By Joe Henricksen
Well, forget about wins, losses and potential postseason matchups. This wild high school basketball season just keeps adding more drama and controversy. What exactly is happening to high school basketball?
The best player on the state's best 3A team, North Lawndale's Jon Mills, missed his second regional game due to being ruled ineligible by school officials after being accused of cheating on a math test. And the state's best player on state title contender Waukegan, 6-7 junior Jereme Richmond, will likely miss the much-anticipated matchup next Wednesday night with Zion-Benton after being assessed two technical fouls in Friday's win over Fremd. In both cases it's not as cut-and-dry as it would seem.
After reading different stories from the Waukegan game and even talking with people who were at the game, Richmond's second technical foul for hanging on the rim was very questionable, if not "ridiculous," according to a couple of people in attendance. While the Hoops Report was not at the game, the technical for hanging on the rim is rarely if ever called in high school basketball. If there is this much dispute over the call, it doesn't appear as if it was a no-brainer call. And if it wasn't a no-brainer, it shouldn't have been called. With the stakes this high it's a shame a sectional championship could be determined as a result of this.
Anyone involved with the game knows rules are rules in high school basketball, and whether it's a coach on the bench or a player on the floor, if either are given two technical fouls in a game they are required to sit out the next game. So while the call is very questionable, the action taken is not. I was asked this morning on a radio show "Can something like this be overturned?" In a word, no. It's a judgment call by an official that the IHSA will not mess with when it comes to getting involved and overturning a call.
Again, an absolute shame on many levels. First, a huge blow to Waukegan and its program. But more importantly to a player who has grown up, matured and done what was asked of him after a turbulent season a year ago.
In the case of Jon Mills, it will be interesting to see what transpires between now and Tuesday when the case goes before a judge. A lawsuit has been filed against North Lawndale and school officials after Mills was ruled ineligible.
After hearing details from those close to the situation, the Mills case seems to be far from over. According to sources, Mills took the math test early Tuesday morning in a classroom with just himself and the math teacher. There were no other students in the classroom and the math teacher was the proctor of the test. Mills completed the test, it was graded and he was given an A for the work he did in what is considered to be his best subject. Only later did school officials notify Mills and coach Lewis Thorpe that their belief was that Mills cheated on the test.
However, after listening to at least one interpretation of the events that transpired, officials at North Lawndale will certainly have some explaining to do or have to come up with some concrete proof of the accusation. After hearing the details of the events, the accusations are very sketchy with plenty of questions surrounding them.
Without Mills there is no question North Lawndale becomes a more vulnerable team. Throw in the fact talented guard Terry Johnson, who missed the regional opener and played in the regional final with a severly sprained ankle, and the Phoenix have their work cut out for them in the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional.
Some more "technicalities"
Never before has a regional championship night involved so many dramatic technical fouls. Ahhhhh, March.
In addition to the Richmond fiasco, there were two games in particular that had game-changing technical fouls. These two technical fouls actually helped determine the outcome of some hotly-contested regional finals.
At East Aurora, where Plainfield North was trying to win the school's first-ever regional championship, the host Tomcats were whistled for a technical foul with 1:11 left in regulation and Plainfield North up by three points. Plainfield North hit a free throw and scored on the next possession to put the game away.
In a pivotal Class 3A sectional game between Aurora Central and Oswego, a game where the Hoops Report believes the winner will be a favorite in the Rochelle Sectional, a huge technical was called with 21.1 seconds. At the time Oswego led 60-58 with Aurora Central attempting to inbound the ball. Aurora Central called a timeout but didn't have any remaining, resulting in a technical and ending any hopes for the No. 1 seeded Chargers. Oswego promptly knocked down two technical free throws and got the ball.
Can't wait to see what next week brings.