22.1.09

SUMMONING THE ECHOES. From time to time, I check on basketball at Milwaukee Hamilton. Last summer, the school appointed a new coach and a number of students transferred. At the time, I made this observation.

The school board's investigation turns up no impropriety in those transfers to Hamilton. The eight players obviously wanted to enroll at a high school that has a planetarium.

It was much simpler years ago, when the independent (read: religious) high schools might have been stronger in sports thanks in part to Catholic Youth Organization junior basketball programs and selective philanthropy that somehow made it possible for tall, coordinated, and poor kids to attend Marquette University High or Racine St. Catherines or, on occasion Stevens Point Pacelli or Manitowoc Roncalli (if you wish to study the papacy, start with the names of the Wisconsin Catholic high schools.) Sports boosters in the City Conference would lament the lack of interscholastic competition in junior high and residency requirements.

How things change.

Milwaukee Hamilton's Tom Diener, who won more than 300 games and five state titles with Milwaukee Vincent, faced off against longtime St. Catherine's coach Bob Letsch, who has led the Angels to more than 500 victories and three WIAA state championships.

In the end, hot-handed Hamilton missed only one shot in the third quarter, made 9 three-pointers on the night and rolled to a 62-52 nonconference victory over the Angels, ranked No. 1 among Division 3 teams in the Associated Press state poll.

"There was a lot of wins out there on the floor," said Letsch, who is in his 30th season with St. Catherine's. "Two guys who love the profession and love working with the kids."

On Tuesday night, Diener's kids - he started four sophomores - didn't do much wrong. They played tenacious man-to-man defense, chose their shots carefully and took care of the ball. The Wildcats (8-1) turned over the ball only twice in the first half and seven times in all.

"I've seen NFL games where there were more turnovers," said Diener, who is in his first season with Hamilton. "We had a superb decision-making game and played solid defense from start to finish.

That "four sophomores" brings back memories.

A musical interlude is in order.

We're rarin' to go
Ready to show
Hamilton is the greatest school we know
So come on kids, and make the scene,
Get out there and fight that team!
We'll yell a little, shout a little, jump a little, cheer a little,
Hamilton High, let's get out and win!

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