MAYWOOD, NJ - A fourth-grade girls’ playoff was the assignment. I got to the gym about a half-hour early and the Maywood coach greeted me. “Are you one of the enthusiastic officials?” he asks. “I like to think so,” was the reply. He goes on to say assignor Dave Hoffman sent an e-mail saying the game will have two ‘enthusiastic and competent officials.’ My partner is also named Ray, from nearby Ridgefield Park. We worked together at St. John’s on Wednesday and have worked together many times in the past. Having a good chemistry with your partner is important, and having been paired together a number of times, we do have it.
The visiting Waldwick coach, Vic, is an official I have enjoyed working with in the past. He mentions that his team has been hit with the flu, but enough are healthy to go today. The league has no pressing until the last two minutes of the game, seven-minute quarters and a college women’s style of wiping team fouls clean each quarter and shooting the bonus on five team fouls.
Waldwick started fast, using a half court trap to force turnovers and get out in transition on those miscues. They ran off 10 straight to get a 12-2 lead, a significant edge on this level. On offense, Maywood tried to get inside, but had difficulty with Waldwick’s size. At the half the visitors owned a 14-4 lead. Just before the half, Maywood hit a foul line jumper. Taking that cue, they do not go inside and settle for 10-to-15 footers, which they are able to get with an open look as opposed to forcing the issue inside. It started to work. They got the deficit to five midway through the third quarter. Waldwick regroups from the home run and headed to the fourth leading by a 20-11 count.
Over the last quarter, Waldwick is in command. As noted, they have size plus a few ball handlers that can get out and run and make layups, again, a significant skill on this level. Having more than one competent ball handler on this level is a huge advantage. The second half saw Maywood run a much more effective offense, but out of that one third quarter run, they basically played catch-up. Down 13 with two minutes to play, Maywood had no choice but to press. Waldwick quickly broke it on several possessions and was not affected. Waldwick closed out a 25-13 victory in front of what was a respectably-sized crowd.
Vic, the Waldwick mentor, has a football background. He made it to the ranks of a college staff of a Mid-American school before eventually stepping down. I asked him about the change to basketball. He has an assistant helping and generally enjoys working with the girls’ team. One thing he did, from day one, was incorporate a good deal of ball handling drills into each practice. As he said, if you can’t dribble, you can’t be a basketball player.