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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Struck Strikes Out: Stars and stripes forever

Thursday, March 17, 2005

I was going to write a column critical of the job the two game officials did in the Cherokee/Grundy Center Class 2A semifinal basketball game at the girls state tournament last week in Des Moines. But I decided against it.

I was going to say how the officials in question - Cory Isebrand and Steve Wick of Le Mars - were victimized by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union by being assigned to a Cherokee game at state, because the two Northwest Iowa refs officiate many Lakes Conference and Cherokee games during the regular season. But I decided against it.

I was going to say how Isebrand and Wick, two decent, highly principled, Christian men, in an effort not to give a single inkling of a Northwest Iowa bias in that game, perhaps went overboard the other way with many crucial calls favoring Grundy Center, the state's top-ranked 2A team. But I decided against it.

I was going to say how the refs paid exorbitant "respect" to Grundy Center's "Grande Center" Nicole Vander Pol, a Division I recruit bound for the Iowa Hawkeyes, by letting her rampage inside carte blanche that was, without question, THE sole factor in Grundy Center winning the game. But I decided against it.

I was going to say how the refs did not hesitate to call immediate fouls on any and all, large and small Cherokee transgressions, but flat refused to do likewise for the Lady Spartans, even as they were knocking the Cherokee girls to the floor several times. But I decided against it.

I was going to say how none of this is the fault of Grundy Center, a fine, well-coached team, whose players quickly figured out the officials were cutting them serious slack in regards to their violations being whistled, so they ran with it as any good team or player would, especially Vander Pol, a beefy, 6-1 speciman who exerted her physical will at no charge on the smaller, lighter, shorter Cherokee girls. But I decided against it.

I was going to say how many times Vander Pol was in the lane on offense for more than the three seconds allowed, and the refs never once blew the whistle on her violation (Ooh! A D-I recruit!). But I decided against it.

I was going to say how there was a time late in regulation after Cherokee had battled back into it, that Kayle Henke was intentionally knocked to the floor (no whistle) on the offensive end, and Katie Ebel was whistled for a ticky-tack fifth and final foul a few seconds later near midcourt after her hand nicked the free arm of the dribbler. But I decided against it.

I was going too say how many times Autumn Bartel and Kylie Dilla were knocked to the floor with nothing whistled. But I decided against it.

I was going to say how such officiating inconsistencies led the undefeated Cherokee girls to begin questioning their performance and game plan, and, for all intents and purposes, took them out of their total game flow that we and 26 other vanquished teams all know is one beautiful and deadly weapon for the classy Washington High team. But I decided against it.

I was going to say how Cherokee coach Curt Klaahsen, who never publicly criticizes game officials, nearly bit through his tongue in post-game interviews with the media while proffering a terse "No comment" regarding loaded questions concerning the refs' shortcomings in his team's heart-breaking OT loss that ended such a magical season on such a bitter note. But I decided against it.

I was going to say how several members of the media in press row, from all over the state, were so aghast at so many calls benefiting Grundy Center and hurting Cherokee, that they simply began laughing in derision at the floundering refs as the calls and no-calls piled up. But I decided against it.

I was going to say how the fact several Lakes Conference coaches and athletic directors rate Isebrand and Wick as among the very best officials, makes their performance in the Cherokee/Grundy Center game all the more perplexing. But I decided against it.

I was going to say how I'll never forget that poignant post-game scene and those crying, heart-broken Cherokee players - an admired, accomplished, history-making band of everybody's daughters - trying their damndest and failing to put on a proud and happy face. Then, with spleen somewhat vented, I was going to wad this up and throw it away. But I decided against it.



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