Disputed Basketball Call Stirs up Controversy in Anna-Jonesboro Community



Disputed Basketball Call Stirs up Controversy in Anna-Jonesboro Community
By: Kate Schott

(Anna, IL)--A disputed call at a high school girls’ basketball game has folks fuming in one Heartland community.

The IHSA tournament game was played in Benton, Illinois on Monday night.  But the controversy went home with the visiting team from Anna-Jonesboro Community High School.

The dispute involves some missed seconds on the clock, which many Anna-Jonesboro fans believe cost their team not only the game, but also the chance to play in the state championship.  Of course, many Benton fans would disagree with that, so it’s certainly not a fact.  But it is definitely a reminder for many folks that life is not always fair.

“I was mad as heck when it happened, and my friend who rode home with me was mad all the way back to Anna,” says A-J fan Ron Bittle, who was at Monday night’s game. “I've talked to adults who've said they couldn't sleep that night!  So it really stirred up a lot of emotion among people who followed them.”

“They” are the Anna-Jonesboro High School girls' basketball players, who won 27 games this season, and had high hopes of playing for a state title. For senior Callie Carter, Monday night's sectional game was to be the culmination of her eight-year basketball career.  “It meant a lot to me,” she tells Heartland News.

Of course, the game also meant a lot to A-J’s opponents, the equally successful Benton High School girls, who kept the score tight throughout the game.  But at one fateful moment, with less than a minute to go in the game and Anna-Jonesboro in the lead, the timekeeper forgot to start the clock.  That's what's causing the controversy.  “The clock clearly did not start. I was standing across from the scoreboard and I saw it directly,” asserts Bittle.  “I started yelling, ‘Start the clock!  Start the clock!’   But I know there was maybe 5-6 seconds elapsed until he (the timekeeper) started it.”

At that point, Anna-Jonesboro Coach Jeff Hayden asked officials to fix the problem.  But after the three officials discussed the matter with the timekeeper, they decided not to do so.  And perhaps those five or six seconds wouldn't have been such a big deal, if it weren’t for the way the game ended.  “At the end of the game, there was about five seconds left to go,” Carter painfully recalls.  “And they (Benton) had a game-winning play…and we lost by one point.” 

Many people in the Anna-Jonesboro community believe if the clock had been running properly the entire game, Benton never would have had the chance to make that game-winning basket. Any sports fan can relate.  At some time every team has felt cheated. But the question is, now that the game is over, what can they do about it?

One thing that angry A-J fans have been doing is bombarding the Illinois High School Association with calls. But Anna-Jonesboro High School Principal Jim Woodward says that's not going to do anyone any good.  “That’s their (the officials’) decision,” he explains.  “The IHSA can't change that. We as a school can't change that. So you just go on from there.  For our girls, it's over this year.  But they can be very, very proud of a 27 and 4 record. That's a school record for most wins, boys or girls. That's an outstanding year!”

Outstanding or not, it's still a tough lesson for seniors like Callie Carter, who will always remember that her basketball career ended on a sour note. But, as we all know too well, it won't be the only sour note life has to offer.  “Hopefully our young ladies have learned that life is not always perfect, but how you react to those bad times will definitely make a difference in your life later,” says Woodward.   Carter says that lesson is already starting to sink in.  “I know you can’t win everything, and sometimes things just don’t go your way,” she shares with a bittersweet smile.  “So life isn’t fair.”

Benton High School's Assistant Athletic Director told Heartland News that his school had “no comment” about the controversy, other than “the game is over.”

Principal Woodward stresses that the Benton team played both a great season and a great game, and he hopes that this controversy won't take away from that.  Benton is scheduled to play in the IHSA championship game on Thursday.