Hot Corner: When is it enough?
By Rich Palzewic
GREEN BAY – During a Jan. 7 girls’ basketball game between Green Bay West and Xavier high schools in Appleton, the Wildcats lost, 80-0.
That’s not a typo – I had to look it up myself.
West was trailing 59-0 at the half.
I’ve never heard such a score, and I’m guessing most of you reading this haven’t, either.
I’ve heard of teams losing by 30 or 40 points, but never double that.
I’ve had some experience with lopsided scores in football.
During its run to the Division 1 state championship game in 2019, Bay Port routinely pounded teams.
The Pirates were leading by 35 or more points by halftime in seven of their 14 games.
Bay Port was leading Sheboygan South by 51 at the halfway point, while De Pere (49), Sheboygan North (49), Milwaukee Bradley (49), Notre Dame Academy (42), Ashwaubenon (41) and Manitowoc (35) faced similar deficits after 24 minutes of play.
I know Bay Port head coach Gary Westerman well, and I know he’d never purposely run up the score on an inferior team and embarrass them – that’s not his style.
Ironically, the scores of the Pirates’ games in 2019 didn’t end up much worse after halftime.
When high school football teams are trailing by 35 or more points at the break, a running clock is instituted in the second half – that helps keeps scores down.
In basketball, if a team is trailing by 40 points with nine minutes remaining in the game, the running clock begins.
I saw a good portion of Bay Port’s games that season, and Westerman played his reserves sometimes as early as the second quarter.
He didn’t pass anymore and ran the ball every play.
Even though half of the Pirates’ games were completely lopsided, the scores were justified in my opinion.
You have to respect your opponent – which Bay Port did – but you also have to get your first-string players some work.
“Those guys work their tails off,” said Bay Port boys’ basketball coach Nate Rykal, who used to coach at West. “It’s different for football because there are fewer games to play.”
I found the video stream of the West game on YouTube and watched it to better understand what happened.
I know the Wildcats have struggled with numbers in various sports, but I don’t believe I saw any subs on their bench.
“I’ve been on both sides, and it’s a horrible feeling,” Rykal said. “You’re overwhelmed and overmatched. In my first year at West, we played a good Sheboygan North team. Their second-string players were probably better than our starters. I wasn’t going to tell them to hold the ball. As a coach, you have to understand that.”
Rykal said his teams went from 2-19 to 3-18 and 11-11, respectively.
“There are lots of lessons to learn, whether you’re winning or losing,” he said. “During that North game, we were down like 85-27. We banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to get us to 30. We were happy as heck.”
The West girls don’t have much height, so if Xavier missed a shot, it corralled rebound after rebound until scoring.
The Hawks also employed a full-court pressing defense early on.
The Wildcats could barely get the ball inbounded and past half court.
It was 12-0 two minutes into the game, and Xavier head coach BJ Buss was already subbing.
“During a recent game (at Bay Port), I had 12 guys available, and they all played in the first quarter,” Rykal said. “Many coaches wouldn’t do that – they’d play the starters for most of the first half. I was subbing like you do in hockey, in and out.”
It’s obvious Buss knew West was overmatched, so he put in five new players.
The lead swelled to 26-0 at the 12-minute mark, and the Hawks were no longer using their pressure defense.
I skimmed to the second half, and Xavier passed the ball numerous times each possession without shooting.
With 7:46 remaining, the Hawks scored their last points of the game to make it 80-0.
After West had a decent shot to break the scoring column on the ensuing possession, Xavier grabbed the rebound with 7:15 remaining.
Buss then called a timeout, and his team passed the ball around the perimeter for the remainder of the game.
I saw nothing that made me believe the Hawks ran up the score.
Buss did everything correctly – subbed freely, backed off the pressure and had his players pass the ball more without shooting.
One thing he didn’t do, though, was let the West players purposely score – I personally also agree with that.
You might not agree with me, but I think it’s disrespectful to allow your opponent to purposely score – at least in a high majority of the cases.