HARRIS - On paper and as far as any record will show, the Munising Mustangs beat the Bark River-Harris Broncos 49-43 Tuesday night.
Unfortunately, there is more to it than that.
In my three years of covering sports with the Escanaba Daily Press I have never said the following, but for the sake of the integrity of the game of basketball, it needs to be said.
The officials marred this game.
I have heard rumblings after games on numerous occasions. It's what fanbases do. Particularly in a close game, the losing side will often feel slighted and take shots at the officials from the stands and on the way out the door. It is the nature of being a fan.
I am not a fan, except of the sport in general. I am an impartial writer. I record what happens in the game and bring it to the readers.
I'll say it again. The officials marred this game.
They stole victory right out of the hands of the Bark River-Harris Broncos, who played the most inspired basketball I've seen them play in my three years here.
I watched as Munising players stepped out of bounds right in front of my eyes. I looked over and the official was standing right next to me. No call was made.
I saw blatant traveling. Three steps and a shot was made. Again, I looked over. It happened directly in front of the officials eyes. No call was made.
I saw Bark River-Harris players fouled on the way to the basket on the fast break, with the Munising defender giving chase and giving a hack on his way to the basket. No call was made. I saw the same thing happen to Munising and the kid lined up for free throws.
I witnessed Munising kids being awarded shooting fouls when there was no shot taken. This didn't occur late in the game with the bonus in effect. This was early in the first half.
This was a razor close game, and it was a very good game. Among the best I've seen. What a travesty that it came to this.
What a shame, that the Munising kids that worked hard for victory, now have it tainted.
What a shame for the Bark River-Harris kids who worked hard and played near impeccable defense, all for naught.
Don't just take my word for it. Those who were present at the game may feel inclined to agree but all one really needs to do is look at the statistics.
Munising lined up and took 27 free throws. The Broncos took four.
"Because they were shooting free throws, we lost it," said Broncos coach Matt Richer. "The reffing was terrible, not solely for us, but they got the favor mostly in the second half.
"I told my assistant coach, 'do they know we're not supposed to win, making these calls?"
Munising made 18 of those free throws. That's 18 points in a game they won by five.
"We were 1-4 and they were (18-27). It was six straight points (from the line) to start the third quarter in a minute and a half. I'm begging for calls and I shouldn't have to do that," said Richer.
"Munising is the physical team. They're the ones grabbing and pushing and pulling. We're playing a zone where we wouldn't get fouls. It's ridiculous."
I will not call out the officiating crew by name. However, they were from Marquette County.
I would implore them, if they are reading this column to take a good look in the mirror. These are high school athletes who play simply for the love of the game.
Bark River-Harris came into this game at 4-7 and they had a victory in their grasp that would have defined a season. The Mustangs were ranked No. 5 in Class D and carried a 7-2 record with a signature win over Carney-Nadeau on the Wolves' home court.
"For my guys, it's big. We've struggled and now we're 4-8," said Richer. "We've struggled against the good teams and other than Crystal Falls, this is the best team we've played good against.
"We just need to shoot better and take care of the ball. No team, I don't think, is going to want to face us in tournaments."
I will be writing a letter to the MHSAA concerning this officiating crew. I would encourage all who were in attendance who share my sentiment to do the same, so that these officials cannot do further damage and destroy another game for the athletes who work so hard.