Now I know how the 1972 United States Olympic Basketball team felt.
For those of you who are old enough and were able to watch that game I’m sure you at the very least wondered how officials could make such a mistake as to put seconds back on the clock not once, not twice but three times until the Russian team finally won the game.
The biggest difference between that game and the Region 2 championship game between Ninilchik and Lumen Christi at Soldotna High School on March 19 was that the officials at the Olympics did not admit to any mistakes on their part.
In the game between Ninilchik and Lumen Christi, the officials who worked the game admitted right away and multiple times that they had made a mistake and that Ninilchik had actually won the game.
The affected teams and the tournament control committee met Saturday morning. During this meeting the lead official, Billy Hunt, gave his report and explained that they had made a mistake and that Ninilchik had actually won the game. After everybody had their say, it was left up to Birchwood Christian School principal Robin Reich to make the decision. Evidently she was the only one on the committee who didn’t have a conflict of interest. She did not contact me personally to let me know the reason behind the decision.
Billy Hunt even went so far as to come into the Ninilchik locker room after we won the second-place game on Saturday and told us that Ninilchik had won the championship game. He admitted they had made a mistake, but mistakes happen and in the fast pace of a basketball game it can happen very easily.
Character and integrity were mentioned as being personal traits that encouraged him to come to our team and admit their mistake. What was left unsaid was that there was nothing anybody was going to do about correcting the error. We would just have to suck it up.
A few things make this official and his work at the tournament questionable. He was a prior employee of Lumen Christi High School — their basketball coach several years ago. The fact that this official came up from out of state to work at the tournament and was not certified as an official in Alaska didn’t seem to bother him, or Lumen Christi.
The rules for Region 2 very clearly state that all officials working a championship game must be certified in Alaska and the penalty for a violation is forfeiture by the host school. Even though Region 2 determined that Lumen Christi was not the host school, it is clear to me that Lumen Christi was performing the duties of the host.
The fact that Lumen Christie was responsible for the officials didn’t seem to matter to Lumen Christi, the school’s Athletic Director John Warren, their head coach, Adam Trombley, or to the Region 2 control board. The fact that the Lumen Christi athletic director was the tournament director and responsible for officials did not matter.
That the official reported to the tournament control board during a meeting on Saturday, March 20 that they had made a mistake and that Ninilchik had won the game didn’t seem to matter.
They determined that they were going to deny the protest. Facts didn’t seem to matter to these people.
The video evidence that the final buzzer ending the overtime period sounded as the ball was going through the basket didn’t seem to matter.
Even though the game was OVER the referee still allowed Lumen a timeout and decided to give them .5 seconds. That is half a second.
The fact that on the subsequent inbounds pass the clock didn’t start until the ball was more than halfway to the basket didn’t seem to matter.
There was so much that was wrong with the end of this game and the really sad part is that it was all correctable by just looking at video evidence, but nobody had the courage to make the hard call.
Yes, it would have been a hard call because it would have meant that Lumen would have lost and Ninilchik would have been declared the winner. I would have thought that a Christian School such as Lumen professes to be would be embarrassed about winning in this manner.
I am saddened by the example that the adults at Lumen Christi are setting for their students.
Dick Hawkins is the head basketball coach at Ninilchik High School.