Opinion: Bad calls in Michigan state finals can be avoided. Here's how

Photo: Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press

Opinion: Bad calls in Michigan state finals can be avoided. Here's how

Boys Basketball

Opinion: Bad calls in Michigan state finals can be avoided. Here's how

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Traveling? An intentional foul?

Those two calls in the final seconds of the Division 3 state championship game between Iron Mountain and Pewamo-Westphalia are the overriding takeaways from the final weekend of the boys basketball season.

Ypsilanti Lincoln and 6-feet-8 freshman wonder Emoni Bates beat U-D Jesuit on Jaylen Fisher’s 15-foot jump shot in the final second to win the Division 1 state championship to thrill the Breslin Center crowd.

WATCH: See the controversial calls here. Do you agree with them?

Those were terrific games, but when all is said and done, the lasting memory of the weekend were two horrific calls by officials who turned Iron Mountain’s first basketball championship into a title for Pewamo-Westphalia.

Iron Mountain’s Marcus Johnson (14), Charlie Gerhard (44), and Foster Wonders (00) reacts to a call in the last seconds of the second half of MHSAA Division 3 final against Pewamo-Westphalia at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (Photo: Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press)

Now, let’s get this straight, the P-W players did nothing wrong. They were able to make plays when the officials made arguably two of the worst calls in tournament history only a few seconds apart.

With 11 seconds left and leading by a point, Iron Mountain broke P-W’s press and a pass was made to Tony Feira, who caught the ball in stride and laid it into the basket.

TWEET!

Somehow, one of the three officials determined it was traveling. It gets better.

The official who made the call was not the one standing near the baseline watching Feira catch the ball and lay it in. The call was made from an official some 50 feet away. He came racing in to make the dramatic call.

Hey, at least everyone knows he worked a state final.

I understand angles and how one official may have a better view of a play, but this was completely out of the primary coverage area of the guy who made the call, showing up his partner in the process.

Still, P-W had to go the length of the court in 5.3 seconds and Iron Mountain still had fouls to give before P-W would shoot free throws. You knew the Mountaineers were going to foul at some point.

It all comes down to situational awareness and these officials failed miserably.

An Iron Mountain player did attempt to foul, but it was ignored by the officials. So the player went back and made an obvious grab and eventually wrapped up the player.

That is when the official ruled it an intentional foul, giving P-W two free throws – and maintain possession of the ball – with 0.7 seconds remaining and P-W retained possession of the ball.

Between timeouts, Collin Trierweiler made the two free throws and P-W had the championship.

I know that wrapping up a player is an intentional foul, but this was idiotic.

First, the officials had to know the situation because the Iron Mountain bench was yelling to foul so they should have call the first foul attempt.

Second, the intentional foul may have been a Michigan High School Athletic Association’s point of emphasis this year, but I never saw it called in the regular season or the tournament.

But don’t take my word for it, Saginaw Nouvel coach Mike Kessler tweeted:

“We were told that wrapping up is an intentional foul all year. We had it happen to us at least 15 times. Never once was called intentional. But now at the end of the game for a state title, we are going letter of the law.”

It all comes down to judgement and none of the officials had enough of that to make this right.

In the 2008 Class B semifinals, a Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern player, trailing by three points, threw a running underhanded scoop shot into the basket at the buzzer.

The three officials looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders before ruling the shot a two-point basket and ending the game.

Pewamo-Westphalia’s Collin Trierweiler (11) dribbles against Iron Mountain during the second half of MHSAA Division 3 final at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (Photo: Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press)

The replay clearly showed the player was 6 inches behind the 3-point line when he let it go.

What significance does that have to this game? One of the officials worked the Iron Mountain game.

The responsibility for this travesty lies with the MHSAA because it does not always have the best officials working games on the final weekend.

The MHSAA makes officials wait three years before officiating another state championship game, which does not make an ounce of sense.

If you watch the NCAA tournament, you will see many of the same officials working the biggest games year after year because the NCAA wants its games worked by the best officials.

The MHSAA, on the other hand, wants to spread around final assignments to make the officials feel good and give them an incentive to keep officiating.

Listen, if somebody needs a shot at working the finals to keep officiating then that person is officiating for the wrong reasons.

The teams that played at Breslin last weekend earned their way there. Some of the officials did not.

Pewamo-Westphalia players celebrate the Pirates’ 53-52 win over against Iron Mountain during the second half of MHSAA Division 3 final at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (Photo: Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press)

Either work at your craft and get better or get out.

I understand there is an officials shortage so the MHSAA will defend these officials until the end of time.

But the MHSAA should consider what these three officials did to the kids at Iron Mountain. They absolutely stole a state championship from them.

These kids are going to grow old and they will still be telling stories about how these three officials ruined their best year of their lives.

Mick McCabe is a former longtime columnist for the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at mick.mccabe11@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.

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