HAMMOND — Disappointment — it’s the only word I can use to describe the handling of the Class 4A girls basketball semifinal game won Friday night by Salen High.
I won’t argue specific points of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s decision to rule a player from Houma’s Vandebilt Catholic ineligible Wednesday afternoon, slightly less than 48 hours before the game. The truth be told, I don’t know them all.
What I do know is three teams were held hostage by what happened in the next 47-plus hours before Salmen stepped on the court at Southeastern Louisiana’s University Center and claimed a 63-34 victory over St. Michael the Archangel.
My simple question is this: why? Why did it have to go down this way?
St. Michael was caught in the crosshairs. The Warriors had no standing or recourse once the LHSAA executive committee rejected its appeal based on an LHSAA bylaw that said playoff bracket changes must be finalized no less than 48 hours before a game.
Like it or not, St. Michael became the neglected stepchild in this saga. The Warriors had to prepare for two opponents and actually took the floor with Vandebilt briefly before going on to play Salmen a little more than an hour later.
The other two teams, Vandebilt and Salmen, also were stuck in suspended animation during the legal maneuvers that included a temporary restraining order granted in Houma on behalf of the parents of the Vandebilt player ruled ineligible, a TRO on behalf of Salmen to stop a Vandebilt-St. Michael game and an appeal that overturned the original TRO.
St. Michael coach Tami Reynolds-McClure correctly stated there was no guarantee her team would have won had the game been delayed. And she’s right. But in my mind, delaying the game for a couple of days would have been the right thing to do. It would have been the right thing to do for the players.
Aren’t the players supposed to be what high school athletics are all about?
Sure, it might have been inconvenient, caused logistical issues and likely would have added costs to the LHSAA’s regional tournament format. But the finals won’t start until Thursday in Monroe, so playing the game on Sunday or Monday should have been an option.
I understand why LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson wanted the game played. No one wants their organization’s event to get hijacked by those wanting to go to court. But when the court proceedings extended into Thursday night, then into Friday, I wish Henderson had delayed the game.
My emotions were all over the place as I followed what went on between Wednesday and Friday. I can’t even imagine what it was like for the players and coaches. A delay would have given the teams a chance to balance those emotions, get a chance to practice a little and get a chance to finally focus on the game.
But that didn’t happen. And that’s a shame.