by Troy Sparks
Madison – If this was indeed the last hurrah for the city of Madison to host the boys and girls state basketball tournament, the WIAA put on quite a show, beginning with the conclusion of the boys tournament last weekend and hosting the girls tournament this weekend.
You won’t get an argument from at least one person if the WIAA decides to move the tournament to Green Bay beginning next year. Milwaukee King boys coach Jim Gosz is looking for a fresh start at a new venue.
“I’ll be the first one up in Green Bay,” he said minutes after his Generals lost a heartbreaking game to Germantown in the Division 1 title game, Mar. 17, 72-69, at the Kohl Center. “I think Green Bay will do a great job. We need to have a Final Four experience where the town embraces it. Madison doesn’t want us. Come on, Green Bay, let’s go.”
If you were in the post game press conference like I was and other media members, you would have seen the face of defeat because he felt bad for his players. Some breaks here and there in a highly anticipated game should have gone King’s way. Of course, the officiating wasn’t impartial, and some of the foul calls leaned towards Germantown’s way.
As I saw the game courtside, I was thinking that most people wanted Germantown to win the game. During the game, I chatted with a couple of highly placed people on the WIAA staff, a man and a woman. The man didn’t like the way that King played their basketball. He thought they were out of control and the players were trying to take over the game instead of running their offense.
I told the man that every team in the City Conference gets up and down the court that way. The teams in that conference press a lot and score lots of points. Sometimes the action gets out of control, but that’s how the City Conference is.
He prefers the kind of ball that was played in the Division 2 title game between Onalaska and Kaukauna won by Onalaska. There were lots of jumpers made from kids who spent hours practicing their shots in the driveway and none of that fancy playground stuff.
My opinion is that the WIAA stacked most of the city teams into one sectional because they don’t want to see more than one city school at state. Not too many fans would come to the Kohl Center to watch a King vs. Vincent or a Milwaukee Hamilton vs. King final now.
The economic impact would suffer since it’s believed that people from Milwaukee don’t spend enough money there and might only bring three busloads and some MPS security guards, especially when outsiders think that city people don’t know how to act.
But let’s go back to the game. The pressure that Germantown faced from King was something that they never experienced in all the games that they won in their 28-0 season.
“Their pressure bothered us,” winning Germantown coach Steve Showalter said. “I told my guys before the game started . . . . ‘Don’t make me sit up on that table after the game and tell those guys that we weren’t ready for that pressure.’ We were ready for it. We knew that it was coming. It was a beast trying to handle it. Every trip down the floor was a war, every trip, the whole night.”
The Generals were on a mission to win the title for the first time since 2004. They are the high school version of the Marquette men’s team. You looked at those kids and you knew that they were undersized. They were also hard workers who came to work every day with their lunch pails.
One disadvantage that worked against King was a lack of size. “We didn’t have anything 6-11, 6-7, 6-5,” Gosz said. “And we got 6-2 hard kids, kids who just battle. That’s the way we are.”
The WIAA threw King in the belly of the beast and the hardest Division 1 sectional out of the four. They won their sectional and the Division 1 semifinal game against Oshkosh North and looked for a flash of daylight in the title game. They were scrappy, and they made the Warhawks sweat for 31 minutes 55 seconds before a last second three-point try was no good.
Without being critical of the officiating, Gosz probably wanted to know why Germantown had 37 trips to the free-throw line, making 29, and why his team got only 10 attempts, making five. Eight fouls were called on King in the last 5:30 of the game.
Madison Memorial made their ninth straight trip to state. King was in Madison for the 13th time and Gosz has been a frequent visitor 11 times over his 22-year coaching career. Both teams have been mainstays in the state capitol and some people are tired of seeing Memorial and King here every year or every other year. I guess they want new blood.
The Generals collected their fourth silver ball for being the runner-up to go with their five gold balls they have in their trophy case. But Gosz felt bad for his guys who were so close to beating the odds and paying back the WIAA for their ban from the 2009 playoffs for a rules violation.
“I just feel for my kids,” Gosz said. “They worked their tails off all year and they’re just crushed. They’re absolutely crushed. We did our best.”
Gosz got some fresh air in his time in Madison and noticed that maybe some people around the UW campus didn’t care about the state tournament because they were partying on St. Patrick’s day. “I walked along State St.,” he said, “and I don’t think that anyone knew that it was a state tournament going on here (Saturday), and I think that a change of venue is needed.”