By Jeff Louderback
Lackluster officiating on both ends of the court had a significant impact on Centerville’s hard-fought 67-63 victory over Springfield last night. Not only did the consistently questionable calls in both halves affect both teams, but the officials’ absence of accurate judgment – and their unwillingness to get the calls right when they converged – led to a ruling in the final minute that could have a dramatic influence in Centerville’s regional finals clash with Moeller on Saturday.
Officiating basketball is challenging, especially in a game like Centerville and Springfield.
The schools are fierce GWOC National East rivals, and they met for the third time this season with a trip to the regional finals – which is Ohio’s Elite Eight – on the line. It was a boisterous crowd at the Cintas Center. And Springfield is renowned for its tenacious and aggressive full-court defense, which requires added focus by the referees, and quick decisions on whether or not to blow the whistle.
Yet, this is the regionals. At this stage of the tournament, officials assigned to the game should have the essential experience, game management abilities, thick skin, and fast and accurate decision-making skills to make sure that the game’s outcome is determined by the players and coaches, and not the officials.
In a 33 second stretch over the final 1:09 in the fourth quarter, officials botched two calls that resulted in two inexplicable technicals on Centerville senior point guard Ryan Marchal.
The Elks held a 62-57 lead and had the ball when Marchal drove and was tied up by three Springfield defenders, and the players fell to the ground. On a clean, aggressive play, possession was given to Springfield with 1:24 left. Video footage shows that Marchal got up, took a step and became inadvertently tangled with Springfield’s David Sanford, who lost his balance, fell backward and tumbled to the floor. No altercation, just two players getting tangled, and one losing his balance. An official on the other side of the court whistled Marchal for a technical, and Sanford sank both free throws, cutting the Elks’ lead to 62-59.
With 34 seconds left, Marchal was fouled and connected on both free throws, lifting Centerville to a 64-59 advantage. On Springfield’s next possession, Sanford missed a three-pointer that was rebounded by Elks’ senior Davis Mumaw. He was quickly fouled by Jalan Minney, who was trying to tie up the ball. As the call was made, Marchal hustled back to the other end of the court, and offered Mumaw a congratulatory slap on the shoulder along the way. He was whistled for his second technical foul. Perhaps the official thought Marchal was trying to hit a Springfield player next to Mumaw, but video footage clearly shows Marchal was congratulating Mumaw for grabbing a key rebound at a crucial point in the game.
Centerville held on for the 67-63 win, but Marchal was ejected after getting his second technical. Ohio High School Athletic Association rules mandate that players or coaches are suspended for the team’s next two games if receiving two technical. Centerville head coach Brook Cupps plans to appeal, but if the OHSAA follows through with the suspension, the Elks will be without Marchal in the regional finals against Moeller on Saturday, and even the state semifinals game if they advance.
Moeller, which easily defeated Lakota East in the opening regional semifinals game last night at Cintas Center, is 26-0 and the defending Division I state champions. It’s certainly not an understatement to say that being without Marchal, who is the Elks’ leader, will likely have a monumental impact on the outcome of Saturday’s game.
Moeller’s undefeated record, and their standing as the top-ranked Division I team in Ohio and the defending state champions, is not fully relevant in Marchal’s potential suspension, though. Even if Centerville faced a school that was winless in the regular season and somehow strung together five wins to get to the regional semifinals, the point is that officials inexplicably whistled Marchal for two technicals in a 33-second span in the final two minutes of such a high-profile game. These same officials consistently bungled calls on both ends of the court throughout the game. Referees in the regionals need to have better judgment and more consistent accuracy.
The OHSAA can remedy the unnecessary technical that resulted in Marchal’s ejection by ensuring that he is eligible to play on Saturday. They would also be wise to make sure that the crew that officiated the game is not assigned to anything else this postseason.
Again, officiating is challenging, and even the best crews miss calls now and then. However, when they consistently and blatantly botch calls, and their decisions unjustly lead to the dismissal of a player for not only that game, but the next two contests, action should be taken by the OHSAA to make it right and make sure that the best officiating crews take the court.