LAINGSBURG — “I’ve never seen a situation like this in 20 years, it’s really unique.”
That’s how Geoff Kimmerly, the media and content coordinator for the Michigan High School Athletic Association, described the ongoing dispute between Laingsburg and Potterville over the Vikings’ 68-67 boys basketball victory Jan. 7.
On Monday, Laingsburg appealed the result of the game to both the Central Michigan Athletic Conference (CMAC) and the MHSAA. The appeal cited what Laingsburg officials believe is a mistake in the official scorebook that erroneously awarded two additional points to Potterville — a margin big enough that it cost Laingsburg the game.
“We have a lot of respect for Potterville’s team, I like their team, and in no way is this sour grapes over the fact that the scoreboard showed they won,” Laingsburg head coach Daniel Morrill said. “This isn’t trying to find a way to not accept a loss, this is about process and procedure and addressing what we believe to be a significant loophole in the MHSAA’s current rules and system.”
Late in the third quarter, Potterville led Laingsburg 45-32. With 3:19 left in the quarter, the scoreboard changed and two points were added for Potterville, making it 47-32. On Laingsburg’s next possession, the scorers noticed the error and the scoreboard operator took two points away from Laingsburg, making the score 47-30 Potterville.
That’s when Alex Randall, who was Laingsburg’s bookkeeper for the game, noticed a difference between her book and the scoreboard.
“After identifying the discrepancy I alerted the Laingsburg coaches and the other members of the scorers’ table,” Randall said. “Myself, along with the (Laingsburg) coaches attempted to alert the referees promptly, but were directed by the woman doing the official scorebook to wait until the quarter was over. Although we wanted play to come to an immediate halt to address the point difference, we complied.”
At the conclusion of the third, with the scoreboard showing Potterville ahead 53-38, the officials were called to the scorers table — three minutes of game time and 10 minutes real time after issue occurred.
It was collectively determined there was an error and both books and scorekeepers agreed Laingsburg had 40 points. But when Randall brought up that Potterville had two more points than they should, the woman doing the official book became antagonistic, she said.
The Potterville scorekeeper argued that No. 14 for Potterville had scored an uncontested layup at the time of the discrepancy.
Randall was certain otherwise.
“I was very sure that (No. 14) hadn’t scored an extra layup and disputed the claim that he did,” Randall said. “The woman doing the official scorebook was not willing to give any thought into my explanation of the event. In fact, she told me that she was the official book and that there was no way she would’ve added points to their score.
“At this point the refs got involved and told me that I should have spoke up when I noticed the discrepancy, which I tried to do but was told by the home team to ‘worry about it after the quarter. ’”
The referees were unable to remember the play in question and — in accordance with the National High School Federation rulebook — told Morrill they had to go with the score in the official book, which is typically the home team’s.
Morrill understood the rule but left the scorers table saying, “I understand you have to go by their book, but so you know, they have 51 and not 53.”
With the scoreboard showing Potterville up 53-40, Laingsburg stormed back in the fourth and cut the Potterville lead to one point with 11 seconds left in the game. The Wolfpack were able to get two looks at the basket, but failed to convert on either and Potterville hung on, 68-67.
After the game, Laingsburg’s stat keeper and video operator Mark Gugel was asked to check the film for the discrepancy as Randall was confident that she had done the book correctly. Gugel reviews the game film after every game and uses the program Digital Scout to properly gather and attribute stats.
Gugel went through the game and his program tallied the final score as 67-66 Laingsburg. Several others also reviewed the film and came to the same conclusion, he said.
Gugel said the game film shows that No. 14, the player that Potterville’s bookkeeper argued made an uncontested layup, didn’t score a layup in the third quarter. The film shows him hitting a 3-point shot at the beginning of the quarter and another with approximately 6:45 left on the clock.
Gugel said his only other points came at the free throw line between 5:20 and 4:45, where he hit one of two foul shots. Furthermore, the film shows No. 14 went to the bench with approximately 3:58 left in the quarter, nearly 40 seconds before being marked for two points in Potterville’s book.
To remedy the situation, Laingsburg requested Potterville conduct its own investigation into the discrepancy and provide statements to both the CMAC and MHSAA that explain what happened during the time of the incident. In its appeal letter Monday, Laingsburg asked that Potterville vacate the win if the Laingsburg scorebook is indeed correct so the Wolfpack may claim it.
The Argus-Press reached out to Potterville’s athletic director for comment and didn’t receive a response by press time. The CMAC had “no official statement.” Of the two of the referees that officiated the game, one declined to comment while the other couldn’t be reached.
Laingsburg has no interest in replaying the contest in part or full. School officials said they understand the potentially daunting task of overturning the final outcome of the game, but they feel that their situation is different than others, feeling that their case isn’t subjective, but rooted in statistical fact.
“The question we want the MHSAA to look at is: who keeps the official book and what rights (does) the visiting team have to challenge the official (home) book with their own book when there is (a discrepancy)?” Morill said. “The answer right now is nothing, and if the officials don’t have memory of a play then there’s nothing (the visiting team) can do.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: In its initial story on the appeal Monday, The Argus-Press incorrectly reported Laingsburg was interested in replaying the game. That story has been updated online to reflect the school has no interest in doing so.