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Pink whistle: Notes from officiating three girls basketball games

Observations and notes from officiating three games in Belleville, New Jersey

The Belleville girls basketball team celebrates after Saturday's victory over Millburn.
The Belleville girls basketball team celebrates after Saturday's victory over Millburn.
Photo by Ray Floriani.

Belleville, NJ - "Don't run it up on your fellow coach. Some day you may march to the beat of his drummer.'

This quote from the late Al McGuire came to mind working an eighth grade game here in Belleville.

The host Belleville team has been down in recent years and on the short end of one sided losses a number of times. In the name of sportsmanship, the opposition has shown class in not running up the score by keeping a press on and/or continuing in transition.

Belleville has improved and on this day they defeated a team they rarely stayed with in the past. After a slow start they played a strong second half posting a 50-36 win over Millburn in the Essex Suburban League. The game turned out to be the highlight of three girls games I worked during the week.

Observations and notes:

  • I officiated with Frank Saul, whose dad Pep, a former Seton Hall stand out, has his banner hanging in the rafters at the Hall's Walsh Gym. We worked 6th grade recreation in North Caldwell, NJ. A commendable part of the league is no pressing is allowed. As said many times here, let the kids learn half court first - pressing can come later.
  • On Thursday St. John Vianney visited Bayonne. Vianney is a state power on the varsity side, Bayonne is a very strong program in their own right. More times than not, if your varsity is good your sub-varsity is as well. Vianney pulled away late to win a competitive contest. On a 16 degree day, let's say the gym was 'brisk' as the heat was barely on. Welcome to Hudson County! Regardless a competitive contest and running kept everyone warm.
  • Bayonne felt their opposition had good ball handlers and passers so a half-court defense was chosen over a press. Vianney used the press like a blitz in football, providing an element of surprise allowing them to pull away the fourth quarter.
  • Basketball ‘blood lines' run deep in these respective programs. Currently, Vianney has Kathleen Egan playing for Tony Bozzella at Seton Hall. Bayonne freshman coach Jamie Smith played for the school. One of her teammates was Cassandra Calloway who starred at an Albany team that made it to the NCAA tournament.
  • Difference makers are not always wings or post players. On the grade school level a good guard with ball handling skills and a good feel for the game can be a major asset. Belleville had that in a guard, number 14. After a quiet first half she made the difference breaking down the Millburn defense and often looking for open teammates before her own shot. Her handling and penetration were keys to a big second half for victorious Belleville.
  • We all start somewhere. My partner, Peter, in Belleville was a first year official.  He did a good job. He had a few positional errors but we all make mistakes - including yours truly in year number 27. We are human and err. The bottom line is he came to work and hustled. Two admirable ingredients of an official at any level.
  • Peter and I discussed confidence that comes with experience. He remarked that I had it for one reason not being wary of using a pink whistle. That drew a laugh and explanation that the whistle is given by our association as a symbol of the fight against breast cancer. Yes, the pink whistle in a girl's game is a given for yours truly.