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Disabato: Seton’s reaction indefensible

Setcoach BrandThomas talks strategy his players during one final timeouts game. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media

Seton coach Brandon Thomas talks strategy to his players during one of the final timeouts of the game. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 13, 2013 6:15AM



I can’t defend Seton’s actions Saturday after its Class 2A boys basketball state championship loss to Harrisburg.

Seton failed to stick around for the presentation of the second-place trophy, and coach Brandon Thomas not only refused to talk with the media, he tossed his second-place medal into the crowd like a gum wrapper into a garbage can while leaving the court.

It was a poor decision by Thomas who, as a coach and adult, is required to demonstrate far better leadership to his players.

Thomas issued a statement Monday, nearly two days after the incident and, I’m fairly certain, after his bosses bent his ear about the negative reaction they’d endured since the final buzzer of the Sting’s 50-44 loss.

“I would like to offer an apology for my actions following the 2A state championship game on Saturday, March 9. While my actions have given the appearance of poor sportsmanship, it was not my intent. I am truly saddened that this situation occurred and that it has diminished the hard work and effort put forth by our young men and that of the school administrators and coaches who supported us throughout the season.”

Appearance of poor sportsmanship? Coach, your actions define poor sportsmanship.

I’ve talked with Thomas only a few times this season. I don’t know him well, but people I trust tell me he’s a good man whose actions were out of character.

After I watched parts of Saturday night’s game, I must say I can understand Thomas’ frustration.

I watched the play in which Seton guard Mark Weems Jr. was ejected with 2:05 remaining in the second quarter.

Weems was fouled on a drive to the basket, then hit with a technical foul for saying something to the player who fouled him. In an attempt to plead his case, Weems made contact with an official, who then hit him with another technical. Two technicals call for an automatic ejection.

Weems had eight points and Seton enjoyed a 23-15 lead at the time.

I’ll say this about the incident: I’ve encountered much worse infractions, from both coaches and players, without an official assessing a foul.

In my view, the official overreacted, especially considering the state championship setting.

After watching various parts of the game, a few things came to mind: First, the officiating crew might have been somewhat in over their heads working this game. This wasn’t an ordinary Class 2A game. Seton competes at a level, with its speed, size and skill, of most 4A teams. They have two Division I players in Weems and 6-foot-8 Alex Foster.

Then there’s the issue of fouls. Seton was whistled for 24, Harrisburg 17 — perhaps not an automatic red flag, but the free-throw totals might be.

Seton attempted 17 free throws on the night, Harrisburg 31. Wow. A difference of 14 free throws during a relatively close game is cause for an eyebrow to be raised.

Did I mention that the three officials hail from small towns —Gillespie, Witt and Alhambra — downstate enclaves within 50 miles of each other?

Isn’t it ironic that the IHSA, whose playoff format favors regional team representation over general excellence, wouldn’t follow the same guidelines when selecting officials?

In the future, the IHSA should assemble its three-man state championship crews in a manner that removes the appearance of geographical bias.

Regardless, Seton still could have won the game if the Sting players and coach had managed to keep their cool.

Thomas should have exhibited better sportsmanship. Maybe he needs a little refresher on Seton’s sportsmanship policy, which conveniently can be found on its website:

“In its commitment to building character for a lifetime, Seton Academy stresses the value of fair competition and good sportsmanship. We expect all of our student athletes to follow all rules of fair play, to respect the decisions of all officials, and to treat their opponents with appropriate Christian regard. Likewise, we expect the same behavior of all fans/students in attendance at Seton Academy events, regardless of age or school affiliation ... ”

Nice policy. If only they’d thought to ask the same behavior of their coaches.



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