The basket was good as soon as the ball left her fingers. Bethany Montgomery could tell. It was her shot, her moment.
She’d connected from the corner a fraction of a second before time expired, transforming a plodding Class 3A girls basketball semifinal game from a lost cause into a thriller destined for overtime. Defensive pressure along the baseline appeared to smother Montgomery, but no matter.
Her time had come. Nothing – and nobody – was going to prevent that ball from through the net for three points.
“I’ve been playing that over and over in my mind since I was a little girl,” the Wilson senior said Friday afternoon. “I knew I was gonna make it.”
As Montgomery was talking in a hallway underneath the Tacoma Dome stands, she used the sleeves of her sweatshirt to wipe away tears. The ball had gone in, just like she’d always envisioned, but soon the pandemonium gave way to confusion, then rage, then regret.
As the Wilson fans celebrated as jubilantly as the Rams themselves, the officiating crew huddled. Not a good sign, Montgomery sensed, and when the huddle broke up, the officials signaled for one point to be subtracted from the Rams’ total.
“We were going into overtime, and I was thinking, ‘Let’s go,’ ” continued Montgomery. “And then I look up at the scoreboard and see that a point was taken away.”
Montgomery threw herjersey on the floor, and while the reaction was understandable, that’s a technical foul at any level.
“I’m truly regretful and sorry,” she said. “So many people have helped me out, and I let them all down.”
Montgomery’s technical was a not a game changer, merely a score changer that gave Seattle Prep 36-33 victory. In any case, the Rams’ floor leader took responsibility and vowed to use better judgment the next time officials deprive her of a moment she deserves to treasure.
As for the officials, their names on the box score sheet for Game 7 of the 3A girls bracket are listed as “Unknown.” Above “Unknown” on the box score sheet is a line that reads “Technical Fouls.” Adjacent to “Wil,” printed in bold face type, is “B. Montgomery.”
A high school girl finds out her game-tying shot for three points has been taken away, she throws her jersey, she deals with the consequences. But what about the anonymous officials? Their uncertainty about the call – one gestured Montgomery had attempted her shot behind the line, another thought he saw her feet on the line – couldn’t be solved by studying TV replays. (Since 2009, the National Federation of State High School Associations has allowed the use of replay for basketball during game-ending situations in state tournament play but Washington isn’t one of the states that takes advantage of it.)
So the officials huddled, and reached something between an eyewitness determination and a wild guess.
If there’s a doubt, why not let the kids on the court sort it out? Ruling Montgomery’s shot to be worth three points, even if the ruling is disputed, still allows Seattle Prep a chance to win in overtime. But ruling Montgomery’s shot to be worth two points, contradicting the judgment of one official, left Wilson with no chance to win.
Officiating is not easy. For those who work high school games, reffing is much more a labor of love than a power trip. Still, it shouldn’t be complicated: If there’s a controversial call during the last second of a game, and the outcome of the controversy can either be overtime for both teams or a certain defeat for one of them, overtime is the obvious compromise.
“You learn from your mistakes,” said Montgomery, who is planning to continue her basketball career next season at Eastern Washington. “This was a life lesson.”
I’m not sure there’s a lesson in a student realizing the moment of a lifetime – and then watching three officials confer with each other before taking the moment away – except this:
High school athletes as talented, gracious and humble as Bethany Montgomery can invigorate the most jaded of spirits. And high school officials can sap that spirit when they meet in a huddle, to determine the winner of a game that’s supposed to be decided by the email@example.com