North Bergen, NJ – Here at the rec center for a freshman girls tournament. We have two semifinal games on tap. The rec center has a good size court but it is that old rubberized tartan surface, big in the 70s obsolete now, that makes your knees scream after two games. Top it off, the heat is barely on. At any rate, there are games to be officiated.
North Bergen 46 Dumont 11
Courtney Ruane, the subject of the last article, told me North Bergen has a few ballhandlers. She was right on the money. Having two proficient handlers on this level is a blessing. It is also one of the reasons North Bergen zoomed out to a 23-8 halftime lead.
Both programs are good on the varsity level. But varsity and/or JV success does not always carry down to this level. Simply because if you are really good you will be on JV or varsity, even as a freshman. The Dumont coach told us pre-game her team is in a learning stage. She was right as North Bergen got out to an 18-0 lead. At that point the coach asks us if we can have the opposition take the press off. It’s a tough situation because you don’t want to ‘coach’ someone’s team. Thankfully two possessions later the press was off.
My partner is Kirk Quockco, a good official whom I enjoy working with. Most of the second half we are in ‘game management’ mode. Simply, if a call is close give it to Dumont. That includes being generous on five second (more like seven) inbounds. Once Dumont scored they played a bit better and got more confidence. I can think of UCONN having an easy time with overmatched oppomnents and officials applying game management on that level. In an ironic twist, the Dumont nickname happens to be the Huskies.
Post game we wish the teams well and prepare for a much closer second game.
Rutherford 29 Mount Saint Dominic 28 (OT)
Pre-game a Rutherford assistant introduces himself. Greg Vogel played in grade and high school games I officiated. His dad, Jerry, was a year behind me in high school and I worked for him when he coached. Greg says he will be quieter than his father.
Early on, you see this one is competitive. Mount Saint Dominic is using full court pressure and zones in half court. Rutherford really plays a 3-2 zone very well. The score is knotted at 13 at the half.
In the first half a Rutherford girl goes to the basket and is fouled. “You have to be kidding,” the Mount coach says. I tell him if a player stays vertical they stay out of trouble. He replies, “it was all ball.” Again I say, “stay vertical avoid trouble.” At a timeout I tell Kirk they (coaches) just don’t get it sometimes.
The Mount is scoreless in quarter number three and down seven entering the fourth. Interestingly, they put together a 13 point final quarter and send it into OT on a late three pointer. Both coaches are ‘asking’ for calls. A close game and they are looking for any edge possible. Greg is not as vocal as his dad but not exactly a Trappist Monk either. Adding to the fun, is the score clock that sometimes shuts due to a short circuit. Late game I get set to inbound the ball to a Mount Saint Dominic player. “Hold your spot and relax,” I say with a smile. The players seem on edge in this close game, dreadfully fearful of a mistake. I just want them to relax and play hard. She smiles back.
In overtime Rutherford gets a three point lead. The Mount cuts it to one. They have the ball late game and a chance to take the lead but lose it out of bounds with about five seconds to play. Rutherford holds on for a nice victory.
On the way out we stop for a coffee at concessions. The lady at the counter said she opens again later for the rec teams coming in. Hopefully the heat will be turned up by then.