Protest Launched After Video Footage Finds Score Is Tied
In a 40-40 dead heat, the Runnin’ Rebels, the boys’ varsity basketball team, were lining up to begin overtime. Then the referees met with the scorekeepers and announced a discrepancy between the scoreboard and the statistic books. The books said the score was 40-38, costing the Rebels the game—and the playoffs.
After the decision, both coaches shook hands. Rebels’ coach Phil Fisher told the team to congratulate their opponents. The Rebels were in shock: some put their jerseys over their faces while others comforted each other. Senior and captain Jake LaMountain near tears.
This disheartening loss ended the game against the Seahawks of Food and Finance High School on February 29. “We asked the refs and they decided that since both the books matched up, the score would be 40-38,” senior and Rebels’ manager Iris Leung said.
“We would have been playing much tighter defense and we would have fouled them if we had to. You play the game differently in different situations,” junior Tarek Elessawi said.
However, according to video footage recorded by both The Spectator and senior Steven Cao, who was asked to film the game by Fisher, 12 points were scored by the Rebels in the fourth quarter and the real score was actually 40-40. LaMountain viewed the footage taken by Cao and confirmed that the score is was tied.
“The book had us only scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter, whereas the tape clearly showed us having six baskets,” said LaMountain.
According to official high school basketball rules outlined by the Public School Athletics League (PSAL), video replays cannot be used as evidence to protest an official decision. “I knew I didn’t have much of a leg to stand on,” Fisher said. “Once the officials leave the court, the game is supposedly official.”
After reexamining the score book taken during the game, Fisher found that a basket scored by junior Nolan Becker was not accounted for. “What I don’t understand is that our running score was correct. We did have 40 points in the book,” Fisher said. “The referees always want to do the right thing. Here the right thing is not being done.”
Fisher contacted several people, including Assistant Principal Health and Physical Education Martha Singer, PSAL boys’ basketball commissioner Mel Goldstein and High School of Food and Finance’s athletic director Eric Capuano. “[The commissioner] said that both scorebooks had a missing basket and that’s what they went with,” Fisher said. “[Capuano] was very sympathetic but wasn’t interested.”
Fisher learned via e-mail on the following Monday that one parent had filed a protest on Friday before the officials left. “I did not know that a protest had already been filed, because if it was, it wasn’t filed by me. I had no idea what was going on,” Fisher said. The status of that protest is unknown at this time.
The loss feels especially painful because the Rebels exceeded expectations. They had been seeded 34th out of 41 teams, while the Seahawks were the second seeded team. Earlier in the season, the Rebels had lost 64-39 to the Seahawks on November 30, 2007 and 63-50 on January 11.
“The first game against [the Seahawks] wasn’t even close. It was a joke, they were dunking over us,” LaMountain said. The Rebels’ defense was a deciding factor in the game. They held the Seahawks, a team that normally averages 67 points a game, to only 40 points. Stuyvesant also kept Food and Finance’s leading scorer, senior Travis Nichols, to only 11 points. Nichols averages 23.56 points per game. Rebels’ junior and center Nolan Becker led Stuyvesant with 24 points and had nine rebounds.
“We held them to 40 points, and the furthest we were behind the whole game was four. How much better an effort could you ask for?” Fisher said.
The loss came after the Rebels beat the Rough Riders of the Roosevelt Educational Campus, 74-45, in the Bronx on Tuesday, February 26, in the play-in game to make the first round of playoffs. The Rough Riders, seeded 31st, also had a 10-8 record in the regular season. This record placed both teams in the “out bracket”, where the four lowest seeded teams play each other in order to qualify for the final two spots in the 32-team bracket.
The Rebels outscored the Rough Riders after every quarter with three players scoring in double-figures and eight players scoring in total. “Usually we rely on [Becker], but [today] we could rely on anybody,” senior Suraj Cheema said.
Since the beginning of the season, Stuyvesant’s Runnin’ Rebels have improved significantly. Their foul shooting has come from close to 50 percent to nearly 75 percent. “We shoot a lot of free throws at practice,” Becker said. “We’re working on it.”
They have also improved individually. “Everyone has improved. Our team is now beginning to use our skills and improvements at game speed,” Fisher said. Most significantly, the Rebels’ played with much more emotion. Against the Seahawks, said LaMountain, “the emotional aspect was there. The hard work was there. We tried our best and our hardest.”