Area hoops teams play with heart, brawn
by Troy Sparks
All three basketball games I attended at the high school, college and NBA level had different outcomes from some of the built-up frustration that needed to be released.
High School Rivalries
Take the Milwaukee Vincent boys basketball game against Milwaukee Riverside, Feb. 10. The Vikings remembered the spanking they when they visited the Tigers in the second round of last year’s playoffs. It was still fresh on their minds.
Now fast forward to this year’s meeting between the teams – held in the same gym, Riverside’s home court. Even though it was a regular season game and not the playoffs, it was still an important one in a battle for second place in the City Conference behind Milwaukee King.
Vincent rode the back of junior Deonte Burton and his 26 points to beat Riverside, 76-65. He was away at a prep school the last time they met and didn’t factor in the blowout loss the Vikings suffered against the Tigers.
First place in the conference belongs to the Generals. Barring an upset in their remaining games of the regular season, King will have the conference title wrapped up. They lost to Riverside last season, and that gave the Tigers the City title. They also lost to them in the sectional round. Beating both Vincent at home and Riverside on the road this year gave King the inside track on winning the conference championship.
Vincent, King and Riverside all lost key players who were ineligible because of academic issues. According to a Vincent math teacher I talked to as we left the Riverside building, grades were due soon. Favorable marks from the affected players from those teams will be a welcome sight for the coaches who can use them down the stretch going into the playoffs.
King, who lost their post player due to grades, made do with the smaller and quicker lineup that have been getting things done and rolling along.
I guess they took a page from the Marquette men’s basketball team that lost two big men from injuries. The Golden Eagles make up for their lack of size with their pressure defense and speeding up the tempo on the court.
When visiting Cincinnati began on a 16-4 run to start their Feb. 11 early afternoon Big East game at the Bradley Center, they thought the Golden Eagles would fold their tents and pack it in. The Bearcats had more size and depth than Marquette, but the Golden Eagles had more heart and determination.
Marquette went on a 7-0 run over a span of 3 minutes 32 seconds to trail by five points at 16-11. The 18,815 fans got louder and louder in the game, which was National Marquette Day. They erupted when free-throws by Todd Mayo gave the Golden Eagles a 25-24 lead with 8:27 left in the first half. Marquette never trailed again. They took a 47-35 halftime advantage into the locker room.
Marquette was never threatened in the second half. The Bearcats found out that those smaller guys in the gold uniforms were on them like a swarm of bees on every offensive possession they had. And Cincinnati was left in the dust when Marquette pushed the ball up the court and outscored the visitors 31-10 on fast break points.
Once Marquette turned up the tempo on their opponents in recent games, they delivered a knockout blow that had those teams wondering what hit them. The lack of depth forced four of Marquette’s five players to play more than 30 minutes and five of them logging more than 25 minutes in the game.
All the Marquette starters played more minutes in their game than Stephen Jackson of the Milwaukee Bucks did in the nightcap at the BC against the Orlando Magic.
Jackson played a total of 20 minutes in the game and wasn’t a factor, scoring four points in their 99-94 defeat. This wasn’t the plan that was mapped out for the 33-year-old veteran when he was traded to the Bucks on Draft Day.
“I’m very frustrated,” Jackson told a reporter after the game. “I don’t understand why I’m not playing. It’s the first time in my career which I don’t understand why. It’s like I’m being used as a decoy out there. This is all new to me. I won’t settle for not playing, but I like to (act as a) professional.”
I can understand why Jackson would be upset. So far, he played 22 games and started 13. He averaged 29.8 minutes per game and 11.9 points per game at week’s end. In his career, Jackson averaged 33.4 minutes and 16.2 points.
On a sunny day on June 29, 2011, Jackson strolled into the BC media room and said, “I’m definitely happy to be here. I’m still doing what I love to do and what I’m blessed to do, and that’s playing basketball.”
The Bucks’ brass said they would do everything they could to make Stephen Jackson’s stay in Milwaukee as comfortable as possible, easing rumors that this town isn’t a great place for a professional basketball player to work.
Jackson is making $9.26 million this season and is scheduled to make $10.06 million in 2012-13. The Bucks might cut their losses with Jackson and buy him out because the relationship between him and the organization may not be working out.
As for the game itself, The Bucks had a 10-point lead at 88-78 with 5:44 left. Jason Richardson’s three three-point baskets sandwiched by a Jameer Nelson two-point basket gave Orlando a lead that they never relinquished.
The Bucks lost their last three home games at week’s end and took a backwards step in trying to secure the No. 8 spot in the playoffs.
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