Canceled tourney upsets routine

Feb. 16, 2014 @ 11:09 AM

Coaches and players are creatures of habit, and when snow comes, the habit and routine is interrupted. With the latest storm, enough games were postponed to where the South Mountain Athletic Conference (SMAC) decided to cancel its annual basketball tournament to allow teams ample time to complete their regular seasons.  

The unprecedented move wasn’t a popular one among local coaches.

“Cancelling this tournament is crazy,” East Rutherford girls basketball head coach Larry Ross said. “That takes three games away from us that we could have had to stay strong and ready for the playoffs.”

“We’re about to play three games a week against the top teams in the state, and not playing the conference tournament … I don’t like it,” East Rutherford head boys basketball coach Brad LeVine added.

Both teams from East Rutherford are locks for the state playoffs and hoped the conference tournament would keep them in playing condition between the end of the regular season and the first round.

“We’ll stay in the gym as much as possible but I really wish we were playing the level of competition that a Shelby-type team poses three times this week,” LeVine said. “The better and tougher you have to play right now, the better. I just don’t see how this can be consistent for anybody.”

After last weeks cancellations and this week’s make-up games, most conference teams will have played a combined two games in two weeks.

For the R-S Central boys team, a team on the playoff bubble, the wait between the end of its regular-season finale against Burns and the announcement of the playoff pairing on Saturday might be excruciating.

“If we are fortunate to make the state playoffs than it will be nearly a week since we played our last game,” R-S Central head coach Greg Wright said. “We aren’t accustomed to that long of a layoff this late in the season, but I think a lot of teams in our conference will be facing that same situation.

“We’ll just continue to have physical, hard practices to try and simulate game situations the best we can. We’ll just worry about our end and worry about getting a victory Tuesday night against Burns.”

For the Lady Cavaliers, they’ll find ways to keep in game shape until the playoffs.

“We’ll keep them in the gym and maybe scrimmage with the boys a little bit,” Ross said. “I don’t think we’ll face a girls team that’s as good as our boys.”

The coaches aren’t the only ones disappointed by the


decision. “We would have liked to play the tournament because the kids enjoy it and look forward to that at the end of the year. You get that competition and I think all the kids like that competition,” Wright said.

“The girls were really looking forward to it. This is something you play for every year,” Ross said. “We got first place and had a chance to host the semifinals and to take that away from them is a big disappointment.”

One could argue that the lack of a tournament will allow the teams to rest before the playoffs, but the coaches aren’t interested in a layoff.

“I’ve been in this a long time and this is the time of year that you need to be playing as much as you can. The harder the better and the more the better,” LeVine said. “You can only tweak so much of what you have at this point. You are what you are this late in the season. You’re better to be playing games.”

Both teams from East Rutherford were likely to host quarterfinal and semifinal games which hurts them in the floor and in the wallet.  

“With us missing out on probably four home games, we’re missing out on a lot of possible money,” LeVine said. “This has turned into a financial burden that we weren’t expecting.”

In the end, the move may have been necessary considering the circumstances, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow for coaches players and fans.  

“We’ve got some really good teams in this conference, both boys and girls, that I know a lot of fans were excited to see maybe play each other again in the tournament,” Wright said. “Unfortunately for the kids and the fans, those games won’t take place now.”