Manasquan Boys Basketball Head Coach Andrew Bilodeau
Manasquan Head Coach, Andrew Bilodeau reacts to a play during a game earlier this season. (JSN file photo by Michael Franco)

Camden wins controversial Boys' basketball Group 2 Semifinal; NJSIAA admits error

It was a game with the makings of an instant classic.  A dominant first three quarters by one team, then a double-digit fourth-quarter rally by the other team to take the late game lead, and then a buzzer-beater by the first team to win the game.

Or, at least, that was the way it appeared.

Enter the NJSIAA Group 2 Boys Basketball semifinal between Camden and Manasquan. 

Up 13 points at the start of the fourth quarter, Manasquan looked poised to pull off arguably the biggest upset of the year against No. 3 Camden. The Warriors' fortunes would change, however, in the final stanza as the Panthers turned up the defensive intensity and held Manasquan scoreless in the final frame to rally to a 46-45 victory and book their ticket to the Group 2 State Championship Saturday at Rutgers.

At least, that's what the official record will show.

The controversy began with less than six seconds remaining in the contest after Camden's Alijah Curry hit two foul shots, giving the Panthers their first lead of the game.  After Curry made his free throws, the Warriors drove down the court, where Rey Weinseimer put up a three-point shot that hit off the rim. Griffin Linstra then corraled it for the putback.  The officials initially ruled that Linstra's shot got off before the buzzer sounded, giving Manasquan the 47-46, upset, but after a conversation, the referees, despite video evidence to the contrary, decided that Linstra did not get his putback off in time giving Camden the victory.

"They reversed the call.  The referee in the C position in the middle signaled basket's good, they huddled up, and then 15 kids got screwed in front of 1,000 people," Manasquan Head Coach Andrew Bilodeau said.  "Print that.  Print it five times.  Those three guys huddled up, and they screwed these kids in front of 1,000 people, and that video will be on the internet for everyone to see."

Bilodeau added, "These guys beat Camden's (butt) in front of everyone in this gym and everyone on TV.  That's a heck of a team--well-coached, tough, defensive-minded--but we outplayed them tonight, and everybody saw it.  God bless you all."

Predictably, Camden Head Coach Maalik Waynes saw things differently.

"We got one.  Sometimes a little bit of luck and hard work is on your side," Waynes said.  "Playing a full 32 minutes is what our team tries to do.  We didn't play a full 32 minutes tonight, but at the end, we found the will. We found a way to get it done."

Manasquan's Alex Konov led all scorers with 23 points for the evening, while Curry and Linstra followed with 16 and 10 points, respectively.

NJSIAA Issues Statement on Controversy

A day after the game, the NJSIAA issued a statement saying that they understood "Manasquan’s frustration regarding the outcome of last night’s game" and that they "never want a contest to end with controversy or confusion." 

The statement added, "Here, all of the events happened within the final second of the game. One of the three officials counted the basket as beating the buzzer.  The three officials then met at half-court to confer.  A second official saw the ball in the shooter’s hands when the buzzer sounded.  The officials then waived off the basket. Later, after being shown video clips, the second official agreed the basket should have counted."

However, the statement reiterated that "once game officials leave the 'visual confines of the playing court', the game is concluded, and the score is official." Even if video evidence seen after the game made the officials believe that Manasquan's buzzer-beater should have counted, the result of the game could not have been changed after the fact.

Additionally, the NJSIAA's statement pointed to two regulations and bylaws that prohibit video review or protests based on the judgment of officials.  According to the release, "NJSIAA Program Regulations, Section 14--which governs the use of video--states, ‘No video or audio recording may be used to review or challenge the decision of a sports official," while "NJSIAA Bylaws, Article VII, Section 1 prohibit protests ‘based upon an official’s judgment or misinterpretation (misapplication) of the playing rules.’  The ruling on the court is, exclusively and by rule, what determines the game-winner."

The statement concluded, "Unlike in college or the pros, there is no instant replay review in high school basketball in New Jersey.  These are the rules of the game that all schools agree to follow and which have been upheld on appeal. We apologize to the Manasquan team for the error."

Manasquan Considering Legal Action

As reported by the Asbury Park Press, after their tough loss to Camden, the Manasquan Public School District is considering legal action after its appeal to the NJSIAA failed.

“I don’t know what can happen. That is why I turned it over to Michael Gross, our school board attorney,” Manasquan Superintendent Dr. Frank Kasyan said. “I would like to see him get an injunction from the court to stop the games until our protest is heard because a lot of time what happens is you’ll protest, it drags on, and then it becomes a moot point. So, the game is Saturday. This has to happen quickly, and he’s on it.”

Kaysan added, “I just want to see a just and ethical decision being made by the NJSIAA, and that is what those officials are there for,” Kasyan said. “This is something different. There is physical evidence that shows the game wasn’t over, and the ball went through, so there you have it.”

Christopher Shannon