Two Tennessee girls high school basketball teams were banned Tuesday from their district’s postseason after reportedly trying to lose a game against each other.
It was unclear what gave it away: one team intentionally missed 12 of its 16 free-throw attempts; the other did everything it could to avoid crossing half court in order to get called for a 10-second violation. One player stood inside the paint and motioned to the ref to call a 3-second violation.
The schools, Riverdale and Smyrna, were placed on restrictive probation by the Tennessee Secondary Athletic Association because it was determined both teams tried to lose Saturday's game.
Although both schools pleaded with the organization to allow their players to continue on without the head coaches, the decision to remove both teams from the playoffs stems from the actions of the players, Bernard Childress, the TSSAA executive director, told The Tennessean.
Childress claimed that Riverdale head coach Cory Barrett talked to the girls about "bracketology," or where they would be if they won or lost.
It is no secret that teams in all level of sports, at times, play to the standings. College teams may sit down their starting running back once its ranking is secured. Professional teams also may feel little incentive to win if a few more losses translate into a higher draft pick.
But school officials questioned why a high school team would be instructed to lose. The game got so obvious that a referee called the two coaches together after one of the players tried to score in the wrong basket.
"That is when I called both coaches together and told them we are not going to make a travesty or mockery of the game," the referee's account said, according to The Washington Post. "WE ARE NOT GOING TO START TRYING TO SHOOT AND SCORE FOR THE OTHER TEAM."
Smyrna eventually won the contest 55-29, scoring most of its points in the final minutes of the contest. They would have played the defending state champion Blackman. Riverdale would have been placed on the opposite side of the bracket, only meeting the state champion if they won their games.
"In my 35 years at Riverdale, I've never had that happen," Principal Tom Nolan told The Tennessean. "It sends a bad message to everyone. Bottom line is you play the game to win."