Sportswriter Steve Tietz will use this blog to try to duly reward the great, praise heartily the hard-working, uncover the unsung, and take to task the spoilsport, the foul-mouth and the crass in the local prep sports scene. He'll try to remember that kids are just kids and that coaches aren't in it for the money. He'll try to gently remind parents that the kids are playing for fun, not for profit and that the officials, though occasionally human and therefore prone to error, are there to ensure fair play and not out to get anyone.
There was thought of taking this "Game of Champions," this match-up between the Whitefish Bay Dominican and Germantown boys basketball teams last Saturday, out of the Knights' cozy and compact little gym and into the more spacious Whitefish Bay High School Fieldhouse down the road, where people would have had some room to stretch out.
But there wouldn't have been as much fun in that, as everyone got to know their neighbor very well at the Knights' tradition-filled gym.
"There was some talk of that, of taking it over to Bay," said Dominican Dean of Students and Athletic Director Brian Geittmann, "but as the host school, we wanted to keep it here and add to our tradition. So we started planning this in September and everybody pitched in."
And everybody understood what was going on.
"Sometimes it felt like it was hard to take a depth breath and I wasn't even playing," said Warhawk coach Steve Showalter of the crowd, "…but it was fun. That was one of the first times I was ever in there (the Dominican gym). I think way back when I was starting out on the JV, I might have coached a game here, but then again there was no one in the stands in that situation."
"Not so tonight (laughs). ….There had to be a solid 1,200 who were in there and maybe another 2,000 who wanted to be here."
And yes, it was probably a very good thing that the defending state D1 champion Germantown squad got to experience life in tight quarters in a noisy and sometimes less-than-friendly atmosphere.
In the end, it didn't turn out well for the defending state D4 champion Knights as far as the game went - they simply didn't have enough depth to compete with the Warhawks (see separate story).
But Geittmann felt that the experience as a whole was a tremendous success, simply because of the excitement that was built.
Tickets went out to the Dominican community about two weeks ago and an allotment was sent to Germantown a short time later. Those were gone in an instant, though resourceful fans standing in front of the ticket desk on Saturday did find ways of scoring tickets.
Game draws coaches
Geittmann said that the school worked very closely with the North Shore Fire Department and the Whitefish Bay Police Department's Student Resource Officer so that the determined capacity of 1,200 people would not be exceeded.
And trust me, they got very, very close to that number.
Because everyone wanted to be there. Coaches from all over came to see this high-level match-up that featured D1 recruits Luke Fischer of Germantown (Indiana), Duane Wilson of Dominican (Marquette) and Diamond Stone of Dominican (every collegiate coach in the country with a pulse).
Buzz Williams of Marquette could be seen patrolling one baseline and a brief scan revealed an elite's elite of high school coaches including Dan Carey of the Sussex Hamilton girls, Marquis Hines of the Milwaukee Vincent boys, and former Nicolet girls coach Corey Wolf.
They rubbed shoulders and sometimes a lot more, as everyone squeezed in. "Please, only one seat square of the gym seating per person please" was the frequent call from the PA announcer.
Signs had been posted in the hallways and stairwells: "STOP (as in a red stop sign): You need a bracelet to get into the gym" read several of them.
Geittmann said the red bracelets were used as a way of controlling the number of tickets sold and of giving the besieged and hard-working volunteer staff (about 20 people all told) a way of easily knowing who should get into the gym and who shouldn't.
"It was a secure way of making sure we didn't exceed the capacity," Geittmann said. "That's why they were bright red. It just required a little brainstorming."
Once in there, no one really came out except for halftime snacks and bathroom breaks. Because they had a captive audience, volunteers were then easily able to hawk beverages sold off of carts as well as the ubiquitous raffle tickets you see at all high school basketball games now.
The Dominican cheerleaders even came through selling brightly-colored cotton candy.
It was just that kind of a day.
Because of the decisions made, everyone seemed to have a good time and the event was deemed a success.
It also became another notch on Dominican's proud basketball legacy. One that could be understood by a simple glance to the far right corner of the gym, where a banner stated "Dominican boys basketball state record 62 consecutive wins, conference record 42 consecutive wins, 1977-80."
Which was right next to the banners touting the 16 conference titles, the seven WISAA state titles and the three WIAA state championships the Dominican boys program has won.
Meanwhile, the Germantown win streak currently stands at 44 and counting and the Warhawks are looking to win their second consecutive WIAA state D1 title sometime in early March.
"They (the Knights) wanted to have every advantage possible and I understand that," Showalter said. "I want my team in our gym as often as possible. Maybe it wasn't the best move for them possible revenue-wise, but I totally get wanting the home court advantage. And I was so impressed with how our kids fought back in a tough place to play."
Tough but fair was the way that Geittmann and the Dominican staff wanted it and how in the end, it turned out.
"It was representative of the Dominican community," he said. "Everyone helping out. …We've had big games here before, but not quite as big as this. We were very happy with how everything turned out."