Sunday, January 24, 2016

Pink Whistle: 8th Grade Recreation

The Shock team during pregame warmups. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)

BY RAY FLORIANI

Fairfield 41, North Caldwell 13
Fairfield (B) 16, Shock 0

Fairfield, NJ - Friday evening called for an eighth-grade girls' doubleheader. One of the main aspects of recreation ball is the differing rules from league to league. In this West Essex League, there is a running clock for three quarters before it is stopped for the fourth. Teams cannot double-team on defense, and only play zone in the third quarter. Pressing is allowed only in the fourth quarter, but not if you lead by 15. Got it?

In actuality, it is an attempt to get the kids experience and a better way to learn the game while hopefully leveling the playing field. On this night, the field was not too level. In the first game, Fairfield rolled to an easy victory. Most of our foul calls early were on illegal screens. Coaches are utilizing screens to initiate the offense. That is good, but the bad part is many of these screens are not executed properly. A positive out of all this was that as the game progressed, the girls set better screens. Setting the tone through the whistle proved helpful.

Fairfield was undefeated in rec soccer, which I officiated. I noticed some of those players on the basketball team. Simply, they are good multi-sport athletes. Fairfield led 18-­0 at the half and eventually held the opposition to 13, yet it was the offense, especially in dribble penetration, that was outstanding. North Caldwell showed some better offense in the final quarter as a number 11 used some of those screens to get to the basket. This was my first assignment this season in the league, but it appears Fairfield may add to their trophy case with a basketball title.

Before game two, the Shock (from Roseland, NJ) coach introduces himself and says, “it should be a good game, as both teams are struggling a bit.” Early on, the coach’s assessment is correct as both teams struggle. Fairfield B (the town has multiple entries in the league) leads 8­-0 at halftime. They have a big player near six feet in height who is learning, but is able to use the height to grab rebounds.

As the game wears on, it is certain the Shock may not get in the scorebook. No one, especially officials, want to see that. Using ‘game management,’ (if it’s a close call, give it to the team getting blown out) we get the Shock to the line for free throw attempts. Nothing falls (and while getting them to the charity stripe, the fact is, we cannot hit the shots for them). The basketball gods seem to add their own mean twist as several close shots hit the rim and come out. The game ends in a dreaded rare shutout, only the third now in my 28th year of officiating. The Shock coach comes over to say ‘thank you’ to my partner and I for our effort. For the Shock, they will wait until next week as Saturday’s games were already postponed due to the impending blizzard.

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