Everybody is weighing in on the controversial uniform issue that resulted in a technical foul and free throw that supposedly spelled the difference in North Lawndale's one-point loss to Champaign Centennial in the Class 3A semifinals on Friday in Peoria. So I guess I'll contribute a few words on the subject.
Get over it.
Blaming North Lawndale's loss on the technical foul is like blaming the Johnstown flood, as many old-time Pennsylvanians used to say, on a leaky faucet in Altoona.
As a viewer, I never even associated the final score of the game to what happened before it started until it was over.
Tell me if I'm wrong, but didn't North Lawndale blow a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter? Weren't they in complete control of the game? Weren't they acting as though they were rehearsing their post-game speeches for the trophy ceremony? Weren't they throwing the ball away as if they were playing in a Saturday morning recreation league?
There are rules to be followed, like fouls and traveling and double-dribbling and hanging on the rim. The uniform rule was written by the National High School Federation. Everybody has uniform rules, even the NCAA, NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball. I know it may sound silly but we all have to play by the rules. Or why have them at all?
In this case, it shouldn't have mattered. It isn't the first time I've seen somebody shoot free throws before the tipoff. The last time was because a team didn't appear on the floor at the specified time. Did they show up a second late or 10 seconds or 20? It didn't matter. The other team shot two free throws. I don't recall who won the game.
North Lawndale took command of the game in the second quarter and was clearly the dominant force going into the fourth quarter. Then they lost it. They lost their poise. They forgot what got them there. Even Jonathan Mills forgot how to get position on the most important rebound of the game. Oops, there goes another bad pass, another turnover.
In all of the media coverage, everybody embraced the sensational. North Lawndale lost by one point and it was scored before the game even started. They blamed the IHSA. They blamed the officials. They blamed everybody but themselves. Who approved uniforms that didn't meet specifications?
Instead, it was left to Mills and Stephen Thorpe, the son of North Lawndale coach Lewis Thorpe, to admit to what really happened. But those quotes were relegated to the closing paragraphs, after the dramatic "he said, he said" quotes that put the issue on the front page.
Of course, we wouldn't be having this discussion if North Lawndale had won the game, if they had played in the fourth quarter as they had in the second and third quarters, if they hadn't been outplayed by Champaign Centennial.
The truth is great basketball teams play under control. North Lawndale didn't and isn't.
By the way, didn't Leo blow an 11-point lead in the third quarter and lose to unranked and unappreciated Oswego on a game-winning three-point shot in the other Class 3A semifinal? Has anybody checked their uniforms?