Klonsinski: 2-0 makes for the perfect score
Zach Klonsinski | Thursday, February 5, 2015
Perhaps the most unique high-school basketball game ever took place Saturday night in Alabama.
To call the second matchup of the year between the boys’ varsity teams of Bibb County and Brookwood a low-scoring affair seems inadequate. Saturday’s final score: 2-0 Bibb County.
The victors won the opening tip and missed a 3-pointer, but sophomore center Brandon Rutledge grabbed the offensive rebound and laid it off the glass for the game’s only two points.
Fifteen seconds had elapsed, meaning over the next 31:45 … nothing.
Brookwood inbounded the ball and made its way down the court. Uncomfortable with the zone played by the taller Bibb County, Brookwood simply passed it around the perimeter trying to extend the defense. And kept passing and passing and passing.
“They came across half court and kept everything really spread out to force us to extend our zone,” Bibb County coach Russ Wallace told the Tuscaloosa News. “The first couple of minutes, even with us extending it, they were passing it around the perimeter, so I backed the kids up on defense, and they just stood there and held it.”
As the time ran out on the quarter, Brookwood took a shot and missed at the buzzer, but since they lost the tip, they still got the ball to start the second quarter. Again Brookwood stood just inside half court, missing another shot as the horn sounded for halftime. Bibb County got the ball to start the third quarter but decided on a different offensive strategy.
“To come out the second half, I’m not giving them the last two shots of the game,” Wallace said. “I’ll take one shot in the third and be up by four and they have to come play, or if we don’t make it, at least go until the fourth quarter [up by two].”
Bibb County missed its chance at the buzzer to end the third, and then Brookwood held for the final shot of the game. Or at least what would have been the last shot of the game: With 15 seconds left, Bibb County forced a turnover as Brookwood began running its final play. That left Brookwood to foul over and over again in hopes of extending the game, but time ran out.
The final tallies: seven shots (three for Brookwood, four from Bibb County), two points and one turnover.
Under the circumstances, it’s reasonable to question why the coaches allowed the game to play out as it did.
“‘Why should I extend my defense when I’ve got the lead?’ is the question that everyone needs to understand,” Wallace said. “I’m sure there is some pointing fingers both ways.”
Wrong on both counts, Coach: There’s a different question that needs to be asked, with fingers being pointed at a single organization, the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA). And no, shot-clock proponents, that is not the best remedy for these young athletes.
“It was not my intention to go into that game and stall,” Brookwood coach Thad Fitzpatrick told the Tuscaloosa News. “The intention was to get as much rest as we can offensively and do whatever we needed to do defensively. It was our fourth game of the week, and on Friday night we started cramping a lot, so I made the decision.”
Four games in a week? It’s absurd enough to make one team play that many, including back-to-back Friday and Saturday nights. Yet, as it turns out, Brookwood wasn’t the only team playing its fourth game of the week: so was Bibb County.
Sure, these are 14-18 year-old kids on the court. Their bodies are young, fresh and supposedly able to handle rigors of such a schedule. Yet, as the large amount of cramping showed Fitzpatrick the night before, this was too much for even youths to handle. After all, play in the Class 6A, Area 7 tournament begins Thursday, so why should his team play and risk its health against Class 4A Bibb County?
Answer: They shouldn’t. Even if this were a huge rivalry game, there is no reason why kids should ever have to play four games in a week during the regular season, something the ASHAA needs to address immediately.
This scenario is only part of a growing problem in youth sports, lumped in with kids who begin ‘specializing’ and playing a single sport year-round. Sure, these kids and their fresh bodies can handle the high levels of wear-and-tear, for a little bit at least. Yet it won’t be long before they start falling apart and suffer long-term health complications.
Placing myself in the shoes of a parent, I actually appreciate the way Fitzpatrick and Wallace decided to coach this game. For the kids’ sake, I hope state high school athletic associations feel the same way.
Was Saturday night’s game fun to watch? Of course not. Was it better for these kids in the long run? Absolutely.