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Jason Schmitt is the editor of, the high school sports website for The Oakland Press. He has served as the sports editor for a number of newspapers, including the Daily Tribune in Royal Oak and the Macomb Daily in Mount Clemens. In his time in the industry, he has covered every high school sport and has served a a beat writer for boys and girls soccer, boys and girls tennis, hockey, wrestling, bowling and cross country.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Southfield Christian could have made a better decision

Generally, there are two sides to every story. Two different opinions.
That's certainly the case of Southfield Christian leaving its starters in the game longer than many would have liked - in a 76-44 win in the Class D state championship game against Climax-Scotts.
At face value - or what I'd been reading online and in the office - I found it very hard to buy any story that might have tried to validate any reasoning to leave those starters in so long.
From what I've heard, and know from my first meeting with Southfield Christian coach Josh Baker a few days earlier after his team's 98-84 win over Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary, he is a classy guy. And who am I to judge someone after meeting them just one time?
But the coach and his staff are taking some heat in the social media world for leaving a few of their starters in the game while up 30-plus points throughout the fourth quarter. He told our reporter, Scott Burnstein, who wrote a column on the subject, "In hindsight, would I have pulled those guys a few minutes sooner? Maybe I would have, but you got to understand, I’ve seen some crazy stuff happen in games, games I’ve been involved in up here in East Lansing at the final four, and I just didn’t want to leave anything to chance,” Baker said. “Nobody was trying to embarrass anybody. That’s not who we are.”
Scott, who has covered the team several times this season, believes there was no malice intended. I went back to watch the fourth quarter on the MHSAA website, so I could see for myself how things went down.
Southfield Christian's Chris Dewberry (3)
- Southfield Christian led 64-30 as the fourth quarter began. I guess I don't have a problem if 2-3 starters were on the court to begin the quarter. Senior starters Chris Dewberry, Gavin Toma and Lindsey Hunter III, along with sophomore starter Lindsey Hunter IV were on the floor to begin the fourth.
- Lindsey Hunter IV tweaks an ankle and comes out of the game with 7:09 left to play. He's replaced by starting big man Frank Holecek. Still four starters in the game.
- Climax-Scotts came out in a full-court press and scored the first seven points of the quarter. The score at that point, with 7:02 remaining - 64-37.
- Dewberry hits 3-pointer to put Eagles up 69-37 with 6:01 left in game. He is then taken out of the game.
- 19 seconds runs off the clock and Dewberry is brought back in. Four seconds later he takes and hits another 3-pointer to give his team a 72-37 lead. Three starters (Dewberry, Toma and Hunter III) still in the game with 5:38 left.
- Reserve Perry Bender enters the game for the first time with 4:31 left to play. He replaces another reserve player. Dewberry, Toma and Hunter III still in the game. 74-40, Eagles lead.
- Media timeout with 3:39 to play, Southfield Christian still up 74-40. Three senior starters still in.
- At the 3:07 mark, Baker unloads his bench (five reserves). Score is still 74-40.

Upon watching the replay, I'm kind of mixed.
- Do I think some of the reserves should have gotten in the game a little earlier in the fourth quarter? Sure
- Do I think the game was ever in doubt, even when Climax-Scotts went on that 7-0 run? No
- Do I understand why Baker would have left his three seniors in the game deep into the fourth quarter? Perhaps, considering what they did to help the team have a chance to play for a state title and the fact that it was their last game in an Eagles uniform.
- Do I think those three seniors should have been jacking up 3-pointers with their team leading by 30-plus points? Probably not. Run some plays for the reserves.
- Do I understand how so many people might be outraged over this? Yes. I was one of them - not so much outraged, but puzzled.

But after watching the fourth quarter, it didn't seem like such a big deal. Neither team looked all that sharp and it was kind of ugly basketball. The game was never in doubt, which is why I think the seniors should have been taken out a few minutes earlier.
I for one am not going to lose any sleep over it, nor should anyone other than the reserves who might have wanted more minutes. Climax-Scotts shouldn't complain all that much. The Panthers were pressing early in the quarter and playing hard throughout. If you want mercy - and I'm not saying they did - then don't press, don't jack up 3-pointer after 3-pointer trying to create a miracle comeback. Run your offense, slow the game up and gracefully bow out. 

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