Good border rivalries in sports bring out the best, the worst and sometimes the personal in everyone.
Take the Menomonee Falls-Sussex Hamilton boys basketball game Tuesday night in the Falls. The student sections were doing their usual "Why so quiet?", "Let's play football!" type of chants, when the Charger fans, tired of being reminded that the Indians upset them in one of the great grid games of autumn, upped the ante' with this:
"You're so ugly!"
Ouch! The Falls fans largely laughed it off, even Falls coaches in the stands chuckled at the clever rejoinder and then everyone started paying attention to the game again.
Their guys had struggled against the unbeaten Chargers (3-0 in Greater Metro Conference play and 7-0 overall) for the better part of three quarters, scoring only two points in the first period.
They then got caught up in the buzzsaw that was the last 1:35 of the second quarter. The Chargers outscored the Indians 10-0 in that time, including a dagger of a top-of-the-key three-pointer from all-everything junior guard Brady Ellingson at the buzzer to make it 33-17.
Ellingson would finish with 28 points.
Things got worse in the third quarter for Falls as a Drew Patterson's lay-up made it 46-24 for Hamilton with 28 seconds left in the period.
But then things started getting interesting, interesting enough that the Chargers had to sweat some questionable shot selection (one of nine from the field), some poor foul shooting (4 of 11) and some general offensive stagnation in the final period to hold off the tenacious Indians, 52-47.
"If we hit our free throws this conversation doesn't even get held," said Hamilton coach Andy Cerroni, "but we got a little flat and we didn't take very good shots, but it was what it was. Let's face, I don't care what their record was (the Indians are now 0-7 overall), this was not an easy opportunity playing here."
'But we got the win, and that's what counts."
It sounded like one of the exciting NCAA D3 football playoff games that WIAC champion and eventual national semifinalist UW-Oshkosh played earlier this fall. Cerroni's brother Pat coaches that squad and was in attendance at Falls to give the Chargers and his brother some encouragement (or was it Falls coach Dan Leffel and the Indians as Pat Cerroni once coached the Indian football team for three seasons)?
Fortunately for family relations, Andy Cerroni and his Chargers came out victorious.
Meanwhile, Leffel, whose team was coming off a discouraging thumping to top-ranked in state and unbeaten Germantown on Saturday night, could hold close the idea that his squad has some character, some heart.
"This is definitely something to build on," he said. "We showed a lot of toughness in that fourth quarter. Now if we can just put that together in an effort for all four quarters, then we could get some things done."
If only the Indians had started earlier.
Senior forward Zach Murray scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter as the Indians gave a pulse to a game that looked like it had hit the snooze alarm one too many times in the third period.
Murray's effort closed the margin to 46-36 with 2:43 remaining. Ellingson hit a putback for Hamilton's only buicket of the session to make it 48-36 with 1:30 left so it looked like the Chargers were comfortable.
Falls senior guard Brandon Ramey converted a three-point play and then Devon Nauer quickly knocked down a putback to make it 48-41 with 59 seconds left.
Ellingson hit two free throws with 54 seconds left to make it 50-41, but then Ramey converted another three-point play with 26 seconds left to cut the margin to 50-44.
Ellingson hit still another brace of charity tosses with 25 seconds left, but still the Indians would not go away, as junior forward Anthony Russo put down a three-pointer from the wing to close the gap to 52-47 with 15 seconds left.
And when a miss and a lane violation wiped away another free throw opportunity for the Chargers, Falls had a chance to get the score to a single possession, but Ramey's three from the top of the key rimmed out and that essentially allowed Andy Cerroni to breathe again.
"We turned in a good defensive effort for the most part," he said. "It's what we try to do. That helps us get on little runs like the one we had (at the end of the half)."
"It wasn't pretty, but bottom line, we had enough cushion left to pull this out. I just wished the clock had moved a littlle faster (laughs)."
Tony Gumina added seven for Hamilton.
Leffel praised the boost that players like Vadial Shields and Devin Jackson gave to the Indians as Ramey led Falls with 13 points, while Murray had 12 and Juwan McCloud eight.
"This just goes to show that you can never count a team," said Leffel. "This (the fourth quarter) showed what kind of potential we have especially defensively. It could lead to confidence on offense and better things in general."