By Jeff Louderback
When the ball is tipped to start the regional final clash between Centerville and unbeaten, defending state champion Moeller on Saturday, Elks’ senior point guard Ryan Marchal will be seated on the bench. His absence is not injury related, but instead the result of a suspension from receiving two technical fouls in the final 1:09 of Centerville’s regional semifinal victory over Springfield on Wednesday at the Cintas Center.
Marchal was whistled for the technicals, even though video footage clearly showed that he did nothing to warrant those calls. Ohio High School Athletic Association rules mandate that players or coaches who get two technicals in a game are suspended for the team’s next two contests.
Centerville High School’s athletic department filed an appeal on behalf of Marchal to have the suspension waived, and the OHSAA ruled that it will uphold the decisions of the referees, Centerville’s athletic director Rob Dement said.
Dayton Sports Huddle reached out to the OHSAA seeking comment on if the organization reviewed the video footage, and if we could interview the contact who oversees basketball officials for an explanation on why the technicals were called, and why the suspension was upheld, and the only response from a spokesperson was:
“We have not seen the video yet and won’t be able to process the ejection report until next week. We are conducting the girls basketball state tournament this week.”
Next week, of course, is after Centerville’s regional final on Saturday.
Lackluster officiating on both ends of the court had a significant impact on Centerville’s hard-fought 67-63 victory over Springfield. Not only did the consistently questionable calls in both halves affect both teams, but the officials lack of focus – and their unwillingness to get the calls right when they converged – led to Marchal being called for two technicals, and the subsequent ejection and suspension.
Officiating is undoubtedly challenging, and even the best crews make errant calls now and then. Yet, this is the regionals. At this stage of the tournament, wouldn’t you think that the OHSAA would want officials assigned to the game who have the essential experience, game management abilities, thick skin, and fast and accurate decision-making skills to make sure that the final score is determined by the players and coaches, and not the officials?
And, if unjust calls are made that lead to the ejection and suspension of a player for a high-profile game, wouldn’t it be safe to believe that the OHSAA would place greater importance on reviewing the video footage and reversing the decision if presented with ample evidence instead of letting bungled calls stand?
A Dayton Sports Huddle reader provided an insightful comment illustrating the officiating on Wednesday, and the Marchal suspension:
“We hear all the time about bad behavior of fans and the parents in the stands. I recently read an article about how officials are leaving the profession because of the craziness of the people in the stands. This is a real problem and needs to be addressed. But on the other side of the ball is what we witnessed Wednesday night.
“As a former high school official, I can say that, for some officials, it becomes more about them than the student athletes and the game. This is what we witnessed at the game between Centerville and Springfield.
“How can a player’s dreams and high school career end due to horrible calls that never warranted being called for a technical. To give a player 2 T’s in that short of a time period when there was no altercation, no shoving, no pushing is wrong.
“This is the Sweet 16. Stakes are high. Players work and dream to be at this point. They deserve good officiating, and they deserve what is right and just.
“Marchal sitting out what may be his last game is not just or right. The film is very clear. OHSAA has the opportunity to make it right, and hopefully it will be about the student athlete and the lessons they are learning.”
The OHSAA chose to ignore the video footage, or not review it at all. Marchal will be eligible to play if the Elks reach the state finals. Moeller, which easily defeated Lakota East in the opening regional semifinals game on Wednesday, is 26-0 and has won 46 games in a row dating back to last season.
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 suspension, though. Even if Centerville faced a school that was winless in the regular season and somehow strung together four wins to get to the regional semifinals, the point is that officials inexplicably whistled Marchal for two technicals in a 35-second span in the final two minutes of such a high-profile game. These same officials consistently made questionable calls on both ends of the court throughout the game. And the OHSAA has decided to do nothing about it and offer no explanation.
The 35-second stretch over the final 1:09 in the fourth quarter unfolded like this:
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. It was a clean, aggressive play, and possession was given to Springfield. Marchal got up, took a step and became inadvertently tangled with Springfield’s David Sanford, who lost his balance, fell backwards and tumbled to the floor. 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. 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 an crucial point in the game.
The OHSAA could have remedied the unnecessary technicals that resulted in Marchal’s ejection by ensuring that he is eligible to play on Saturday. They chose; however, to flip the proverbial middle finger at the appeal process and their own tournament.
Perhaps the organization does not want to reverse the officials’ decisions because they believe it would be detrimental to the reputation of the organization, and embarrassing to the officials. Yet, wouldn’t you want to make sure that pivotal games are decided by the players, and not the officials, if you are the OHSAA? Wouldn’t you want both teams’ players who are physically able to play take the court for the sake of competition?
By the OHSAA’s decision, and their lack of explanation, the answers to those questions are clear. And that is unfortunate because Marchal is being cheated out of an opportunity that every high school basketball player dreams about. It would be poetic if the Elks win their next two games, giving Marchal an opportunity to end his high school career on the court.