It’s tough to determine which was the highlight of the officiating during Dundalk’s Class 3a North Region Section II final at C. Milton Wright.
It could have been the 10 fouls whistled on the Owls in the first quarter, putting the Mustangs in the bonus a little over six minutes into the game and into the double bonus entering the second quarter.
Or it could be the only one foul whistled on the Mustangs over that same period.
Maybe it was the two phantom charging calls against Dundalk that negated critical baskets despite the ball already being on its way before there was contact.
(We could have a winner here. The first phantom charging call came after a 6-0 Dundalk run that made it a one-possession game, and prevented it from being an 8-0 run and a one-point game. Convenient timing on that call. Mention should also be made of the Emmy-worthy flops performed by Mustang players.)
There’s always the cheap blocking foul called on Dundalk that put the Mustangs on the line for two free throws after C. Milton Wright had nearly gone four minutes without scoring. That one was particularly hilarious, because the Mustangs missed both free throws — and were promptly put back on the line after the Owls were whistled for another foul.
The fact that Dundalk’s two best scorers, Michael Johnson and Jaylon Johnson, both had three fouls by halftime deserves strong consideration. Unless getting into foul trouble is common for them (spoiler alert: it isn’t).
The game was all-but-decided by this point, but an intentional foul called on Dundalk with 1:51 remaining deserves consideration. It being, you know, just a normal foul in an attempt to put C. Milton Wright on the line.
(Maybe the officials were just confused because the Owls had actually committed a real foul.)
These are all good candidates, but, for me, the best bad officiating call of the game came early in the third quarter, when a Mustang player was driving to the basket for a layup — and an official whistled Dundalk for a foul before any contact had been made.
If only the Owl player had pulled up and avoided contact. Yeah, it was a legit foul, but, really, referees should try to avoid calling fouls until the fouls, you know, actually take place.
Sure, he could be psychic, but you’d figure he’d be relaxing somewhere with all his Powerball winnings. That’s what I would do.
Runner-up is the moment in the second half when a referee called police officers onto the court to deal with fans. The obnoxious C. Milton Wright students who sat right on the edge of the court verbally harassing Dundalk players, right?
Oh, get real. The ref wanted a small group of Dundalk fans cautioned for complaining about the calls.
The Dundalk basketball team knows it’s going to get hosed when it plays at C. Milton Wright. (Three years ago, the Mustangs’ athletic director apologized for the officiating to Owl coach Steve Oppenheim after the game). But even by those standards ... heck, it’s like they weren’t even trying to be subtle about it.
“It’s very hard to play five against eight,” Oppenheim said after the game. “When your best players are in foul trouble, it changes your entire game plan.
“We also weren’t hitting the shots we normally make.”
That part’s on the Owls. It’s tough to win under any circumstances when you connect on only 15 of 73 shots. That’s makes it hard to have much sympathy for the Owls; make your damn shots, then complain about the officiating.
Of course, when your two leading scorers have three fouls by halftime ... and accurate shooting is a mental thing. Let yourself get flustered and distracted by the officiating, and you make only 21 per cent of your shots.
“C.Milton Wright wanted a low-scoring ballgame,”Oppenheim said. “They did not want to be pressed, did not want to push the ball. We wanted to push the ball, but it makes it hard to push the ball when the two players who do it are in foul trouble on the bench.
“They also couldn’t be as aggressive as they wanted to be.”
(I went back through the 12 Dundalk games I covered this season. The most fouls Michael and Jaylon ever had for an entire game? Two.)
The whistles came early and often. A Mustang player dribbled closely past an Owl defender. Blocking foul. An Owl player went straight up in front of a Mustang. To the line to shoot two. A touch on the shoulder while defending — hey C. Milton Wright is in the bonus already.
(Hey, if you want a running account of the Adventures in Officiating during the game, go check my Twitter at @Sports_Eagle for March 6.)
Complaining about the officiating after an important loss is lame, and the optics are worse when you complain about the officiating after an eight-point loss during which you made only 15 of 73 shots. I get that.
“It was frustrating,” Oppenheim said. “The kids were getting frustrated, we were trying to get them to keep their cool, get them to focus on what they needed to focus on.
“The referees didn’t miss all those shots we missed, but they played a very important role in the way the game was played. They had an effect on the flow the pace, and on our game plan.”