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PIAA goes silent

March 22, 2010 - Chris Masse

It has now been nearly a week since Mansfield High School principal Denise Drabick sent a letter to the PIAA after the six-player debacle unfolded last Tuesday that possibly derailed not only the Tigers' state quarterfinal aspirations but also their state championship ones. In that letter she said that a DVD of the game was waiting for it if the PIAA wished to view it.

Before I move forward let's look back. Last Tuesday in the final 30 seconds of an overtime Class A second-round state tournament game, Mansfield trailed Lebanon Catholic 49-47 as the Beavers prepared to inbound the ball. A DVD of the game (that can be seen on the Sun-Gazette web site later Tuesday evening) clearly shows that Catholic has the inbounder plus five players on the court as the play starts to unfold. 5+1=6 and only five players are allowed on the court and yet a trio referees, whose first responsibility, is to make sure the right number of players are on the court, missed it. As the DVD shows, six Beavers continued playing for approximately eight seconds before the sixth sneaks back to the bench. What should have happened is a technical foul against Catholic, resulting in Mansfield shooting two free throws and having possession with 12 seconds remaining. What happened instead was point guard Patrick Cummings was forced to foul and because it was his fifth he had to leave the game. Michael Wolfe then hit two foul shots that he should have never had and Catholic won, 51-47.

As soon as Wolfe was fouled, Mansfield coach Kipper Burleigh pleaded with the referee who called the foul on Cummings to consult with both his fellow officials and those at the scorer's table, saying that Catholic had six players on the court. Burleigh did not yell, did not really even raise his voice and was respectful yet persistent over the next minute or so. The response he was given? 


The most basic of rules was violated, these officials missed it and yet nobody would even listen to Burleigh, nobody would even think for a second that they did something wrong. Following the game, Burleigh, Drabick and athletic director Wes Detar asked to speak to that night's game manager and were denied access. Nearly a week later, they still have not received a comment from the game manager.

So there's the background. The PIAA has the letter asking for an explanation and a response along with the visible proof of this travesty unfolding. Its response?


Its second-round game and its tournament as a whole tainted by this display, which might have played a significant role in altering how the remaining rounds unfolded, and yet the PIAA has not even dignified Mansfield with a response. Shame on them.

This is not a case of a program saying they lost a game because of a controversial charge or walking violation. This is night and day and the DVD proves how blatant the violation was. Mansfield easily could have won the game had the right call been made but instead lost and had its state championship dreams crushed by incompetence. The Tigers will be the first ones to say that even had the right call been made they still might have lost. But they also know they could have won and made a run at the grand prize. Its officials had a direct impact on this game and yet the PIAA has gone silent.

Nothing can be done to reverse the game's outcome. The quarterfinals took place last Friday and Greenwood defeated Catholic, 45-30. The pain and frustration of a loss it might not have had to suffer will never leave Mansfield, especially its seniors who had one last excellent chance at making history. The least the PIAA can do is acknowledge a mistake was made and apologize to Mansfield or have the officials apologize to Mansfield. Instead they go silent.

What happened last Tuesday was a sports travesty but it also was a mistake. The way the PIAA has ignored Mansfield? That's flat-out wrong and it should be ashamed of itself.


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