Pictured: Middletown’s Jonathan Nkonoki attempts to pull in a loose ball with as three New Britain defenders vie for possession as well.
By Paul Augeri
As is his custom, Middletown boys basketball coach Rick Privott loses the sports jacket when the second half rolls around. By then, he has worn a groove in front of the team’s bench.
On Monday night, Privott shed his jacket midway through the second quarter. Unusual, but the Blue Dragons’ game at New Britain was intense and physical.
It was poorly officiated, too.
Middletown had just lost the lead – for good, as it turned out — seconds earlier.
The nearly full house for this CCC matchup did not see a game as much as they saw an expose of 32 minutes of high-level basketball mismanaged by low-level officiating performance.
There was no flow and you had to think hard to identify any consistency in the calls. This led to confusion on the players’ parts, because ultimately there was no line of demarcation between hard play, incidental contact and a warranted foul.
What were they to think? How were they to adjust to the tone set by the guys in charge on the floor? These were not garden-variety, occasionally head-scratching calls. This was a total mess.
Now, there is truly little to no value in writing about the performance of a referee or two. We are caught in an era where sports officials are leaving the vocation in droves, some fed up by mistreatment (or worse) by fans, coaches or the athletes themselves. It is sad to see.
I wonder though, if even fans of triumphant New Britain left the gym feeling as if the officiating was the predominant story line, and not the efforts of the Golden Hurricanes’ defense. They wore out the Dragons in a 59-41 victory.
Out of Harbinger Central, the game began with a technical foul called on New Britain. One of its players dunked during the pregame warm-up, a violation of a state rule. New Britain was charged with a team foul. Donte Pope attempted two free throws (he made both) and Middletown got to inbound the ball to start the game, up 2-0 with no time elapsed.
New Britain’s zone defenses did not let Middletown off the hook. Coach Kurt Reis threw various looks at the Blue Dragons. His team has long guards who took away the passing lanes and space in the lane. The defense created a lot of their offense, and they beat it back on D, too, and were already in full protect mode when the Blue Dragons tried to set up their offense.
A background act, it felt like, because of the shrill of whistles.
There were two fouls on 50-50 balls; two fouls away from the basket; two fouls against New Britain’s Nyzaiah Diaz; a foul for a hand check (against Middletown); a foul for an illegal screen (against Middletown); and a foul (against Middletown) on a tie-up underneath the Dragons’ basket. This one really raised some hackles because both players involved were in a standing position with a hand on a piece of the basketball, which was on the floor at the time.
And now … for the second quarter.
I will spare you.
Middletown was called for nine fouls in the first half, New Britain four (three if you exclude the technical). In the second half, Middletown committed 14 fouls to New Britain’s four.
The cries for “CALL IT BOTH WAYS!” are still ringing in my ears. Yes, there were plenty of comments about fairness, or lack thereof.
By the halfway point of the fourth quarter, Privott had had enough and got T’d. Although the Hurricanes missed both foul shots, they were up 12 and Middletown mustered only six points the rest of the way.
Outside of shrugging at a lot of the calls that went against them, it’s notable that Privott’s players held their composure throughout. Remember, this game was for them, not the two adults on the floor who failed them.
Maybe we’ll see a New Britain-Middletown rematch in the CCC tournament, where the players, one would hope, would be the main attraction.