Sunday, January 28, 2007

Local Referee Auditions for WWE

The biggest story in Huntington this weekend is the shenanigans at Friday's Huntington High vs. Capital High (Charleston) basketball game.

Huntington star player, OJ Mayo, was ejected from the game after receiving 2 technical fouls in the span of about 30 seconds from referee Mike Lazo. (This is 30 seconds real time, not game time.)

With the ejection, Mayo faces a mandatory 2-game suspension from Huntington's next two games including facing one of the top-ranked teams in the country, Artesia, California, in a showcase tournament at Duke University on Tuesday. The Artesia game has HUGE implications whether Huntington can maintain its #1 national ranking.

The ejection is eerily reminiscent of the conference championship game at the same arena last year, when HHS' All-American center, Pat Patterson, was ejected and had to miss 2 games in the state tournament.

Fans in attendance found the calls questionable at best and further complicating matters is the fact that when OJ went up to the referee asking why he got the 2nd technical foul, the referee flopped to the ground as if he'd been hit by a 2x4, which led to all sorts of chaos with players and others on the court.

WBOY-TV's sports reporter, Greg Chandler, has a great take including video of the incident and the flop. Link to WBOY story.

Chandler's had this to say when viewing "the flop"...
"Lazo falls down like he was just hit by Hulk Hogan in a WWE wrestling ring. Somebody call Vince McMahon, we have a new talent for you."
WSAZ-TV also has streaming video from the game including an added clip, showing Capital High players taunting without consequence. Link to WSAZ video.

Someone has also posted a different angle of Mike Lazo's flop and the aftermath here.

There is also a highlight video of action from the game posted on YouTube. (Mayo's final dunk before he was ejected is about 2:20 into the clip.)

Although WVSSAC officials have stated that there is no appeal process for a referee's call, I expect there will be some more developments including possible legal action on Monday.

WVSSAC officials are standing behind Lazo so far, but I wonder what the other referees will report. In the case of both technical fouls, another referee was closer to the play but did not call a technical, while Lazo did. During the last call, it appears to me that the referee standing next to Mayo turns and rolls his eyes at Lazo, as if to question the call.

Hopefully, WVSSAC officials will take a look at the film, talk to all of the referees and make a good decision. It seems to me that a fair resolution would be to have a recommendation or possible court injunction barring the suspension from being instated until an investigation can be completed within the next 2 weeks. That would allow Mayo to play in the 2 out of state games with national powers that the other teams agreed to schedule because Mayo is on the team.

After that time, if the WVSSAC chooses to enforce the decision then Mayo could sit out 2 WV games without impacting national contracts and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for a national championship due to the mistake of a referee who overreacted.

Personally, I don't see anything that warranted a technical when compared to what the Capital High players are shown doing on the WSAZ and YouTube video clips. Even if the 1st technical foul was appropriate, then the second was not, and the flop was just ridiculous.

I'm pretty sure that Lazo is the same guy who was an all WVIAC conference quarterback at Concord College in the mid-1990's. How someone goes from throwing for 8500 yards in college, to being so clumsy that he falls down like Barney Fife when someone brushes up against him, is beyond my comprehension.

One thing is for sure, Mayo was a heck of lot more composed than University of Cincinnati basketball coach, Mick Cronin, was last week when he threw a tantrum worse than a 6-year old child throughout most of the 2nd half of UC's victory over WVU.

Finally, I almost forgot that WVSSAC officials have also indicated that 5 reserve players who left the Huntington High bench when the referee fell may also be suspended for the next 2 games, which would limit the team to only 6 total players. No word on whether there will be any suspensions or disciplinary action for any Capital players yet, but it is doubtful.

Stay tuned. I have a feeling this episode is just getting started.


UPDATE: WOWK-TV has also posted a story complete with slow-motion video of the flop.

USA Today weighs in here.

Looks like Ryan Epling of TriStatePreps.com is right. It's the "technical heard from coast-to-coast."

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