Riverside girls basketball player Alona Johnson hoists the Division One state basketball trophy with some help from her teammates after they defeated Mukwonago 55-41 in Green Bay.
by Troy Sparks
On St. Patrick’s Day, something good happened. It did with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Marquette men’s team. The Milwaukee Riverside girls basketball team had good luck the night before when they won the Division 1 state championship, Mar. 16, in Green Bay.
The Bucks were seven games ahead of Toronto for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff standings entering their home game with Orlando with a 32- 32 mark. They’re trying to avoid playing Miami in the first round of the playoffs. The Heat clinched a playoff spot and is occupying the penthouse.
Early on, the Magic didn’t play like an 18-48 team that was in the outhouse of the Eastern Conference. So it was obvious that they were feeling lucky after a 54- 44 lead at the half.
Orlando took the crowd out of the game and wished that the Bucks put those retro 90s green and purple uniforms away.
It was a different story in the second half for the Bucks. They scored 71 points in the third and fourth quarters. It was like watching a Western Conference game. Milwaukee scored a whopping 45 points in the last quarter alone.
Both teams were either content in having a shootout or didn’t care to play any defense. A lack of D was missing from the Bucks, but they won the game, 115- 109 behind Monta Ellis season-high of 39 points.
“I’m happy that we won the game,” Milwaukee coach Jim Boylan said. “I’m concerned with the way that we’re playing right now. You can’t rely on scoring 45 points in the fourth quarter to pull a game out at home.”
A lack of effort on defense some nights is a big problem with this Milwaukee Bucks team. They don’t make enough stops on the defensive end and let teams hang around where the outcome can swing either way.
“The defensive end is where the problems are, period,” Boylan said. “We’re not committed to it. We don’t play hard enough. Defense is a first effort. Defense is a second effort. “Defense is a third effort. Defense is a fourth effort and defense is a rebound. And we give one effort, maybe two, and that’s it.”
Boylan is tired of seeing the same old output night in and night out from his team. It’s a team that the average fan might see going through the motions and think that they have the playoffs locked up.
“We need to turn it up and we need to be a serious team,” Boylan said. “We’re not playing like a serious team.”
Luck found the Marquette men’s team as they gathered inside the Marquette Annex building with coaches, media and other guests. They roared when they saw on TV who they would be playing in the second round, where and when.
They face Davidson on Thursday, Mar. 21, in Lexington, KY, in the East Regional. If they win their first game, they could face either Butler or Bucknell. The Golden Eagles are a No. 3 seed.
“I don’t know about the (Davidson) players,” coach Buzz Williams said. “I know that they were back-toback league champs in the Southern Conference. But other than that, I don’t know much about their personnel.” Here a hint, coach: Contact UWM coach Rob Jeter because they beat Davidson at the Klotsche Center (73-68, Nov. 17) and get your hands on some film of that game.
As for whether he expected his team to get a No. 3 seed, Williams thought it was earned based on playing tough teams in non-conference action.
“I think that the committee is much more aware and probably paying more attention to out of conference scheduling,” he said. “I think in our tenure here, each year, we have become more accountable.
“The problem is, when you go on the road, you probably at times going to get smacked like we did at Florida (82-49, Nov. 29). But in the end, it comes back and helps you because it proves to the committee that you were willing to try.”
It’s the job of outgoing senior guard Junior Cadougan to keep his team focused to the task at hand and not to look ahead, thinking that either mid-major team (Bucknell or Butler) will fold against a high-major team. “This is the last straw for me,” he said. “We just have to come with that hunger and (remember) what got us to this point and just come ready to play at all times, every possession.”
I was a non-believer of the Milwaukee Riverside girls basketball team at first. MCJ sales representative Jimmy Johnson, who’s related to freshman guard Alona Johnson, didn’t know that I didn’t have the Tigers winning the City Conference championship in 2012-13, which they did.
They were ranked at the top in preseason, won the first game, lost four in a row and won every game after that. The Tigers reeled off 23 straight wins to claim the title over Mukwonago, 55-41, and finished with a 24-4 record.
When I watched them on TV and saw the confidence in the Tigers that they were going to complete their mission, I was a believer. They had 6-foot-5 senior center Breanna Lewis, Alona Johnson and Amari Wilborn. They wore black T-shirts that said, “Gold Ball or Bust.” They brought home the gold ball, which hasn’t happened for a City team since 2009.