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By Staff | Mar 6, 2019

When a coach taps a high school kid’s passion and asks an athlete to play his heart out, he can’t then tell that kid at game time, “Whoa! Slow down! The saps on the other bench aren’t as good as you!”

Sorry to sound as though I’m rationalizing individual success at the expense of team unity. But a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If coaches allow slack in the chains due to unwritten rules about when an outcome is out of reach, they’re short-changing the agreement with each link, who wants to prove how strong he can be when it’s his turn to pull the load.

I was checking scores this week to see where the Silver Knights win over Bellaire St. John’s stacks up against other games this season. The Knights won by 75 points over the Ohio-based private school. After checking a few of the other games in the state, it’s not as bad as some would make it out to be.

Last time I checked, playing bad warrants the penalty, not the other way around. I have watched Tyler West play sports for four years now, and I was happy recently when he recorded his 1,000th career rebound. If you average that out, it comes to about 250 a year, or around 12 per game. That’s a pretty good average over a four-year career. In his last three games he has grabbed 69 rebounds, for an average of 23.

“If you have 100 coaches, you have 100 different philosophies on how and when it’s okay to break a record,” said John Gillis, editor of the national high school sports record book. “There’s no doubt that some of our records happened with a disregard of sportsmanship. We’re judging the statistics, not the intent. It’s up to the coaches to make the right decisions.”

I don’t care how you look at it, the kids a rebounder; at 6’3,” he plays bigger than he is. He has good timing and positions himself well; he is one of those kids that just has a knack for the ball. In Friday night’s loss to St. Marys, West stood tall – grabbing a school-record 26 rebounds and scoring 20 points. The Silver Knights took it on the chin, 76-50, but West came out a winner with his record-setting performance against a team with two talented 6’5″ kids in the middle.

There was a packed house at the Silver Knights/Blue Devils game on Friday; both schools were well represented, and both ends of the gym were lined up wall to wall. St. Marys was either extremely hot shooting the ball, or they are just one of the best I’ve seen all year making 3-pointers. They knocked in 14 total, accounting for 42 of their 76 points.

Most of these seniors from our local schools are nearing the end of their competitive basketball playing career. Some of them have been playing since they were four and five-year-olds. I have watched many kids over the past 50 years grow to love the sport; many of them have given everything they had to be good quality basketball players. They spent hours on the outdoor courts and playing in summer leagues to enhance their skills; they love competition and thrive on winning.

Many set personal goals and team goals. I enjoy watching a kid have a big night on the court, and if it is a record breaking night, it’s even more fun.

What do you tell a kid who is probably playing his last game in front of a home crowd, and has a chance to break a record. Do you sit him on the bench, or let him have at it? Even when the competition is not up to standards, do you take out your senior for someone else and let the record fall to the wayside? I don’t think so! I am not an advocate for running up the score on anyone; however if the shoe was on the other foot,? I can almost guarantee you the result would have been reversed.

I watched in dismay a few years back when this same school put a larger whooping than this one on a Paden City girls team. I looked at a couple of the scores from other private schools in the state this season, and quite frankly, they have no mercy. Just watch what happens at Charleston this week as the Huntington St. Joseph’s girls team breezes through the tournament.

My view is, if you feel you are being humiliated or taken advantage of, pull your players from the floor, and go home. Maybe call a time-out and talk to the coach, or get an agreement at halftime. Just don’t let it happen and then complain we had the score run up on us. I don’t buy that; in fact, I watched as one senior on the team could have scored at will but elected to hold the ball and pass it around. Yes, there were three starters on the floor most of the game, but they were not playing up to their potential. In fact, the basket that scored points 100 came from a rarely-used bench player.

I have sat through many basketball games in my time, and I have definitely seen worse thrashings. While looking back on past accomplishments, I noticed the majority of them have come in lopsided wins. In fact, this same school has hailed the achievement of Alumni Allan Hornyak, who scored 86 points on January 10, 1969 in a lopsided 123-63 win over Tiltonsville Warren.

The top individual single-game scorer in Ohio ranks came when Dick Bogenrife of Sedalia Midway hit 120 points in a 137-46 win. West Virginia’s own Danny Heater scored 135 points in a 173-43 win in 1960. Although, on most occasions, the individual involved feels bad about it. As a society we seem to thrive on it; several of the OVAC greats scored and rebounded during lopsided wins.

I believe it’s time to put a mercy-rule in effect on the basketball court and football field, just like we have in baseball and softball. I don’t know if that would take some of the fun out of the game or not; it wouldn’t for me, as I would rather see a close hard-fought game anyday than a runaway. However, you’re never going to have equal teams and equal talent, so we live with it or change it. eparsons@tylerstarnews.com