- By Adam Lichtenstein Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Palm Beach Gardens beat Wellington 57-56 in the District 9-9A title game on Friday night. The contest featured a Wellington rally late in the fourth quarter, and the difference was a free throw by Palm Beach Gardens’ Kyandra Poitier with 4.5 seconds left.
Forgotten in the game’s wild final minutes was the competitive first quarter and a scoring change by the home team’s scorekeeper that might have cost the Wolverines the district title and a home game in this weeks’ regional quarterfinals.
The Wolverines outscored the Gators 16-13 in the quarter, with the final six points coming from three-point shots by Jillian Duncan and Sydney Jones. The referees calling the game signaled three points after each basket, and the scoreboard showed Wellington leading 16-13 when the quarter ended.
But during the break between the first and second quarters, the game’s official scorer told the referees Wellington had only 14 points. The referees went with the scorer’s total, which, according to Florida High School Athletic Association rules, is the official book. The official scorer was someone associated with Palm Beach Gardens (Gardens coach Charlie Reppel and athletic director Karyn Hart would not release the name or contact information for the scorekeeper). Wolverines coach Randy Soto objected but assented to the referees.
“After the first quarter, my assistant coach let me (know) the score had changed,” Soto said. “When the score changed, I addressed the scorebook, and the lady said that she had 14. The kid … using the clock, the kid doing the clock, he said he had 16. I had 16, and it shows on the film also that two players hit threes. I had 16 also.
“I talked to the referee and complained to him that the book was wrong; the book had 14, the clock had 16 and we had 16. And he explained to me that they are the home book and whatever the home book has is what (we) want to stick with.”
This Post reporter, who was covering the game, also counted 16 points for Wellington in the quarter.
Video provided to the Post shows the quarter’s progression, including the three-point shots, the referees’ signals and the scoreboard reflecting those scores. Had those scores remained on the board and all else remained the same, Wellington would have claimed the district crown.
“It’s huge,” Soto said. “Especially for some of our seniors, who’ve been – it’s three years in a row that we’ve been runner-up to Gardens. So the district title, to them, probably meant a lot more.”
Soto told the Post in an email Monday that he would not file an official complaint with the Florida High School Athletic Association. He said the FHSAA could only remedy the situation if Palm Beach Gardens forfeited the game and the district championship to the Wolverines. The email reads:
“After checking our options I decided that we will not File a complaint with the fhsaa. The home book is the official book and we failed to provide the home book so we will continue as scheduled. Its (sic) very unfortunate that the game did not end in our favor. The girls and coaching staff are still dissapointed (sic) with the outcome, however at this point we will not file (a) complaint.”
Reppel denied any wrongdoing on the part of his team or the scorekeeper.
“I know my scorekeeper’s qualified and did a good job,” he said Sunday.
Reppel said he did not know about the score discrepancy until the Post brought it to his attention Sunday, and noted that Wellington did not have a scorekeeper at the game. Soto said the team’s normal scorekeeper was not able to attend Friday’s game, so he chose before the game to allow the Gardens scorekeeper to keep the official book. Because Wellington was the No. 1 seed in the district tournament, the Wolverines were the official home team. If they had a scorer present, he or she would have controlled the game’s official book.
Wellington athletic director Pattie Fitzhugh did not lay the blame on Palm Beach Gardens because she said it is the girls basketball team’s responsibility to have a scorekeeper to confer and double check the score.
The result makes the rest of Wellington’s playoff run difficult. The Wolverines are currently slated to play District 10-9A winner Boca Raton, which ended the year ranked second by the Post, while Palm Beach Gardens will play District 10-9A runner-up Santaluces, which ended the year at No. 9.
“It’s kind of tough to swallow,” Soto said. “But it’s one of those things. We always talk about: control what you control and don’t worry about things you can’t control. But when something like that happens, it’s hard not to think about it.
Efforts to reach the referees who worked the game through the East Coast Basketball Officials Association were unsuccessful. Joe Erwin, president of the ECBOA, said the organization does to permit referees to speak with the media regarding specific games.