At the end of the day, referees are just like the rest of us: They make mistakes, and sometimes those errors alter games or even seasons. While there is no doubt those errors are unintentional, they can still have a profound effect on the course of events as large as a state's basketball playoffs.
That became evident last week, when a bizarre finish between two top-ranked girls basketball teams in Arizona was thrown into doubt after one team finished the game with six defending players instead of five, an indiscretion that somehow went unseen by the game officials.
According to the East Valley Tribune, Mountain View (Ariz.) High held off Hamilton (Ariz.) High, 50-49, in a Class 5A Division I quarterfinal on Friday, advancing to the state semifinals as a result. Yet Hamilton is contesting that final result after referees failed to call a technical foul against Mountain View, pictured above, when the Toros sent six defenders onto the floor for the final inbounds play, a sequence that lasted just more than six seconds without any officials noticing the extra defender on the court.
If a technical foul had been called, Hamilton would have been awarded a free throw and the ball, a scenario which would have allowed it to tie the game and a chance to win with a final shot.
As it was, Hamilton inbounded the ball against the extra defender and was able to push the ball up the court and get off a final shot, but that effort fell short, sending Mountain View on to the state semis and leaving Hamilton coach Jeff Kain fuming.
"That's the worst part of all this," Kain told the Tribune. "Those kids who worked their butt off all season and to get back into the game, to fight and play so hard to come back, and don't get an opportunity to win because of that?"
Kain and his staff sent tape of the game's closing sequence to the Arizona Interscholastic Association, but there's little indication the state's scholastic athletic governing body will do anything to overturn the final result. Realistically, all they can reasonably hope for is an apology for the oversight of the referees that night.
For his part, Mountain View's coach made it clear that he felt his team deserved to advance, regardless of the game's controversial finish.
"We were just trying to play out the last six seconds," Mountain View coach Henry Bribiescas told the Tribune. "It was a really good game, what we expected a state tournament quarterfinal to be.
"That was two teams who played a state quarterfinal the way it was meant to be played. We feel fortunate."
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