Instant replay has come to Public League basketball!
For amusement purposes only.
In retrospect, all on hand yesterday at Pepper Middle School in deep Southwest Philly, hard by the airport, should not have been surprised when a game that was no walk in the park was decided in controversial fashion: by a jumper that appeared to follow a walk in the lane.
The situation: Communications Tech and Strawberry Mansion were tied in a wild Division C contest that featured a little bit of everything and lots of some things, namely intensity and memory-making plays.
As the clock wound down, CT senior point guard Antonio "Gee" Monroe had the ball and, although the general plans called for dish first, launch second, his teammates had little prayer of seeing it.
"As a senior leader, in a situation like that, it's my job to put the team on my back," the 6-foot, 180-pound Monroe said. "I wanted to take the shot. Wanted to get my team the 'W' . . . I wasn't passin'. Well, if two guys were on me I would have, but otherwise that last play was mine."
Monroe made hard penetration into the lane, slightly to the left. He cut loose a flip shot from about 10 feet . . . gooooooood!
CT 59, Mansion 57. No more time on the clock. Many minutes of controversy remaining.
The big question: Had Monroe traveled?
"I think he was fouled first," CT coach Lou Biester said.
"That was a walk. The game should have gone to overtime," Mansion boss Gerald Hendricks said.
"Walk? Nah, I got pushed," Monroe said. "Did it look like I walked?"
"He might have walked," said Monroe's father, Charles, a spirited spectator and long a coach/organizer in city hoops.
"I was just hoping he'd pass it," cracked CT's center, Lijah Thompson.
All that one Mansion manager wanted to do was show the final seconds, as they looked on his video camera. There was no contact before or during the shot. Not only did Monroe ever-so-slightly stutter-step. He also did a miniskid.
Can we all go back at some point and enjoy an extra session?
If so, maybe referee Duwaine Jenkins - who coaches Pepper's basketball team and funnels players to CT, which is right next door - could sit it out.
Charles Sumter, the PL basketball chairman (and Mansion's athletic director), said he added Jenkins as a third ref after his original game was postponed.
"I thought it would make things easier for the other two guys," Sumter said. One of the refs, Bernard Orr, did not show up until late in the first quarter. After acknowledging that some might have found Jenkins' involvement unacceptable, Sumter said, "I have faith in the integrity of every guy I assign to a game."
This contest had a February/March kind of feel, and there was major fan involvement. (Too much, actually. A Mansion fan was thrown out of the gym with 2:03 left after he walked to the middle of the court during a timeout to berate Jenkins.) These squads had battled last year in a Pub semifinal with CT, the eventual champion, claiming a 68-62 win.
"I knew they were looking for revenge," Monroe said.
Up close and personal, he knew that. Monroe now lives in Southwest Philly, near 59th and Baltimore, but lived until age 12 near 31st and Cumberland, a long jumper from Mansion, and still makes frequent returns to the neighborhood. Sometimes, he even sleeps over at the house of '08 franchise/best friend Dwayne Davis, who was in attendance.
"I kept hearing from all of them how we wouldn't win this game," Monroe said.
A big-dog role for Monroe would have been hard to predict beforehand. As the game began, he was perched in the doghouse. Saturday's practice started at 9 a.m. Monroe strolled in at 9:45.
"Yup, not even close," he said. "I overslept. My fault. Coach said he was keeping me out half the first quarter. I understood. I was mad at myself. I was thinking, 'How can I help my team win this game sittin' here?' "
Monroe finished with 15 points and two apiece of assists and steals. Shaquille Shannon hit two treys en route to 16 points, Raheem Roher nailed three for all nine of his markers while Thompson, a Robert Morris signee, settled for eight points, five boards and four steals.
For Mansion, junior combo guard Devonte Newbill, an impressive blend of smooth/aggressive, collected 26 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks. His drive made it 57-up. Six-nine Bilal Kelley added eight points, eight boards and five blocks.
In addition to D-II West Chester, Monroe is hearing from D-I schools such as St. Francis (Pa.), Delaware State and Coppin State. He wants to major in business.
Which is exactly what he'll be giving his Mansion buddies. Probably for a good while.
"This was a fun experience," he said. "Had to beat those guys."