By JOHN ANDERSON
DANSVILLE — We have this Golden Rule in covering sports, don’t mention the officials, don’t mention players who missed a big shot, a penalty kick or struck out. We were there. We know. it didn’t decide the entire game.
Monday night, the Andover-Whitesville girls’ basketball team played Batavia, well, not the Class B1 Batavia, but Batavia Notre Dame, a very good team that just held Fillmore to 25 points in a Section V title win.
The same Fillmore team that beat Andover-Whitesville twice in the regular season.
Andover-Whitesville had a lead over Notre Dame multiple times, and it was a one-point game, 35-34 with 9.5 seconds left in favor of the Irish.
An overturned foul call to a flagrant foul gave Notre Dame a chance to shoot two free throws, get the back ball and shoot two more. The result was a 38-34 lead and A-W never had a chance to take a winning shot.
To put it in perspective, from the first whistle of the game to the last, the three-referee crew did an outstanding job. The number of officials has dwindled. Some officials are not working this season because of injuries or illness. Section V has begged for officials.
In the regular season and post-season games I have watched this year, it has been some of the best officiated games. The fans may not realize it, but some of the games have had very high-rated college officials on them.
One semi-final game I watched, a referee who was once not on the list for sectional games just a few years ago, is not a “preferred” officials and I was so glad to see how well the referee has improved.
About last night.
The referees did NOT decide who won the Andover-Whitesville and Batavia Notre Dame game.
However, by changing a foul that two of three agreed was just a foul to a flagrant foul, did not allow the kids to decide the outcome.
I have to admit, if Notre Dame was up 10 and it was a chippy game, maybe it’s a flagrant foul. Sometimes, with 10 seconds left a referee will call a flagrant to stop the aggressive fouls and essentially end a game. Unlike football with a running clock or baseball with a run rule, basketball allows blowouts to go on and on and on.
Had the referees not called a flagrant foul, Andover-Whitesville would’ve had to drive the full length of the court in under nine seconds and make a two-pointer or a three-pointer to tie, or even a two-pointer to win. Both teams were playing such good defense, each basket was at a premium.
The communities of Andover and Whitesville should forget this one, though it stings. Notre Dame is three wins from a state title. That stings, I know.
But as an outsider who has talked to the co-coaches, Aaron Rawady and Jake Bannerman after an upset win over defending champion Elba (story and photos here), it was almost funny how much Andover-Whitesville was overlooked. They earned Section V Class D2 Coach of the Year and they deserved it.
They proved it with the win over Elba, then they proved it when they stunned a very good Avoca-Prattsburgh team to win the title (story and photos here).
That’s the story of this season. Section V champions (Chris Brooks with another solid story on the Monday night loss here).
Monday night solidified the class of the program Rawady and Bannerman have built in a short time. Until the last call was changed, the coaches did not ONCE say a word to the officials. Each time there was a close call, they were coaching, not arguing. The kids feed off this. The Andover-Whitesville kids never complained to the officials. That goes a long way during a game and a season. It goes a long way when you have graduated.
This was a incredible basketball game, one that (once again) no one gave Andover-Whitesville a chance at winning.
And 20 years from now, no one will be talking about a sectional play-in game. It will be about the champions.
Thanks to the two communities coming together, trusting coaches and playing the role of the underdog to win a title made me think of two men from each community I had a chance to become friends with through basketball. Dan Denner in Whitesville and Jamie McCormick in Andover. I know they would be just as impressed as I am what took place this season.
Enjoy it. You earned it.
Video highlights and interview with Anover-Whitesville coach Aaron Rawady: