MIDLAND PARK, NJ - The Friday rush hour traffic was very cooperative. Arrival to the gym at Nativity School was about an hour before my 6:15 tip. The parking lot was almost full, hinting a game was being played. The fourth-grade boys’ playoffs were being held, so I grabbed a seat to settle in. Next to me was a fan loudly criticizing every call or no-call by the officials. He wouldn’t stop there.
The fan barked loud orders at the fourth-graders just trying to play and have an enjoyable experience in competition. During a timeout, one of the officials I have worked with, Mike Fernandes, came over to say hello. The fan made another comment. Good-natured Mike just jokingly said, “Ray, help him.” The fan commented how the officials needed help. I intervened, saying, “leave the officials alone, they are doing a great job.” I got up and left my seat and went into the lobby. Enough was enough. No use arguing with an unruly, and clueless, fan. As they taught us in officiating camp, never get in a stink fight with a skunk.
The fourth-grade game ended and we took the floor for the girls’ 8th-grade playoffs. My partner, another Mike, and I discussed the possibility of pressing in this small gym. Sidelines and baseline coverage were also considerations.
Our Lady of Mercy from Park Ridge was visiting Nativity in a Northern Parochial quarterfinal. The early going hinted a competitive contest was on hand. Both teams zoned, showing no full court pressure, and Nativity hit a few outside shots early. It was fool’s gold, as they continued to shoot outside against the zone. They did have a good inside player, No. 30 hitting the boards. At the half, Nativity had a 20-8 lead, comfortable, but not a guarantee of victory.
In the second half, Nativity starts out fast. OLM goes man-to-man. Nativity uses a simple screen to free the wing for a penetration to the basket. Meanwhile, OLM is in a prolonged scoring drought. In one sequence, I call Nativity’s No. 30 for an illegal screen. She came up to the defense and bumped the defender with both elbows. After that call, she set her screens, arms in and a full stop, properly. One of the delights of officiating is seeing a player whistled for an infraction of that nature adjust and correct what she did wrong.
Our game has absolutely no comments or the like from the spectators. You wish you could bottle nights like that. Nativity wins 42-14. Mike said, “I enjoyed working with you hope to see you soon.’ Both coaches were pleased with our effort. For OLM, on this night, they ran into a red-hot team. Nativity’s coach told me the semis are Saturday and finals Sunday. She did say being down to the final four, the competition will be a greater challenge.