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Jaywalking

Jaywalking: Shot clocked

It was a tough night for the Greenfield High School boys’ basketball fans in Cheshire on Friday night.

The sixth-seeded Green Wave had its hands full with third-seeded Hoosac Valley High School in the quarterfinals of the Western Massachusetts Division III Tournament. Greenfield had trailed for much of the middle two quarters but came back in the fourth to tie the score at 51-51.

I was sitting right behind the Green Wave bench, with GHS classmates Luke Martin sitting to my right, and Bill Finn just behind us. Martin and Finn were both on the WMass champion Greenfield team in 2000, and Martin now teaches at the middle school and coaches the middle school boys’ basketball team.

The two former players were both excited as the Wave fought back to tie the score and Greenfield had possession of the ball with just over 2 minutes remaining in the game, looking poised to pull ahead. The Hoosac players, like many players I’ve seen in the past on teams that have let a late lead slip away, had that certain look in their eyes — maybe it’s a deer-in-the-headlights sort of thing, maybe it’s better described as what a person looks like when fear sets in. Whatever you want to call it, Hoosac had it, and you could just sense that Greenfield had all the momentum.

The Hoosac defense did not quit, and even though its offense had gone a bit cold, the Hurricanes were still playing tough defense. It’s that reason that the 30-second shot clock had wound down on Greenfield as it tried to score a hoop to break the 51-all tie. At that point, Greenfield worked the ball inside and — if memory serves me correctly — Garrett Hudson tried to throw up an off-balanced shot as the shot clock was expiring. The ball rainbowed over the rim and came down toward a Hoosac player.

Maybe it was the nerves, maybe it was just one of those plays, but as the Hoosac player attempted to grab what should have been a relatively easy rebound, the ball wound up going off him and out of bounds. The shot clock reset back to 30 seconds and Greenfield coach Scott Thayer asked for a timeout to call what he later described as a new play put in just for the very situation that Greenfield was facing.

That was when Hoosac coach Bill Robinson came off his bench and ran toward the officials, claiming the shot clock had been reset prematurely. There are a number of reasons that the clock resets, the two biggest being either the ball hitting the rim, or a change of possession. Neither of those things had happened, Robinson argued, and so the officials came together. In front of me, Thayer was busy setting up the play, oblivious to what was taking place behind him.

The officials spent some time discussing the play and then went over to the shot clock operator, who is someone assigned by the home team. It was looking like that man might be looking for a new job, because he had just given Greenfield a fresh clock. Thayer came out of his meeting with the players and joined in with everyone else in watching as the officials talked among themselves near center court.

Finally, the officials called both head coaches into the meeting and Thayer’s face said it all. The ruling was a shot clock violation, which gave Hoosac possession. The Hurricanes, apparently rejuvenated by the break, took their newfound lease on life and went down the floor and knocked down a 3-pointer. One possession later, they stretched the lead to five points and the game was all but over.

Did the officials get the call right? That was the question flying around among the Greenfield fans after the game. The biggest question looming around the call was how much time was on the shot clock when it reset. The horn never went off, indicating a violation, so how much time was left when it reset? Many, including myself, felt that there was a second or two left when the ball was coming down. Others said it was more like three or four seconds. That was the biggest issue with the call. No one argued that Greenfield deserved the ball and a fresh shot clock.

I spoke with an official not at the game on the condition of anonymity and he felt that one of two things could have happened. The first was that Greenfield could have been awarded the ball with a few seconds put back on the shot clock. The second was to charge the Wave with a violation, deeming that the clock would have gone off if it had not been prematurely reset.

“The fact that they were having such an in-depth conversation shows that they were really trying to get the call right,” the official said.

In the end, the call did not cost the Green Wave the ball game. Poor shooting early in the game certainly did not help, and Greenfield struggled at times to contain the Hoosac players from attacking the net. Still, a great game.

I spent two nights last week watching the Pioneer Valley Regional School girls’ basketball team. Postseason basketball was back in Northfield and both teams did their school proud. The girls’ team won its first tournament game but came up short against a more seasoned Monson High School squad. Meg Lilly and the girls’ should be right back in the postseason next winter.

Then there is the boys’ team, which had plenty of drama surrounding it before the season even began, as head coach Dave Hastings fought for his job.

Hastings wound up retaining the position, and it appears the administration got what it wanted, because Pioneer not only qualified for the tournament, it played well in its first-round loss to Monument.

Some things go unmentioned in stories, and one of those things came up in the Monument game, and it’s something that the Pioneer administration should applaud Hastings and the rest of the team for. It seems to me, this was what they wanted all along — to ensure that the coach and team represented the school well. A letter came to me that was written by a Monument parent following the Pioneer game. It was apparently written to the Pioneer administration, and is worth sharing.

The letter is from a parent of Monument senior captain Bobby Kinne. Six weeks ago, Bobby was seriously injured during a basketball game, suffering head, neck and spine injuries. He was unable to attend any games and missed the rest of the season. Prior to the game against Pioneer, Kinne was cleared to dress for the game by his doctor, but the family did not want him to risk any contact, meaning he would be unable to play. With only 14 seconds left in what turned out to be a 64-46 Monument win, the Monument coach called a timeout. What took place in those final seconds of what I’m sure was a heartbreaking loss for the Pioneer players goes to show what sportsmanship is all about. I will let the letter tell the rest of the story:

With 14 seconds left to go in the game, your coach graciously understood why our coach called timeout when the game was out of reach — it was to let my son into the game. My son then took off his warm up shirt and entered the game for those last ticks on the clock. Now his final memory of playing basketball will be the sounds of his home crowd chanting his name and giving him a standing ovation instead of the memory of leaving on a back-board and stretcher not knowing whether he would ever recover. The sportsmanship of your team and your coach made that moment happen. My family and I will be forever grateful.

Too often, teams and coaches are judged by wins and losses and other things that really don’t matter in life. While your team may have lost the game, your coaches and players are true winners. They exemplify what high school sports should really be about. I wish you and your school much success in the future and appreciate that all of you clearly have your priorities in the right place.

The best of sports — and sportsmanship — on display.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com.

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