January 24, 2011
It's been called unsportsmanlike. It's been called ugly. The question now is whether Christian Heritage (Utah) High, which routed West Ridge (Utah) Academy, 108-3, in a girls basketball game last week, actually did anything wrong by blowing out an overwhelmed opponent.
The stunning scoreline -- from a varsity game in which Christian Heritage reportedly never used a full-court press -- nearly defies belief. As reported in the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune, Christian Heritage scored 28 points per quarter for the first three periods and 24 in the fourth, providing a consistent average of nearly two baskets per minute across the entire game. The Crusaders shut out West Ridge (pictured above running on to the court for the team's game following the rout) for the first three quarters, and Christian Heritage starter Josi Rydin even racked up a unique triple-double, with exactly 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 steals.
"I don’t know why the score was that high, or what the point was," Jamie Keefer, West Ridge’s athletic director and a coach for the girls’ team, told the Salt Lake Tribune. "I don’t think it would’ve happened that way if it were the other way around."
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Yet while Christian Heritage is a clear and obvious target for criticism, Crusaders coach Rob McGill has argued that he had little choice. According to ABC 4 News out of Salt Lake City, the program had just nine players available for both the varsity and junior varsity games against West Ridge, leaving the coach with little option when considering whether to pull out his starters early in the game.
And with his starters still in the game, McGill decided it would be more disrespectful to slow the ball down and pass around the perimeter than continuing to run the team's offense.
"I have been on the other side of this equation," McGill told ABC 4. "It was very insulting when teams slowed the ball down and just passed it around. That's why I'd rather have a team play me straight up, and that's why I played them straight up. Because I didn't want to taunt them, I didn't want to embarrass them, I didn't want them to think we could do whatever we want."
While Christian Heritage has already apologized for the lopsided scoreline and administrators at West Ridge have said the school harbors no ill will and has moved on from the incident, there are still lingering concerns about what could happen when the teams play again. The two are scheduled to play Feb. 3 for the second half of the schools' home-and-home league meetings.
Much of that concern comes from McGill's personal philosophy. The coach said he refuses to force his players to back down just because they have all but assured a victory, citing a desire to promote values that he feels are limited by contemporary culture.
"Too many people in the world right now allow the youth to not be as good as they can be, allow them to be lazy," said McGill. "Here, I'm giving them an opportunity to live up to the best of their abilities and be proud of what they're able to accomplish. If that's what I'm being blamed for, then OK, I accept it."
That "commitment to excellence" comes at a cost. In this case, it was the ego of teenage girls that was affected by the effective implementation of McGill's personal philosophy. Given that West Ridge is a school for at-risk youth, those egos in question may be even more fragile than most.
Of course, Christian Heritage is hardly the first school to come under fire for running up a huge scoreline against an overwhelmed opponent. Last year, Yates (Texas) High was roundly criticized for a 170-35 rout during its undefeated, 34-0 national title campaign. Like McGill, Yates coach Greg Wise has routinely been attacked for his penchant for pushing his team to score as many points as possible, regardless of the foe, a contention which was raised again this year when an opponent intentionally stopped trying to score just to keep Yates from scoring 100 points.
Christian Heritage certainly isn't being seen in that light ... yet. And now that the game is over and in the past, McGill seems to have a sense of just how his team's victory may have affected not just a team, but a school and community itself.
"Absolutely, I mean who wouldn't regret that?" McGill told ABC4 News.
Among the players on the game's losing end was West Ridge's Carli Perkins, a captain and the team's leading scorer.
"Sometimes the score doesn’t show everything. Sometimes all you can give is your fullest," Perkins told the Salt Lake Tribune of her team's struggles. "It’s really important to have sportsmanship. It makes basketball fun."
That type of noble reaction has clearly had an effect on McGill's players and Christian Heritage administrators.
"We're going to sit down with them and make sure they know how we feel," said Christian Heritage head of school Don Hopper. "We didn't mean to do anything to hurt them or upset them. It got away from us, and we're going to do things differently next time."
"I want to personally apologize to the team," said Crusaders co-captain Brittany Hurlbut. "To just say if we hurt any members of the team or the school, we sincerely apologize."
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