We finally – FINALLY – wrapped up the fall sports season last night. It was a strange and disappointing ending.

L’s basketball team’s first opponent in the City tournament was a team that was undefeated. All those wins came in very convincing fashion. We figured it was another team loaded with six graders who play year-round and we’d be lucky to stay in the game for a quarter.

Our assessment about their talent was accurate. However, as the teams were warming up we noticed St S only had five players. Their coaches wandered over and said they were missing four players, including three starters, because they were all home sick with a stomach bug. They still looked better than us but at least we might have a chance.

We were tied at four after one quarter. We trailed 10–8 at halftime. We were hanging in there. We couldn’t do much on offense as their zone defense thoroughly confused our girls. But we were making plays on defense and our tallest girl was getting tough rebounds.

In the third quarter we had a girl go off for seven points and we took a 15–11 lead into the final period.

St S got within two but were still hanging back in the zone as the time ticked down. After a time out in which our coaches told our girls to be patient, not force anything, and to run clock instead of risking a turnover, we burned 30–40 seconds before there was yelling from the stands and whistles from the ref. I looked up from my spot at the scorer’s table to see the St S coach standing in the middle of the court, trying to call a time out. While her team was on defense.

The refs walked her back to her bench, reminded her that she can’t call a time out while on defense, and then assessed her a technical foul. We hit one of two to go up three again with about a minute left.

On the ensuing possession we had a pass deflected out of bounds under the basket. On the inbound play we got an open shot for our best inside player right at the basket. It rimmed out.

St S went down, worked the ball around to their best remaining player, who put up a shot from the left wing with about 10 seconds left. She swished the shot and there was a whistle. The referee nearest us called the basket good and a foul on one of our players. From my view I could not see where the girl’s feet were when she took the shot. She was near the three-point line, but I could not tell if the shot was a three. The referee’s hand never went up on the attempt to indicate a three, and he never put both hands up after the shot was good. When he walked over to call the foul, the St S coach asked, “It was a three, right?” The referee paused, got a nervous look on his face, and then nodded yes. I think he had no idea and guessed.

Tie game, they’re shooting a free throw to win.

Fortunately the free throw missed but we couldn’t get a shot off and went to overtime where we ended up losing by one.

After the game the two coaches from the next game came over and told our coaches that A) the shot at the end of regulation was clearly not a three and B) our girl who got called for the foul on the shot was shoved by a St S player into the shooter. Then a parent from the team with the bye who would play the winner and was (illegally) recording the game for scouting purposes walked over and showed our coach video of the shot that showed the shooter had both feet over the three-point line.

A bummer of a way to end the season. The refs let them play for the most part and it was a pretty clean game. I think that ref was both caught up in the moment and not used to girls taking threes at this level and thus he didn’t check the shooter’s feet when she released the ball. Our girls played really, really well on defense. St S was still more talented than us, even while missing their other players. But we hung in all night and had a chance to win.

Perhaps it is better that we lost. Saturday’s quarterfinal would be against the team that beat us by 30 early in the season. We’ve gotten better but, barring a stomach flu bug at St C, we had no chance against them.

L usually doesn’t get super upset after loses. She might be bummed for a bit but that passes. Last night she was as emotional as I’ve ever seen her. I think it was more about how much fun she had playing and the new, sixth grade friends she made and won’t be able to play with again for two years, than the result itself. Often after games L will complain about the refs or about opposing players who are overly physical or use rude language. Last night she just rode home quietly, sniffing occasionally. When we got home she went into her room and hid for awhile before she came down to eat, her eyes red and puffy.

Before we completely close the book on the fall sports season, I have to quickly share something about L’s last regular season game, played a week ago.

They played a team that had 11 girls, and their coach apparently viewed them as giving him 55 fouls to play tough defense with. We had a 14–4 lead in the third quarter but with two minutes left, the game was tied. The crowd was going nuts, our girls were completely out of it, and things did not look good. Fortunately our best player scored five-straight points and we won.

The headlines from the game, though, were that over 40 fouls were called, only 16 against St P’s. St L had two players foul out and when we told their coach he didn’t seem concerned at all. He just pointed to a girl on his bench to check in. He had two other girls finish the game with four fouls. Between all those fouls, a ton of physical play, and the usual number of turnovers, it took us 90 minutes to play a regulation, 5th/6th grade basketball game. It was utterly ridiculous. By comparison it took us about 70 minutes to play an overtime game last night that included both teams using all their timeouts. After the game we also learned that one of the opposing girls, after throwing one of our players to the floor, said, “Get off me, bitch.” I guess it wasn’t loud enough for the refs to hear because she didn’t get a technical.

I’m kind of glad basketball is over with.

M had her cross country banquet Monday. I only mention that because she won an award. She was one of three runners who earned the Most Improved award, hers for dropping her time by five minutes through the season. The best part was she had no expectations of winning an award, so she was too busy talking and only heard her name. When she went on stage, she had no idea what she had won. Later she posted a picture to her socials saying “When you finish last at every meet they give you an award!” I’m glad she has a sense of humor about it.