Opinion: No winners Tuesday night in Downs

UPDATED: Editor's response: http://www.leroyfcpress.com/opinions/editorials/2016-01-16/lessons-learned-editor-included.html

 

The Flanagan-Cornell Falcons took the 71-56 victory in their game against Tri-Valley Tuesday night, but there were no winners in Downs.  

The story of the day wasn’t about basketball. 

The headline above should have been about another thrilling, physical and fast-paced HOIC game. About good basketball, hardworking kids and the spirit of sport. 

But as Tri-Valley came out from the half leading No. 1 seed Flanagan 35-34, my eyes weren’t on the action on the court. They were on my camera and the above picture snapped with 1:27 remaining in the half. 

The image depicts Flanagan-Cornell’s Jared Friez burying his hands in the back of Tri-Valley’s Will Dolk as he went up for an easy layup after a Viking steal.  

But that wasn’t even the worst image of the night. That award goes to a mental image I had no interest in capturing on camera. As Dolk came up from the deliberate hack job, he was clutching his wrist and in obvious pain. 

At the same time, Flanagan coach Brian Yoder, seemingly unaware of the result of the flagrant contact, was in the ear of the official assumedly arguing the call. 

Don’t get me wrong. The banter with officials is one off the most amusing parts of HOIC hoops. So is the physical play. 

But this call was, as they say, a no-doubter. The film doesn’t lie. Arguing it was nothing but insult to injury. 

Two hands to the back and a senior season cut short because of it.

And Friez wasn’t even ejected despite the intentional foul call.  

I know this stuff happens in sports. Momentum, heat of the moment, etc. 

But in this case, the aggressor simply can’t play the victim. 

And while this stuff certainly does happen at all levels of basketball, when it does occur, it’s a coachable moment, not an arguable one.  

And while it looked like Yoder was doing the right thing in sitting Friez on the bench for the rest of the contest, that theory proved false as he checked back in with about two minutes remaining in the action to close out the 15-point game. 

Still, Jon Nelson’s boys — in fitting with the Tri-Valley way— sought no retaliation and planted no elbows. 

They simply went to work and stuck with the conference leader until the shots stopped falling late in the contest. 

In the end, Flanagan gets the win on paper, but in every other facet, it was a losing night for all. 

Dolk’s lost his senior season. 

The Vikings lost their top scorer and the game. 

And the Heart of Illinois Conference lost one of its most exciting and hard-working seniors on the eve of the tournament. 

The HOIC is great because there’s drama to be had on every Tuesday and Friday. 

And there’s lessons to be learned and adjustments to be made in defeat or victory. 

But on Tuesday night when two of the conference’s top teams met for what should have been a classic, there were, quite frankly, no winners in Downs.   

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