More than at any other Madison high school, East hosts basketball games that are community events. You're likely to spot all sorts of characters, from Harmony Bar owner Keith Daniels to musical satirist Peter Leidy, exhibiting their East Side Pride at the gym affectionately dubbed "The Palace." But East's allotment of 600 tickets for tonight's tilt against Madison Memorial sold out in 20 minutes on Monday, and it didn't take Memorial students much longer to scarf up theirs, leaving none for the general public.
Luckily, the game will be televised on TVW (7:30 p.m., Feb. 25, cable 14, digital 3-2), allowing hoop heads and casual onlookers alike to get a glimpse of the fiercest rivalry in local sports.
On its way to winning a state title last season, Memorial lost only once: at East. The Spartans evened the score in their gym by defeating East in the season finale to clinch their sixth consecutive conference title on the way to a state championship. But the Purgolders struck back, winning in overtime at Memorial in January.
The sixth-ranked Spartans (17-4) are led by a trio of guards: seniors Vander Blue and Tre Creamer and sophomore Junior Lomomba. All three are Division I college recruits. Third-ranked East (19-2) features senior Marquis Mason, a Wisconsin football recruit, in the post, with junior Nimrod Hilliard IV running the point. All five are fearless.
A win by East will secure the school's first Big Eight conference title since 1993. But if Memorial prevails the teams will share the title.