Eastview's 62-55 win over Chaska wasn't the best game of the year so far but it sure ranks up there with the most physical and most interesting. Vinard Birch led the Lightning with 19 points but his control of the pill as well as pressure on the basketball was just as important to the victory. The win wasn't without its controversies though.
Eastview may have had more talent sitting out than actually in their line-up. Senior Karl Otto (averaged six points a game last year), junior Frank Veldman (averaging 13 points a game this year), senior Corey Style (transfer from Apple Valley I think), and sophomore Joey King (transfer) are all not playing at the present time for this reason or that. Eastview still has some nice players in Birch, junior Oshari Arnett, some underclassmen, and others who make this a good team. But because of the absence of the four players the Lightning are playing games sometimes with disadvantages in size, sometimes a talent difference, and sometimes both. However, Eastview's players still take the court with a strong defensive background from their program and they play as hard as anybody I have seen. At times they can overcome being smaller or not as talented because of how aggressive they are and how hard they play. That was the case last night although the physicality of the game was brought to an extreme level.
Chaska jumped ahead 16-6 looking very good on both ends. They took advantage of size mismatches several times inside getting a short jumper from Ross Travis, free throws from Jake White, and Jacob Meyer's length on the wing allowed him to get a clean look for three. Plus Eastview had a lot of problems putting points on the board in the halfcourt set. The Hawks built the lead to 29-11 and went into the locker room ahead 32-18. Chaska looked ready to run away with the game but they started to miss some easy shots, they didn't take advantage of getting Eastview into the double bonus so early, and Eastview sophomore Chris Narum drilled two treys to send his team into the locker room with hope. And while in that locker room Eastview turned their intensity up several notches.
The Lightning got a three from Arnett, Birch scored as he ripped a Chaska player of the basketball and produced an easy lay-up, and the overall intensity led Eastview on a 15-0 run to start the second half giving them a 33-32 lead. Chaska didn't help themselves as Travis picked up his fourth foul reaching in, the Hawks couldn't take care of the ball turning it over on a regular basis, and when they didn't turn it over Chaska was hoisting quick three-pointers. Eastview's hard working defense (led by Birch, Arnett, and Narum) turned the game into a physical frenzy and the Hawks did nothing to help bring the game back to there pace.
Already full of intensity this game would become more of a slugfest as Chaska was shooting in the Double Bonus at the 12:30 mark of the second half. Also, Arnett started getting into it with the crowding talking and taunting them, which rubbed off on some of the Chaska players. At this point in the game every loose ball seemed to turn into a scrum with at least three guys piling on each other wrestling for the ball. There had been several loose balls and each time the players got up and went about their business without incident.
This changed when Jake White and Eastview senior Jordan Kuhn got up after a loose ball. White began to walk at an angle away from Kuhn when Jordan veered into Jake giving him a rough shoulder and elbow check from the blind side, a clear cheap shot. Kuhn continued to approach White escalating the confrontation when Jake protected himself with a blow back at Kuhn. From there shoving, grabbing, and such was everywhere as the benches emptied. Give the coaches credit for grabbing their guys helping calm a situation that could have been worse. The result was Kuhn fouling out as well as being ejected while White was also ejected.
The calming would be temporary. There were no more fights but interesting and questionable actions to come. Meanwhile, Eastview picked up all the momentum as Travis was sitting out with foul trouble, White was ejected, and Anthony Webber picked up a very questionable fourth foul on a charging call. With all their size on the bench the game became a match-up of guards and with Birch on the floor Eastview surly had the upper hand.
The second questionable shot was dished out by Eastview freshman Ben Oberfeld who was on the perimeter while a shot was attempted. He looked like he went to crash the offensive boards but as he took four steps charging into the lane Oberfeld didn't go far the ball. Instead the freshman put his shoulder down and smashed into the backs of one or two Chaska players drawing an obvious foul call and the ire of several in purple. This was Oberfeld's fifth foul and he went to the bench. Also, Narum and senior Brad Losee (I believe those names are correct) fouled out in the second half.
Irritated and losing their lead Chaska's Jacob Meyer started talking, he set some aggressive screens, Meyer was called for technical, and he shoved a player. On the perimeter the refs let Adam Happ take some very hard swipes at the basketball without a call so to clear himself Birch swung his elbow through in the area of Happ's head twice. Vinard's move was to clear Happ off of him and stop the hard reaching because the officials weren't stopping it at all.
Meanwhile the game became a 50-42 Eastview lead with Narum hitting a three, Birch scoring again, and then Meyer was called for that tech along with a personal foul on a teammate. Those two fouls became four free throws for Eastview and that widened the lead. And with White out, Webber fouled out, Ross Travis soon to be fouled out, and with Max Watts struggling to score, the game belonged to Eastview.
The Hawks backcourt did battle back with Happ scoring on a tough drive and with a pair of threes plus Watts scored off of penetration and Chaska got closer at 54-51 and 58-55. Then Happ and a teammate pressured Vinard and forced what looked like a clean turnover but a foul was called and after all the physical stuff with the guards was let go the refs called this foul that was barely a tap if that. So instead of a Chaska two on one fast break attempt to get them closer Birch went to the foul line to make a pair and this was essentially a four-point swing late. Credit Birch for making a ten straight free throws down the stretch to finish the Hawks off.
As the buzzer sounded the crowd seemed to simmer. Both Eastview and Chaska fans were mad at the refs all night long and with the physical interactions on the floor the fans were mad at players too. Things seemed to calm until Eastview coach Mark Gerber shook the hands of the Chaska coaches and then walked away from the Chaska players not shaking their hands. Is this something to be mad about it? The Chaska fans sure were heated although who knows the real reason because there are coaches out there who don't like shaking the sweaty hands of players (I have a close friend on Boston that never shook the hands of players when coaching at Austin Pacelli and Southland because he didn't like germs). Regardless the heat is still there and you know that everybody has Tuesday, February 9th circled on their calendar for the rematch at Eastview.
A word has to be said about the officials who had a very tough task in front of them officiating a physical game with two guys. The game was so physical that calling every foul would have resulted in using all junior varsity players early in the second half. That's really not an option. The problem was consistency. You would see Happ smacking Birch at the top of the key very aggressively with no call but some little reaches on penetration were sometimes whistled. The officials just weren't consistent. They would call little fouls but let guys jump on each other for loose balls (which led to the fight). Some of the travel calls were mind-boggling, the officials handled some jumpball calls incorrectly, and the foul numbers with the ejections wrong. There was no favoritism as both teams were equally shaking their heads it's just that Eastview's style seemed to benefit from the pace of the hundreds of whistles because they were the smaller and less talented team on Friday night (because they have four guys sitting). Also, one official made the majority of the early calls and then you had the other guy competing as both were making calls that weren't in their territory. It just wasn't good and it helped the game get out of control.
Ross Travis - Rivals 150 player Ross Travis finished the game with four points on two of five shooting. He was hampered all night by foul trouble as he picked up several little reach calls that his team could have done without, especially when White was sent to the locker room. When you consider how physical the game was and how many whistles there were it was hard for him to be a real factor. Ross had to play most of the second half with four fouls and eventually fouled out.
The potential of this young man is very high as he runs well, is quite skilled, and has good lift. Ross was trusted to run the point on three or four possessions because he has good ball skill. In terms of his jumper there is very good lift plus a high and soft release that was present when Ross scored on a face-up jumper out of the post. Travis also beat the Eastview wings to the rim on drives three or four times but was only able to finish once. The first step on the dribble attack was impressive but there was a turnover as well as a shot that was missed. Positively he was fouled once on the drives and another time Ross was hacked a few times but maintained body control to finish at the rim. On the miss Ross tried to shoot with his right while fading left on the left side. When he's more comfortable using his left that will be a score.
After five contests Ross is averaging 9.2 points per game.
Vinard Birch - What can you say about his defense? Birch's ball pressure alone forced Chaska into six turnovers. When it comes to hounding the opposing guards few can do it like he can and when you add in Arnett's pressure along with Birch this pair can be deadly. Vinard made 11 of 11 free throws totaling 19 points. He shot four of nine from the floor but his most impressive scores were the ten straight free throws in the final minutes.
He also recorded six rebounds, three steals, and five assists. Plus Vinard's teammates missed four shots in the land that would have upped his assist total even further. The Southwest State commit is averaging 19.2 points per game so far this season.
Anthony Webber - At 6-foot-6 Webber is a lot more agile than he looks when he steps on the floor. Anthony is long, he's a good shot blocker, he runs well, and on the glass Webber cleans up quite well. While being limited with foul trouble Webber totaled five points, seven rebounds, and two blocks. Plus his short jumper opened eyes as Anthony seems to have a nice touch.
Jake White - White was a producer from the start getting points from the foul line and hitting a long jumper from just inside the three-point arc. His shooting form looks better every time I see him and his range expands with every season of basketball as well. Jake is one of the best outlet passers you will find in Minnesota and he's pretty good moving the ball within the halfcourt set. He does a great job of passing the basketball quickly up the floor and in position for a teammate to score.
Jake had a double-double with 12 points and ten rebounds but White also let a few of the defensive boards escape his grasp. Jake didn't miss many on the offensive though as he's one of the best offensive rebounders I've seen in a long time as he has that Dusty Rychart/Dylan Rodriguez like knack for finding his way to where the ball will go.
White made one of seven field goal attempts and ten of 11 free throws before being sent to the locker room. Jake came into the game scoring 28 against Burnsville, 29 against Minnetonka, and 40 against Lakeville North. He's now averaging 24 points a game after five contests.
Max Watts - It was a tough day for Max who hit two of nine looks and he wasn't given any room to shoot. Max has a different looking release to his shot and that may have been an issue last night. With his release being out in front of his body a little bit and Eastview defenders defending him nearly chest to chest the ball just didn't look comfortable coming out of his hands. After averaging 18.3 points after the first four games Max was held to five points Friday night.
Oshari Arnett - Arnett is another outstanding pressure defender that Eastview uses. His motor is non-stop, Arnett is very aggressive, and this is the type of player that can change games with ball pressure. The junior scored 11 points in addition to his defensive contributions.
Chris Narum - Who knows how this game would have looked had Narum not made this two three-pointers late in the first half. He scored 18 points but that wasn't the most memorable number of his name. The amount of times Narum dove for loose balls was even more eye opening. Narum is only a sophomore so there is a bright future with this young man at Eastview.