Earlier this season, New Berlin Eisenhower boys basketball coach Dave Scheidegger said that he wouldn't be surprised if the Woodland Conference North race went down to the very last day, the very last game, the very last minute and second.
Well, maybe he didn't carry the allusion that far but everyone who has followed the mad clamber to the top of the Woodland knows that it's true. It has at times resembled more closely a glorified "Three Stooges" routine where Moe, Larry and Curly keep tripping each other up on the way to the succulent cherry pie sitting on the kitchen table (only with fewer eye pokes and sadly without any "nyuk, nyuk, nyuks").
And Brown Deer coach Mike Novak wouldn't have it any other way as on Feb. 8, just three days after enduring a wrenching defeat to defending champion New Berlin Eisenhower (11-3, 14-4) that could have buried the Falcons' Woodland Conference title hopes as deep as the endless snows that has every person who owns a shovel in Wisconsin grumbling about moving to Florida, his Falcons (11-3, 14-4) found heart and character and avenged an earlier defeat to division leader Pewaukee (11-2, 12-5) with a spirited 84-66 rout of the Pirates.
"Maybe it wasn't character," said the veteran Falcon mentor, "but we did play a whole lot better than we did the first time we played them." Then he threw a bone to his team and added "Well, maybe playing better does help the character."
At the same time, Scheidegger's old school school district pals at New Berlin West (12-2, 14-4) valued the possession, valued every bucket and ultimately got great value out of a 35-33 win over his defending champion Eisenhower squad that, coupled with Brown Deer's triumph, made the league race as complicated as the Democratic presidential race's delegate count.
So, how do these four contenders solve the puzzle of who will be this year's champ without making it look like a broken Rubik's Cube?
With a tantalizing series of games over the next four days that will have every fan, parent and coach looking at their e-mail, checking their cell-phone and texting frantically everyone they can with the latest news.
Pewaukee still controls its own destiny but has the longest path. It will host West on Tuesday, have a make-up game with Shorewood on Wednesday, and then will be at Shorewood on Friday. The Pirates win out, they sail on placid seas with the plunder of the title in their hold.
West on the other hand, has the momentum, but arguably the most difficult schedule, with the aforementioned game against Pewaukee and then on Friday a visit from the now motivated Brown Deer squad, whom the Vikings beat earlier this season. The Vikings win out, they invade and lay waste to the nearest McDonald's (or just invade and divest it of all its quarter-pounders) and proudly blow out a tune of victory on their horn, for they will be champions.
Eisenhower has the easiest road, hosting Shorewood on Tuesday and then visiting Wauwatosa West on Friday. But for the Lions to roar and shake their manes in celebration of another title, they will need to stalk their prey quietly and efficiently and then get help. Preferably with a New Berlin West win over Pewaukee and then a Brown Deer victory over West. Scheidegger had a good attitude about things, as he was most pleased that his guys "looked like they were having fun" in the win over the Falcons.
They would have more fun with another title. An idea that New Berlin West coach Jeff Lewiston says "he wouldn't be surprised at".
For Brown Deer to be able to snatch at least a share of the crown and fly high and far into the cold, winter sky with joy, the Falcons will also need to win twice and seek aid. They too will need a West triumph over Pewaukee to make everything work.
And then there's the puzzle-master and socialist's ultimate joy scenario: a four-way tie. This can happen if New Berlin West beats Pewaukee, Brown Deer defeats both West squads, Eisenhower takes care of business and Pewaukee claims its other two games. It's a not too far-fetched a dream sequence and it would have child psychologists and educators leaping for joy because it would teach the student/athletes the benefits of sharing and fair play.
But it would probably prompt the players, fans and coaches involved to issue loud raspberries of disgust. You know, the old "a tie is only as good as kissing your sister" adage.
"It is what it is," Novak said. "This is pretty much as it was last year. These are the four strongest teams in the league and something like this can be fun. It's what high school basketball is all about. We play pretty good basketball in this league and no one is going to let down. It's good stuff and could go in any number of ways. We're just happy to be part of the mix."