want to go home.

With Port Washington sealing its victory with a nice fourth quarter run, I headed home with a bit more knowledge about next year’s Wisconsin team and was able to cross two players off of my must-see list. I also solved one of the great mysteries of my life when I passed by nearby Divine Savior Holy Angels high school on my drive home and finally figured out where that school is. Despite the fact that DSHA is in Wauwatosa, and I’ve crossed paths with a handful of its graduates, I honestly didn’t know where that place was for the first 30 years of my life. I’d say that all of those things together made for a pretty good night.

Tonight brings Wisconsin-Michigan State and Marquette-Georgtown. I’ll be attending the latter, and watching the former either on my DVR, or with MU fan friends poking at me at a bar.

Listed on BlogShares