Boys Basketball

Referees attempt to make wrong call right

The Class 2A state third place game saw seven ties and six lead changes before Rockridge ultimately prevailed over Mater Dei, 52-47.

But it was only through a lot of discussion, a lot of confusion, a round chorus of boos, and a bold decision by game officials to make good on their own mistake that the halftime score was settled.

It started with Rockridge leading 27-26 and in possession of the ball.

Rockets' senior forward Isaiah Kistler attempted a final shot from deep in the corner at the buzzer. Mater Dei's Sam Toennies got a hand on the ball then was called for a foul on Kistler.

Confusion ensued as the three referees met at mid-court to decide what they saw. Three factors were in question:

•  Did Kistler get the ball off before the buzzer?

•  Was he beyond the three-point arc?

•  And —believe it or not —who was it exactly that drew the shooting foul?

Referee Tyler Voght said yes to the first two questions, but mistakenly sent Rockridge's Bryan Heath, an 83 percent free throw shooter, to the free throw line instead of Kistler, who shoots 60 percent.

Heath took and made the three shots. The officials, for some reason, counted only two of them to send Rockridge into the locker room with a 29-26 lead.

"I was talking to my (assistant) coach and walking off so I didn't really see the play," said Rockridge coach Toby Whiteman. "I just saw that there was a foul and we were getting some free throws."

Meanwhile, instant replay on the Carver Arena scoreboard showed Heath standing in the foreground nowhere near where Kislter took the shot.

That's what Whiteman saw, too.

"I looked up at the scoreboard and saw clearly that Isaiah took the shot," he said.

The officials left the floor to boos from the Mater Dei corner of Carver Arena.

During the intermission, an extra point mysteriously was added to Rockridge's score. Then it was taken off again.

Kurt Gibson, associate director of the IHSA, explained that the point was added and removed due to a "miscommunication" between the officials and scorer's table. He couldn't explain, however, why the point wasn't added in the first place when Heath clearly landed all three of the shots he shouldn't have been taking at all.

"I didn't really know what was going on," Heath said. "I walked to the bench and coach said 'you're supposed to be shooting,' so I went to the free throw line. I didn't really know why. It was very confusing."

It was a moot point anyway.

The officials apparently watched the replay during halftime and realized their error. I say "apparently" because Gibson wouldn't comment specifically on the officiating of the game or how the referees came to reverse their decision. Nor would he say whether the instant replay was a factor. He confirmed only that the error was "correctable."

Voght led the officials back onto the floor and instructed the scorer's table to take the two free throws they originally counted off the board. Kistler was sent to the line to retake the shots he should have taken in the first place, assuming he really got the shot off before the buzzer, which is questionable as well.

"I don't really know what replay is like in high school. I didn't know they even had it," Whiteman said. "They told me they couldn't do anything about it, then they came out after halftime and said they could.

"They said they wanted to get it right and retake the shots. I didn't have any problem with that."

Kistler drained all three of the free throws and the officials counted all of them to restore the score to 30-26 and send the Rockridge cheering section into a frenzy.

"I was really nervous, I'm not going to lie," Kistler said. "I just tried to show some confidence and make the shots, which I did. That was a relief."

Because the shots were retaken by Kisler and Heath's taken off the board, the IHSA's official game transcript and statistics show no record of the crazy sequence. Nor does it reveal the irony of just how close Heath came to breaking a state record.

Heath had 30 of the 52 points Rockridge scored. Had his two erroneous free throws counted, it would have tied the IHSA record for points scored in a 2A tournament game. Had the third erroneous shot counted, he would have broken it.

"I've never experienced that in my life, but we're all human and people make mistakes," said Mater Dei coach Ron Schadegg. "The positive note that is that they tried to correct it. I wish they wouldn't have corrected it now because they ended up getting one more point out if than they originally had.

"But we can't fault anything or anybody."

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