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Pink Whistle: New Providence to Belleville

The past weekend called for officiating a high school JV and 8th grade travel game. The high school game afforded the opportunity to work at a New jersey Group Champion from last March. The next day saw the skill level decidedly more rudimentary. The player's hustle, willingness to learn and enjoy their time on the court did not waver.

New Providence 48 Plainfield 14

The Friday afternoon action called for JV at New Providence High School. Freshmen were cancelled as New Providence’s opponent could not make it and other calls for another freshman team being available were futile. The 27 mile trip was smooth. The 50% increase in Garden State Parkway tolls meant one could sit in traffic thus transforming a thirty something minute trip into an hour. That, is why, especially in New Jersey, you try to leave early.

It is frigid cold in New Providence. Entering the building one of the New Providence assistants shows us to the officials room.

My partner lives in the area and works a few games here each season. Following a short pre-game we take the floor. New Providence is playing Plainfield tonight. The gym is an average size but it is well lit and with heat. I am no longer in Hudson County! The banners on the wall attest to the excellence of the girls program. Especially the one proclaiming them as 2011 group state champion.

Early on Plainfield holds a 7-5 lead. By halftime New Providence has regained and built a commanding 27-7 lead. Both teams are zoning (no full court pressure to speak of) but on New Providence they feature a few ‘bigs’ (on JV that’s about 5-9 or taller range) who can shoot and run the floor well. They run a nice zone offense with post entries and weakside looks as well.

A relatively small school known more for its outstanding football program, New Providence maintains excellence in girls basketball by getting the kids to play and stay together from an early age. Given the educational status and tradition, when it’s time to choose a high school that choice becomes rather simple.

On the way out, wish the JV coach who assists the varsity, best of luck. He said he would like to see me return. I explained my filling in status tonight but would love to make the trip back. Told him I do a fair number of games in Jersey City to which he replied, "I can see in how you work you do games there (Jersey City) but that (hold the whistle, let them play) is really a good thing."

The return trip sees no traffic at all. Tops off a good night.


Livingston 51 Belleville 14

An eighth grade girls travel game in the Suburban League. The game is on the Belleville High School varsity court. A nice move up in venue for the girls who mostly deal with grammar school or recreation gyms not affording much space.

Early on it is all Livingston. The score is 19-2 when the Livingston coach calls off the full court pressure and settles into a half court defense. The Belleville girls, try as they might, are still learning and do not have the experience of their opposition.

Talking basketball at the half with the scorer’s table crew. Turns out the young man in a Kansas Jayhawk hat running the clock is Tyshawn Taylor’s cousin. Taylor is a fine guard for KU, and a player I have known since officiating some of his games at scholastic power St.Anthony’s.

Livingston has a 30-4 lead at halftime. In the final half, with not one possession of full court pressure to face, Belleville can get into a basic half court offense, make a few passes and get decent shots. The Belleville coach, to her credit, never stops coaching and teaching her kids. From tip off to buzzer. A few shots fall which builds their confidence. Still, they are overmatched and we are in ‘game management’ mode. By that any close call, like a foul or out of bounds will go to the weaker team. It is a concept that takes a little time to grasp and I was fortunate to learn it as some excellent officiating camps.

At the final horn the teams wish each other well and ‘good luck down the road’. Outside the wintry chill continues. At least though, both gyms during the two days, were heated.