First High School Game of the Year: Whitefish Bay vs. Wauwatosa East
Last evening I attended my first high school game of the year, as Wauwatosa East played host to Whitefish Bay. The game was intriguing for a few reasons. It involved two teams that should compete for championships within their respective conferences, that stand a decent chance of competing against one another again at sectionals, and that each have a power forward ranked among the area's best. Aside from that, long ago I attended Tosa East and I now have a good friend who's close to the Whitefish Bay program, so the game was personally interesting to me. With that in mind, my friend Gus and I took our seats and enjoyed the opportunity for us to get our first look of the season at the Red Raiders and Blue Dukes. The evening ended with a 64-46 win by Tosa East. My thoughts below:
1) Having eaten just before the game, I failed to take advantage of the Tosa East concession stand, but my friend Gus partook in an old favorite item of his at the game--an impressive looking walking taco. On a base level, I'm impressed that a high school concession stand has something beyond popcorn, candy and soda. But I'm even more impressed that a high school concession stand can sell a legitimately tasty looking item for only $3. I'll think twice before eating prior to a game again.
2) After reading an article a few days ago about Wauwatosa East, I was amused that the roster includes a guy that seems to be casually referred to by everyone, including the coach, simply as "Money." Nicknames simply weren't that cool when I was in high school. If we'd have had a guy named "Money," it's pretty much guaranteed that it would have been an ironic nickname to make fun of some guy who was a mediocre player. But seeing as Diamontae "Money" McKinley is a starter, he's clearly not regarded as mediocre. And for the record, hearing the Tosa East coach yell things at his players like "Give the ball up to Money!" made the nickname even more amusing than it was when I saw it in print.
3) Last season, Whitefish Bay's Jamie Schneck was one of my favorite players to watch and he continued to be such a player last night. He didn't put up huge numbers--he had a solid, but unspectacular 13 points--but he generally looked smooth and was undoubtedly the most polished player on the floor. I have no idea what colleges are involved with Schneck, or where he's considering playing next year, but the future looks bright for him.
4) Beyond Schneck, I like the rest of Whitefish Bay’s frontcourt, namely Ron Patten and Jack Beck. Patten made a minimal impact last night, but his size and ability give the impression that he’ll preform better in future games. As for Beck, his wide frame would seem to imply that he’d be slow, but that’s definitely not the case. Add in his soft hands and ability to effortlessly destroy opponents while boxing them out, and you’ve got yourself a player.
5) Aaron Uden is looking like the odds-on choice to be the under-appreciated Tosa East player that I really enjoy watching this year. A 6'4" forward, Uden sets hard screens, battles for seemingly every rebound, and generally does the dirty work that goes unnoticed by people watching the ball. That's not to say that he doesn't have a bit of flash--he did throw down a breakaway dunk for Tosa East's first points of the game, and totaled the second highest number of points for the Red Raiders last night. But it’s the former things that stood out about his play.
6) For a variety of reasons, I didn't make it to a Wauwatosa East home game last season, so I may be late to the game on noting that the gym floor has gotten a nice face lift. With a lighter red color and white lettering, the floor is a solid update from the design that's the only one I had ever seen dating back to the first high school game that I saw back in 1985. It does make me feel somewhat old that my old high school gym has changed so much from the increasingly long ago days when I was a student, but I'm definitely glad that today's youngsters have a much more attractive place than I did in which to play games.
7) I was somewhat surprised by a fairly small crowd at Tuesday night's game. I suppose that Tosa East's lackluster prior season and 0-2 start this year has dampened some enthusiasm on the part of fans. However, last night's game was a fairly attractive non-conference contest featuring two of the better forwards in the area (Jamie Schneck and Darrell Bowie), so I'd have expected a few more fans in the building. A mildly solid home student section was in attendance, however the lack of adults was notable. The one benefit to decreased attendance is that I may no longer have to opt for my usual traffic-avoiding parking spot a block from the school. But I'm still hopeful for an enthusiastic crowd at coming games.
8) Tosa East guard Jackson Orin provided a huge spark off the bench, knocking down the first three 3-pointers that he took. On a team that still needs to settle on a regular rotation, Orin made a good case for continued playing time.
9) I promise to pay more attention to Tosa East standout Darrell Bowie the next time I see the Red Raiders play. My lack of attention to Bowie had more to do with the fact that he’s the one somewhat known entity on a team that I’ve long followed, but currently know next to nothing about. But his 17 point game implies that something good was going on–I was just too busy watching other things to make any notable observations about it.
10) At one point in the fourth quarter, Whitefish Bay trailed by only four points. But in the final quarter, Tosa East reversed course on the inability to finish out games that had marked its first two showdowns of the season. Calm and methodical, Tosa East took advantage of Whitefish Bay turnovers and repeatedly found easy layups while slowing the game down on offense. The home team played about as well as possible in the final six minutes, while the road team proceeded to panic and turn the ball over. Hence, the 18-point victory by Tosa East.
With a high school game in the books, I can shift my focus back to college hoops tonight as I head west to watch UWM visit Wisconsin. Given that one never knows which UWM team will show up on a given night, this one could be interesting.
On a final note, here’s wishing a speedy recovery to Marquette’s Joe Fulce, who from the sounds of it, suffered a potentially career-ending knee injury last night. Never a star for the Golden Eagles, Fulce had become one of my favorite role players, and assuming that he won’t be returning to the floor this year, I’m really going to miss seeing him play. Best of luck to Fulce, and here’s hoping that the early speculation about the severity of the injury is wrong.