Buddy Chernovetz, the commissioner for the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials Board 10 out of New Haven, said Wednesday morning his officials made a mistake in awarding three foul shots to West Haven on the final play of regulation against Wilbur Cross Tuesday night.
Eli Blackwell made all three foul shots to send the SCC tournament semifinal to overtime tied at 49. West Haven won in the extra session, 62-58.
According to the National Federation of High School rule, Article 5: “When a play is resumed with a throw-in or free throw and three-tenths (.3) of a second or less remains on the clock, a player may not gain control and try for a field goal. In this situation only a tap could score.”
With Cross having committed more than 10 fouls, at best, it should have been a two-shot foul.
“With .3 seconds, you cannot have a shot, so therefore, you can only have a common foul,” Chernovetz said. “I apologized to (SCC commissioner) Al Carbone immediately after the game. I told him, ‘For the first time in my tenure, which is 16 years, I have to call and tell you that my officials made a mistake, made an error.’”
(2/2) With 0.3 left, inbounds goes to West Haven’s Eli Blackwell, who gets it on the run and l hoists up a prayer at the buzzer… miss, but officials call foul.
Blackwell sinks all three FTs to send it to OT. Cross coach Kevin Walton livid.
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) March 24, 2021
On the previous play, West Haven missed a tying shot and a Cross player grabbed the rebound, but had stepped out of bounds before the buzzer sounded, the officials determined. They then determined to put .3 second back on the clock.
Had they decided .4, by rule, as Chernovetz noted, a shot would have been allowable.
“By deciding on .3, they put themselves in a position where that rule now becomes a part of the next play,” Chernovetz said. “Mistakes happen in life. There is no excuse for the mistake. … You have to except the human element in this, as tough as that may seem.”
Unlike the college game, the only time video evidence can be used in the high school game is on a last-second shot in the CIAC state championship final. Otherwise, it is left up to the officials. There is no protest process after the fact in CIAC games or SCC games, for that matter.
“Once you play the game and move forward, there is no recourse,” Carbone said. “I don’t schedule officials and there is no such thing as a protest. We remind our coaches in every sport that if there is an interpretation of the rule you don’t think is right, stop the game and make sure you get the correct interpretation.”
Erik Patchkofsky, New Haven’s citywide athletic director, said he spoke with Chernovetz Tuesday morning and they would have another discussion about the game later in the week.
“He apologized to New Haven and we recognize with officiating, there is a human nature to it,” Pachkofsky said. “New Haven athletes have been on both sides of this. It is extremely unfortunate that happened to our kids. You’ve got to give the West Haven kid (Blackwell) credit. He had to make three incredibly high-pressured free throws “
Lost in the controversy was Cross going for the three-peat. And with no state tournaments being held this year, the season ended for the Governors Tuesday night.
“Sitting in the hallway with the kids at the end of the game really had an effect on me, how devastated they were at how that ended,” Patchkofsky said. “The lesson for the kids is, ‘Nothing is taken for granted or guaranteed. Even if you do all of the right things, sometimes things don’t always go your way. This was a special group. New Haven Athletics is extremely proud of the effort they put forward as a team.”
Said Carbone: “The error made and acknowledged doesn’t take away devastation the Wilbur Cross student-athletes are feeling right now because their season ended on this.”
Chernovetz, who both taught and coached in the New Haven school system for close to four decades, also feels for the players.
“The kids are feeling like they got robbed and they have the right to feel like that. Adults need to have a little different perspective,” Chernovetz said.
West Haven coach Ty Sullivan said he feels for Walton and his Wilbur Cross players, adding he has been on that end of a game result before.
“Like Kevin, I don’t want my kids ever to feel like something was taken from them when they’ve worked hard to earn it. On the other hand, I understand that referees are human, like all of us, and capable of making mistakes,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan also suggested better training of officials with game rules, making sure officials assigned have no personal affiliations with the teams involved and consistently officiate all games.
“Games between suburban versus urban teams should be officiated the same way games between two urban teams are officiated,” Sullivan said. “I believe our kids deserve the very best officials the game has to offer to ensure that we don’t repeat past mistakes.”