The talk around bringing instant replay to Maine high school basketball started the way such talk always starts – with a controversial play at the end of a high-stakes game.

But it should stop there. Games should be decided fairly, but that’s not what you get with instant replay.

The play in question occurred at the end of Saturday’s Class C North boys’ basketball championship, when Dexter’s Parker Ponte hit a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired to lift the Tigers over Central Aroostook, and into this weekend’s state championship.

Or did he? Replays provided from a livestream by WHOU show that Ponte may have released the ball after the buzzer. In the video – even in slow motion – it’s hard to tell whether he got the shot off in time. A still frame from the video appears to show the ball in the shooter’s hand as time expires, but even that is fuzzy.

Ultimately, the video is inconclusive. In the parlance of instant replay, it doesn’t look like there is enough evidence to overturn the call on the court. But that hasn’t stopped replay proponents from saying Maine needs to get with the times.

They say that with a camera filming the action and a courtside monitor already in place during the tournament, it’s foolish not to use them. Why not correct obvious mistakes on calls that can swing the game’s outcome? Why have important games determined by calls that upon replay are obviously wrong?

In professional sports, that logic hasn’t survived reality. In the NFL, replay has made games unwatchable at times, as one stoppage after another sucks out all the momentum – and officials still don’t get all the calls right.

There’s no danger of that happening with high school basketball. If implemented, replay would only be used in the tournament, and only at the end of regulation or overtime, and then only to make a judgment on a final shot.

But that raises other questions of fairness. What if officials clearly missed a call on a play immediately preceding the final shot, or back in the middle of the first quarter, neither of which would be reviewable? Why should any one basket be held to a higher standard than others, when they all count the same on the scoreboard?

The fact is, there is no way to right every wrong. Referees miss calls from time to time, on both sides of the floor, in big games and small. It’s part of the game that every successful team must deal with. Sometimes the bad calls help you. Sometimes they hurt you, and you have to adjust.

Every once in a while, there’s no time to adjust, and you are left to wonder what could have been if the call had been correct, or if you had made more of your foul shots that game, or if that bounce had gone your way back in the first quarter.

That’s just the way competition works. Instant replay can’t change that.


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