Anytime the human element is involved in any endeavor, it’s said, there’s always the chance for an honest error, sometimes one that ends up costing a team a victory it thought it had in its grasp.
In this case, it was Kubasaki getting a 49-47 victory Friday over Kadena in the 7th New Year Classic quarterfinal round. It was a game the Panthers led by as many as eight before the Dragons rallied, thanks in part to a few additional seconds added to the game clock in the closing stages when it appeared the game was already over.
“I’ve never been in this position as a coach, knowing there were mistakes made and not having them get corrected,” Kadena coach Gerald Johnson said.
“Things happen,” Kubasaki coach Jon Fick said. “The human element was involved. The guys didn’t quit, it worked out for us and we’ve been on the other end of it before.”
With 9.7 seconds left, Kadena missed a foul shot, which DeQuan Alderman of Kubasaki rebounded, drove upcourt and hit a three-point basket to make it 47-46.
Only one thing: The game clock did not start on the rebound. Once Alderman hit the basket and Kubasaki called timeout, the clock did run, and one of the officials saw it running. He whistled it dead and after much discussion between themselves and the coaches, the referees told the clock operator to put 11.7 seconds on the clock.
Johnson, understandably livid, debated the issue with one of the officials for nearly three minutes before play resumed. Kubasaki fouled Kadena, which missed the free throw, Kubasaki rebounded and again called timeout.
The ball was inbounded to Alderman, who drove upcourt again and put up a running hook-style shot at the top of the foul circle. It bounced gently off the back rim and settled into the basket as time expired, giving the Dragons an improbable victory, their second in three tries over Kadena this season.
“They’re hurting,” Johnson said of his players. “Had the time been correct, they (Kubasaki) wouldn’t have had the opportunity for that last shot.”
The officiating crew, citing United Services For Japan Officials Association bylaws, declined to comment.
Such disputed plays have been part of previous New Year Classics, perhaps the most memorable example being the 2010 version played at the American School In Japan, when Yokota senior Myles Andrews hit a game-winning shot against host ASIJ at the buzzer. The clock read 0.4 seconds left when the ball was inbounded; ASIJ officials argued that the clock didn’t start the instant Andrews got the ball on the inbound pass.