My Pitch

Refs dropped the ball in Pilgrim loss

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The Pilgrim girls basketball team got off to a historic start to begin its season this winter, kicking things off by surging to a 9-0 record. The Lady Pats have scuffled as of late, dropping a tough loss to inter-city rival Toll Gate a couple weeks back, then losing a tight decision to Burrillville last week on the road.

I was at the game in Burrillville last week, and my biggest takeaway was the feeling of wanting to see this matchup again, and feeling like it could very well happen.

The Broncos took a 9-4 record into the game, sitting just behind Pilgrim who was 12-1. It seemed pretty obvious that it would be a close game, and that is exactly as it was.

The Pats came out of the gate strong and looked like they were on the brink of breaking the score open. However, the Broncos were strong down the stretch, and managed to cut the deficit to just one point at 19-18 at the halftime break. The two teams traded blows throughout the second half, and went through five different lead changes in the process.

It was a tough, physical battle on each end of the floor. Both teams played tough defense, efficient offense, and seemed to have proper game plans for their opponent.

However, every sports fan’s worst nightmare occurred in the final five or so minutes.

Burrillville held a 30-29 lead but the Broncos did not have the momentum. It really looked like it was going to come down to who had the ball last … but then the refs stepped in.

In the final minutes, the Broncos went on a 9-4 run to secure the win, with seven of those final points coming on free throws.

At the end of the day, the Broncos won the game and they deserved to win. They made the plays they had to make, and they also were clutch at the line in that final run. Pilgrim was in the game the whole night and outplayed the Broncos for long stretches, but Burrillville did enough to win.

That said though, it was tough to see such a close game ultimately be decided at the free throw line.

I usually don’t get on the refs because they have a tough, thankless job. I couldn’t imagine having to make split-second decisions, with hundreds, sometimes thousands of people watching and all having their own opinions. It doesn’t matter what they call or don’t call, you never hear a ref receive praise, and almost always hear them receive criticism. I’ve considered becoming a ref or umpire in the past, but decided that I simply didn’t have the nerve to take on a job like that.

In Thursday’s game though, the refs did just a little too much refereeing, and should have just let the kids play down the stretch (as cliché as that is to say).

Personally, the refs did get the calls right for the most part in my opinion, and some of calls should have been made as they were. But I do believe in letting some ticky tack calls slide, especially late in a game like the one on Thursday. When two teams are doing battle, unless the foul alters the game, I think refs should keep the whistle out of their mouths. Some of those fouls committed down the stretch were borderline, and I believe that borderline fouls should be left uncalled when the game is on the line.

One of the first things that Pilgrim coach Scott Bayha said to me in our postgame interview was, ‘I hope we see these guys again.’

It was obvious in his tone as well as the rest of the girls, that they felt that they should have won the game. Not in a petty way, but more in the sense that they felt like they did not control their fate in the final minutes … and I don’t blame them for feeling that way at all because it was true to an extent.

This dynamic is always a tricky one. Should we blame the refs for doing their jobs and making the calls that they see? Of course not. Should we blame the refs for taking the rulebook too literally and calling sometimes meaningless fouls? Still, probably not. Either way though, we always do and I don’t think we should be blamed either.

Let me make myself clear, I do not blame the refs for the Pilgrim loss, or credit them with the Burrillville win. Even at times when the refs were not involved, these two teams were neck and neck and it really was impossible to pick a winner late in the game. Even though the Broncos were fortunate to get to the line as much as they did, they still had to make the free throws, and they did.

It’s just unfortunate to see the game be decided in that fashion, instead of them being able to play it out to truly see who was the better team that night. Burrillville deserved to win, but I don’t think we can really say who the better team is.

That is why I’m hoping to see these two clubs meet in the postseason. I believe it will be another tight game that will come down to the final few possessions, I just hope to see them be able to play it out for the whole 32 minutes.

Once again, I do not believe the refs decided who won that game … but they also did not let the two teams decide that either.

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John Stark

Pilgrim lost by 6 and was just 5 of 18 from the line. Do the math. Still, glad I missed a game in which 53 total free throws were attempted in 32 minutes!

Tuesday, February 12