Where’s the justice?

By Barrett Henderson, The Observer March 16, 2009 03:14 pm

Please feel free to contact the police because the Eastern Oregon University men’s basketball team was robbed.

I’ll begin by saying these are my observations and opinions and not The Observer’s, but EOU had a berth into the national final four ripped away from them.

I’ve never been a guy who blames referees or whines about calls, but as the cliché goes, there’s a first for everything.

Saturday I watched the Mountaineers play in the NAIA Div. 2 national quarterfinals against the nation’s top team, Oklahoma Wesleyan.

The Mountaineers beat OWU and the huge pro-Eagle crowd, but not the three guys in the striped shirts.

For 38 minutes the game was played with limited fouls called. EOU shot only five free throws in the first 37 minutes, and the Eagles shot seven.

I was fine when the refs just let the game play. I thought it was great because of the severity of the game.

My problem is why do you let the game go for 37 minutes, and then decide to blow the whistle?

There is a saying in sports that you never want to see the game’s outcome decided by referees, well this is exactly what happened.

With less than two minutes to play and EOU leading 77-73, Eastern’s Dan Stafford made a basket while a foul was called.

The foul was on Stafford for charging into a defender who was in the air attempting to block his shot. Not set on the ground.

With the Mountaineers leading 79-77 with 22 seconds left, OWU drove to the basket and made a great shot with nine seconds left.

A foul was called while the basket was made. This foul was later titled, “The Phantom And-1,” on an NAIA message board by a neutral fan who happened to be at the gym that night.

I can understand if the foul was easy to see. If the player’s shot was altered or if he hit the floor, then you make the call.

The EOU defender was doing all he could not to foul and played good defense.

Where was the generic make-up or sympathy call after a 50/50 decision? This was the total opposite.

Often when I watch close games on television one commentator will say, “Why wasn’t that call made? It could have been a foul.” The other commentator answers, “No referee will ever make that call at the end of the game.”

Not in this case. Not on this night.

Game over along with five incredible careers.

Oklahoma Wesleyan converted the free throw and a last-second heave by an astonished EOU fell short.

This was an amazing basketball game between two of the nation’s best teams.

The Eagles played like the number one team and are very talented.

OWU took advantage of the chances they were given and that was the difference.

It has been a pleasure covering and following the Mountaineers this season.

Eastern head coach Ryan Looney took a team that was 4-22 in 2004 in his first season to the nation’s final eight, four years later.

Eastern has gone 91-33 over the current seniors’ careers. They have averaged 25 wins over the last three seasons.

These Mountaineers’ leave the next season’s huge shoes to fill. But if anyone thinks this is the end of Eastern’s run while under the current coach, they belong in the Looney bin.


Barrett Henderson is a sports writer for The Observer. Reach him by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it