Prep Rally

Postgame technical turns win into loss for girls hoops team

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

The game was over. Warren (Ill.) High's girls basketball team had lost, 39-37, to Zion-Benton (Ill.) High after the Blue Devils had turned over the ball on their final inbounds play.

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Warren girls basketball takes on Zion-Benton.

Warren girls basketball takes on Zion-Benton.

Miraculously, when Warren finally walked out of the gym half an hour later, it had somehow escaped with the most unlikely of comeback victories, a 43-40 overtime win made possible by a technical foul against Zion-Benton assistant coach Frank Mattucci after the game had ended which sent a designated Warren player to the free throw line to shoot two free throws to tie the game.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Warren star Alexis Leneau calmly stroked both technical free throws, and minutes later she and her teammates were celebrating one of the strangest high school basketball games in Illinois state history.

"I've been coaching for 30 years and I've never seen a game end like that," Warren coach John Stanczykiewicz told the Sun-Times.

As reported by the Sun-Times' Bryan Bonato, Mattucci was handed a technical foul after the game clock hit 0:00 for arguing a call in the final minute that went against his team as one of his stars stood at the free throw line with a chance to ice the game. Zion's Sam Rodriguez was fouled in the closing seconds with her team nursing a 38-37 lead. After connecting on the first free throw, Zion's coaches attempted to call a time out so they could set up a defensive formation for the ensuing Warren possession.

Assuming her team had been granted that time out request, Rodriguez -- who finished with a game-high 20 points -- walked away from the free throw line and toward the bench, only to be told that she was committing a free throw violation. Because the referees had not granted Zion the time-out, Rodriguez had been charged with an over-the-line free throw violation, which resulted in a loss of the free throw attempt and a turnover to Warren.

Incredibly, Rodriguez immediately atoned for her own gaffe, stealing the subsequent Warren inbounds pass and dribbling what should have been a narrow, 39-37 victory. Instead, Mattucci couldn't hold back his frustration, and an extra period later Rodriguez and her teammates were left to puzzle over how they possibly could have lost a game they had rightfully won.

"We wanted a timeout to set up the defense," Mattucci told the Sun-Times. "It's simple basketball. [The ref] doesn't give us the timeout, and then they take the free throw away from Sam.

"Then, our kids still defended Warren, Sam steals the ball and we win 39-37. I'm livid for our kids. They didn't play a great game but they played well enough to beat a good team. If you have a beef with me, punish me. Don't punish the kids. I can take it."

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