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Tuesday, March 5, 2019: Tuckahoe overcomes scheduling foul-up to advance

   Leading off today: My initial inclination this morning was to write about how some talented, hard-working kids saved the adults from looking rather incompetent.

   Upon further consideration, however, I'll stick with the consensus that the adults looked less than stellar regardless.

   Playing its first-round game in the NYSPHSAA boys Class C basketball tournament on short notice because the administrators responsible for telling them when and where their next game was supposed to be in fact had no idea when or where the next game was supposed to be, Tuckahoe gutted out a 67-57 victory over Millbrook in overtime to advance to the state quarterfinals.

   Malik Moore-Crooks lead the way with 28 points and Mekhi Clark finished with 18 in a game that was tied at 56 after regulation.

   After the Tigers won their section title on Feb. 23, they were told by Section 1 officials that their first-round game would take place on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Poughkeepsie High School. AD Austin Goldberg told The Journal News that he received an email from Section 1 officials as recently as 11:26 p.m. Sunday reiterating that information.

   Shortly after arriving at school Monday following a two-hour delay related to heavy snow overnight, Goldberg was astonished to get a call from Section 1 Executive Director Jennifer Simmons informing him that the game was actually scheduled for Monday night at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh.

   Simmons told The Journal News that the two sections had different information dating back to a statewide meeting in October attended by Section 1 boys basketball chairman Chris Hodge, the AD at Poughkeepsie. Consequently, administrators from Sections 1 and 9 both went about making preparations to host first-round contests.

   "All along, we thought we had those four games," Simmons told the paper. "We didn't know any different until today when I spoke to Section 9. He asked if he would see someone at the Class C game tonight."

   A phone call to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association confirmed that it was Section 9's turn to host the games this season.

   "Let's call it what it is. They were at Beacon last year," Goldberg said of the 2018 Class C regional between Sections 1 and 9. "That's Section 1, so this year is Section 9. This is on Section 1."

   In fact, it is a bit more complicated than that. In Classes AA and A, the two sections are part of a regional along with Section 4, with the three rotating first-round byes and hosting responsibilities. In Classes B and C, Sections 1 and 9 play each other in the first round and then face a Long Island representative in the regional final for the right to advance to the state semifinals.

   In all cases, contingencies are in place so that the regional finals can be moved out of a section that no longer has a team involved -- usually a matter of convenience for the remaining teams.

   Under those circumstances, I can understand the remote possibility that there might be uncertainty over whose turn it is to host games. What I cannot understand, however, is how there wasn't even token communication between the sections either at the executive or basketball committee levels between that October meeting and Sunday night.


   In that respect, a fraction of the blame has to be shouldered by Section 9 -- but only a fraction because they at least were working from the correct information from Day 1. A solid 90 percent of the responsibility has to fall on Section 1. No one in charge there noticed that the brackets on the NYSPHSAA website designated Section 9 as the first-round host in Class C. No one in charge there picked up the phone in mid- to late-February to say to their Section 9 counterpart, "Hey, we've locked down dates, times and sites for the first round. Can you make sure your teams are aware?"

   That would have raised a flag within Section 9 that something was amiss, and the matter could have been resolved before reaching DefCon 1 on Monday afternoon.

   Instead, adults were left to scramble hours before tip-off the same way a high school sophomore would after learning that the half-written English term paper he thought was due next week instead had to be handed in today. Section 9 said neither of its preferred venues for regionals, Mount Saint Mary and SUNY New Paltz, were available Tuesday or Wednesday.

   At that point, though, someone should have started looking at the possibility of a Wednesday game in a high school gym in Section 9. As a single game rather than as part of a doubleheader or tripleheader, seating capacity would have been less of a concern than the fact that the alternative was to have one team playing 48 hours sooner that it expected.

   Holding a state playoff game in a high school gym is less than optimal, even if Section 5 is holding its state quarterfinals quintupleheader at one on Saturday against Section 6, but putting everyone into scramble mode and making them play a game that one school was not fully prepared for is even worse.

   If the adults in the two sections couldn't have come up with a solution, then the NYSPHSAA office needed to be the sensible adult in the room. While it's true that the governing body regards everything prior to the state semifinals to be local matters to be handled by the respective sections, this blunder was an attack on the legitimacy of the tournament.

   Analysis: I would hazard a guess that most if not all the NYSPHSAA sections have had moments in recent years when they didn't put their best foot forward. It's not optimal, but the reality is that everyone is going to have a bad day at the office.

   Section 1, unfortunately, has had a pretty miserable decade at the office. In fact, I'm not sure whether Monday's episode cracks their bottom five.

   Most recently of course has been the drama over the decision to move boys and girls basketball semifinals and finals out of the Westchester County Center beginning last season. The move may have been rooted in legitimate financial concerns -- if the Houston Astrodome was the eighth wonder of the modern world, then the rent charged by the WCC apparently is the ninth -- but both the process and the communication about the decision were flawed, triggering mutiny-level reactions from representatives at the school and league levels, which is the heart of any section.

   And then there are the eligibility issues that have repeatedly tarnished their boys basketball tournaments.

   In 2017, Biondi High in Yonkers screwed up and had to forfeit its semifinal win over Clark Academy after a Section 1 investigation determined the school had used an ineligible player during its 67-59 victory. Just a day later, the final against Martin Luther King had to be called off because it turned out that Clark had an eligibility issue of its own that required a forfeit.

   Five years before that, Biondi was stripped of its 2012 title shortly before its expected participation in the state tourney after it was determined that tournament MVP Lance McDowdell should have been ineligible for the entire season.

   A few more memorably forgettable moments in recent Section 1 history:

    • In 2012, the two-fer of Hurricane Sandy followed by an early-November nor'easter resulted in repeated delays for the Section 1 Class A football final, subsequently affecting preparations for schools in the Eastern half of the state tournament bracket.

   The NYSPHSAA office declared at the time that it would delay the remainder of the Class A tournament as long as necessary in order to get that contest played. But let us not forget that the game would have been played before the storms hit downstate had Section 1 adhered to the playoff schedule used by the entire rest of the state.

    • It wasn't until the eve of the 2013 boys basketball tournament that anyone realized that the enrollment figure for Children's Village should have been doubled to reflect the fact that the school had only male students. As a result, Children's Village was abruptly moved from top seed in Class D into Class C, leaving teams scrambling to figure out who they would be playing in opening-round contests.

    • In 2015, the section tried moving football playoff games to Dutchess Stadium, home of a minor-league baseball team. Just days before the tournament, Section 1 officials did a walk-through that determined that the field configuration posed safety risks to players and created obstructed views for fans. The games were moved to local high schools and times were changed. In their haste, Section 1 officials scheduled games that conflicted with SAT test times.

    • In October 2016, Yonkers Montessori Academy girls soccer players celebrated a victory on Saturday night and then awoke on Sunday to find out they had actually lost their sectional playoff game to Edgemont because the officials working the game didn't have the first clue in how penalty-kick shootouts worked.

   Under Section 1 rules, YMA was unable to appeal the ruling on the successful protest by Edgemont even though the game officials' mistake may have resulted in YMA not using its best lineup of shooters once the penalty kicks reached the sudden-death stage.

   Conclusion: Having said all that, I sense the situation in Section 1 is getting better. They now only screw stuff up on days that end with the letter "Y."

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