During my six days courtside at the state basketball tournament in Anchorage, I covered two Class 4A schools and four 2A schools. One major difference that jumped out at me -- besides the number of subs on the bench -- was the number of referees.
During each 4A game, three refs officiated. But in 2A, just two officials were on the floor.
The number of students attending each school determines the classification. But the same number of ball players are on the court, so why does a smaller student body mean fewer refs?
Bush schools are largely to blame. The coaches I spoke to about this said many Bush communities object to having three refs each year when adding another official is suggested. Some say it's because those schools play a rougher style and three refs will over officiate games. I'm sure it's also difficult to find three referees in some of the more rural areas of the state.
That's fine for the regular season. But come state tournament time, three refs should always be used.
During the Cook Inlet Academy-Klawock boys semifinal, a blatant over-and-back call was blown. Klawock's point guard was a good 2 to 3 feet over half court. The Seawolves logo at midcourt hindered the visibility of the line, but a third ref would have been in better position to make the call.
Both myself and the Anchorage Daily News reporter to my left looked at each with disbelief after the missed call.
Later in that game, the ball rolled off of the leg of a Klawock player and out of bounds. Neither ref was in a position to get good look at the play. Not knowing who it touched last, the ref called a jump ball and, with the possession arrow in the Chieftains favor, the ball went to Klawock.
When a ref isn't sure who the ball last touched, calling a jump ball is the correct call. By seeing who last touched the ball, a third official would have kept the refs from being forced to call a jump ball.
Earlier in the game, CIA's Matt Moffis stepped out of bounds in front of me. No one caught it.
I think I made my point.
As for over officiating games, I witnessed some of the most physical basketball, if not the most, I've seen all year. I think that comes naturally the bigger the game. Refs in almost every sport at every level tend to allow more physical contact for the purpose of letting the players decide a contest's outcome.
The Juneau Empire's sportswriter even leaned toward me one game and asked, "Are your games always this physical?"
It's not a matter of calling a game too tight. It's about making the right call.
In the aforementioned CIA game, the Eagles lost by five. The refs took away at least two possessions from CIA and one from Klawock. That's always inexcusable, but especially in a two-possession game with a trip to the state finals on the line.
Also during the 2A games, refs continually had to check the scoreboard for the total team fouls each half to see if a player was shooting bonus or double-bonus free throws. It's not a huge deal but a third ref would be near midcourt and could relay the info to the other two and save time. With eight games being played each day on two courts simultaneously, every second matters when trying to stay on schedule.
The athletes, coaches and parents put too much into each season to have a blown call determine a team's fate, especially when it can be avoided. Regardless of the regular season, three officials are needed at the state tournament.
Mike Nesper is a sports reporter at the Peninsula Clarion. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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