Prime Time: No refs? No problem

BY VICTORIA KIPP | JULY 23, 2012 6:30 AM

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Randy Larson doubled as a coach and referee in the second Prime Time League semifinal playoff game on Sunday in North Liberty.

Larson coached a tough loss for his first-place team just minutes before, then took to the court in the second to fill in for missing referees.

The first matchup of the day had three refs present, but to the surprise of Larson and the rest of the league, there were no referees in attendance for the second game.

The game started with a 10-minute delay before Larson and Lorenzo Rice, an ex-college player, stepped in to officiate. Official Mike Widen, who had officiated the first game had been called back to the game and arrived half-way through the first half, taking Rice's spot.

Larson said that the missing officials must have been because of a lack in communication between the league and the referees.

"I got an email last week letting me know who all of the refs were for the last two weeks of games," Larson said. "And somehow, the refs must not have gotten it and not showed up."

In previous years the referees were set up to officiate both sets of games for the day, but starting this year, the refs for each game are different, which could be the source of the miscommunication error, Larson said.

The players in the game played hard despite the officiating problems, and the game was close until the end. Incoming Iowa freshman Mike Gesell, current Hawkeye Melsahn Basabe, and ex-Hawkeye Jarryd Cole led Pelling/McCurry's to a 99-93 victory over Jill Armstrong of Skogman Realty.

Each member of the threesome put up a double-double. Basabe and Cole had high scores of 34 points each, and Basabe had 19 of his team's 49 assists.

Even though they had great success in the game, the players did feel as if the game was a little out of sorts without having the correct number of referees.

"It was like we were playing at the boy's club, or at the park, or something," Basabe said. "With no refs, you were just kind of on your own. I'm from New York — I'm used to that."

Hawkeye Gabe Olaseni led his team with 31 points and 6 assists in the losing effort. He said that the missing referees posed a problem in the beginning of the game, but as the game moved along, he didn't think the reffing made a difference in the outcome.

"We missed a lot of easy shots," Olaseni said. "For the most part the refs got the calls right, so that wasn't a deciding factor in the game."

Larson has stepped in refereeing in a few times over the past 26 years that he has worked in the league. He knew that the lack of officials tonight may have have upset people, but he didn't think that it went too poorly.

"I thought that they were understanding, and I didn't hear any complaining," he said. "There are always going to be a few that are a toss-up call and can go either way, but I didn't think there were any where the whole crowd thought it was backwards."

The players weren't too bent out of shape about the referee situation, either. They have all played pickup games without referees, and even with poorly officiated games, they have learned to adapt.

"Basketball is basketball everywhere," Cole said. "As long as you have guys who respect the game, you can play with anybody. It was really nice of my man [Widen] to come back after the first game — it spoke a lot about his character. And Randy did a great job; he's a very classy guy, runs things the right way, and it was really cool we could get things accomplished."

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