Mesquite’s Will Donahue, Hamilton’s Derek Meyer and Apache Junction’s Cody Anderson have something in common this week.
All three were tossed from postseason basketball games. All three watched their teams lose state playoff games without them.
It was an unfortunate turn of events, but in the long run it was fair.
Over the years, numerous coaches have told me they believe officials need a thicker skin, a greater tolerance in a playoff game. I’ve agreed with that logic until now.
Given more time to reflect, I believe behavior — both players’ and officials’ — should be uniform whether it’s a nonleague game in December or a state playoff game in February.
Officials need to be judicious in their calls. They need to be fair. And most of all, they need to communicate with coaches and players when play is getting rough or observed actions are bordering on intolerable.
But players also have to be accountable for their actions and emotions, no matter the game’s magnitude.
For Donahue and Meyer the penalty, per Arizona Interscholastic Association rules, was missing their team’s first-round state playoff losses to Brophy and St. Mary’s, respectively, on Wednesday.
Anderson’s team lost in the 4A-II semifinals to Bullhead City Mohave on Tuesday at Glendale Arena. Had A.J. advanced to the title game, he would have sat out the game to pay his penance.
At least two of the three ejections created controversy with coaches who expressed disagreement with the rulings.
But they all should have known what to expect before the games began.
AIA state commissioner of officials Gary Whelchel said officials are uniformly taught to convey one message before a basketball game. ‘‘When they meet with the captains and coaches, the conversation is that sportsmanship is paramount,’’ Whelchel said. ‘‘I remind all of our officials about that before they go out at Glendale Arena.”
In the account given me by Hamilton coach Kevin Hartwig and Mesquite coach Tom Saltzstein, it seems there was ample warning concerning the play and
actions of Donahue and Meyer.
Hartwig said Donahue and Meyer were assessed a double foul for physical play in the first period. That shows officials were making a statement that both were being too physical. Essentially, they were being told to tone it down.
Donahue was assessed his fifth foul in the third quarter when he was issued a technical for throwing the ball at Meyer, which hit him in the head. Saltzstein and Hartwig agree that Donahue was trying to maintain possession at the baseline. Donahue opted to throw the ball off Meyer to keep possession.
Saltzstein said the trailing official made the technical call and may have concluded there were still issues between Donahue and Meyer. Meyer, upset at being hit with the ball, followed Donahue after the beaning. At that point officials opted for ejection of both rather than risk escalation of tempers.
‘‘The officials are taught to officiate the moment,’’ Whelchel said. ‘‘The intensity level in tournament games definitely rises. Officials don’t keep track of fouls. I have not seen anything on those ejections, but I’d think they were at the point where they didn’t want things to escalate.’’
In Anderson’s ejection at Glendale Arena, most observers agreed with the call and ejection even though the game was only in the first period. Whelchel was one of those who witnessed it.
‘‘There was no question the elbow hit the other kid in the face, and it was a severe flagrant foul,’’ Whelchel said. ‘‘That kind of play doesn’t leave an official much leeway.’’
As we have seen this past week, sportsmanship and on-court conduct are important. Not adhering to those standards has a price, even if it means exclusion from postseason games where the stakes are highest.