Video courtesy of 92.9 The Ticket

Jason Woodworth is sure instant replay will be used to review buzzer-beating shots in Maine high school basketball in the near future.

That will be too late, however, for his Central Aroostook boys’ basketball team. The Panthers lost in the Class C North championship game Saturday night in Bangor on a controversial 3-point shot at the buzzer that might have been launched just a fraction of a second after time expired.

The game-winning basket, which allowed Dexter High School to advance to Saturday’s state title game, led to howls from fans on social media who insisted that referees in Maine should be able to review such plays on instant replay.

At least 17 states employ video replay at high school basketball championship games, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. Maine is not one of them.

The federation, which sets guidelines and rules for high school sports across the country, allows for replay to be used “during state championship series” events solely for determining if a scored goal at the expiration of a game or overtime should be counted.

“I guarantee you that next year or the year after, that we will have replay,” said Woodworth, the Panthers’ coach. “It’s unfortunate that Central Aroostook had to be the poster child for this.”

Other coaches and administrators around the state weren’t quite as sure what video of Saturday’s game showed. Some questioned if replay is even a good idea.

“You can’t tell, even when you’re doing it in super slow-mo,” Cony coach TJ Maines said. “The hand is blurry, the ball’s blurry. You really can’t tell. If you had the super high-def cameras and you had 30 of them like they do at an NBA game, you could tell. But we don’t have those capabilities.”

“I’m not a fan of replay. I don’t like it at the professional level, so I wouldn’t like it at all at the high school level,” said Jeff Hart, Camden Hills’ athletic director and a former coach with more than 500 wins and six state titles. “Not everything is perfect and I don’t think even replay makes everything perfect. To me, the more you try to make something black and white the grayer it becomes.”

“My personal opinion would be that replay does not belong in high school sports,” said Bonny Eagle Athletic Director Eric Curtis, a member of the MPA Basketball Committee. “It would be tough with the cost and where does it end? Do we start doing replays on foul calls?”

The game in Bangor was live-streamed by WHOU, which had a monitor located courtside opposite the official scorer’s table.

Woodworth did not criticize the referees’ decision to call the shot good. He just wishes that replay had been available so the referees could have taken a second look. If they had, he’s convinced they would have viewed the replay as he does: that the ball is still in Parker Ponte’s hand when the clock above the basket reads 0.0 and the red lights embedded in the backboard are on, indicating time has expired.

“Absolutely we’re in the state championship if replay was used,” Woodworth said.

There is precedent for using replay in Maine high school tournaments.

Ice hockey tournament games played at The Colisee in Lewiston and at the University of Maine have used replay review to verify or overturn goals for at least four years, said Mike Burnham, executive director for interscholastic activities at the Maine Principals’ Association.

Those facilities are equipped for replay review for college and junior hockey games, Burnham said. Knowing the capability to use replay was in place, the MPA ice hockey committee outlined rules and protocols for what type of play could be reviewed and the process for reviews. All replay reviews are initiated by on-ice officials.

“What we did with hockey was we looked at how they do it at the collegiate level, what policies were in place, and then we would do the same thing,” Burnham said.

Both Burnham and Curtis said using replay for basketball tournament games has not been discussed.

Burnham emphasized that procedures and protocols would have to be established before replay review could be used in basketball, and that the venues would need to have the technology in place to support it.

“How do you set it up and what is the criteria that you use? It’s not as simple as going to a video that is a live stream. There has to be a process,” Burnham said.

Hampden Academy coach Russ Bartlett is completely in favor of replay review. His boys team plays York in Saturday’s Class A state championship at Portland’s Cross Insurance Arena. All of the state championship games will be broadcast live by Maine Public Broadcasting Network over the airwaves and via streaming.

“If you have access to it at all the venues then I don’t know why we wouldn’t use it. It would be great (to use it Saturday), but I’m sure they wouldn’t do it right now,” Bartlett said. “You want to get it right for the kids and if you can do that, then you should. It would be crazy not to use that.”

“Replay? I don’t think so. I think we’ve got other things we can look to improve,” York boys coach Paul Marquis said. “Like anything, you want to make sure the call is right, but I’m unsure opening that can of worms is the right thing.”

Because Ponte’s shot was ruled to be good, Dexter will be taking on defending champion Winthrop in the Class C championship game.

“Maybe this is an opportunity for us coaches and committees to really look at this situation and maybe have some conversations about what is best for the game of basketball,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said. “We never really had to deal with this before. Now that this has happened, I think at worst there should be some conversations.”

Central Aroostook Athletic Director Heather Bradbury agrees.

“This is the perfect opportunity for the discussion to start,” said Bradbury, whose son Brayden was a senior starter and 1,000-point scorer for the Panthers. “I don’t know how far out it is, but technology has really come along lately. It’s a matter of figuring out logistics, how to use it, who runs it and the policies of how to use it.”

Woodworth believes the technology needed for replay is “already at our fingertips.”

“Whether it’s a shot clock or replay being used, we need to hop on board with the rest of the country, even the rest of the world,” he said.

“I told my wife this will be referred to as the Central Aroostook rule,” Woodworth said. “It’s unfortunate, but if something better comes out of this in the long run, then at least some good comes from it even if it’s not for us.

“We’re not here for anyone to feel sorry for us. We don’t want that at all. … Hopefully we can get it right going forward so this doesn’t happen to another team around the state.”

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Drew Bonifant contributed to this story.


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