The first thing you see when you visit the WPIAL website is the district’s sportsmanship message.
In part, it reads, “The WPIAL reminds member schools to act proactively … to emphasize the importance of good sportsmanship at all athletic events.”
One has to wonder if that message was forgotten Wednesday night in an effort to get a player an individual achievement.
When is an achievement not really an achievement? When it is accomplished in a less than sporting manner?
It can be argued that was the case Wednesday night when California’s Courtnee McMasters scored 56 points in a victory over winless Mapletown.
McMasters is a very good basketball player, one of the best girls players in the area. In fact, she entered this week ranking second in Washington and Greene counties in scoring.
The Mapletown girls basketball team, on the other hand, is – how can we put this delicately? – not good.
The Maples not only don’t have a senior player – the only one they began the season with, Marissa Wrick, was lost to an injury early in the year – but they don’t have a junior, either. The entire team is comprised of freshmen and sophomores. In essence, they are a junior varsity team playing a varsity schedule. Not surprisingly, they’ve lost every game they’ve played, each by a large margin.
Mapletown’s 81-31 Section 3-A loss to California was no different, except for this: McMasters played well into the fourth quarter and scored 56 points.
Why would playoff-bound California leave its best player in a game it was leading 61-27 entering the fourth quarter? Because McMasters began the game with 910 career points.
To his credit, California head coach Chris Minerd approached Mapletown head coach Mike Holloway before the game and told him the Trojans were going to try to get McMasters as many points as possible to get her closer to 1,000.
And, according to Minerd, Holloway said it was OK.
But what was he supposed to say? No?
It’s likely McMasters could have scored 56 points – maybe more – without the approval of Holloway.
But just because Holloway said it was fine, that didn’t make it the right thing to do. There is sportsmanship to think about.
And having a player go out and try to score as many points in a game that is certain to be a blowout tickles the line of good taste.
Would it have been so bad, for instance, if McMasters, who entered the week averaging just under 21 points per game, scored 40 points against the Maples before giving way to the reserves?
That would have left her 50 points short of 1,000 with at least three games – two in the regular season and one in the playoffs – remaining to play. She scored 18 points in a loss to Avella Thursday night and would have needed only 32 in two games to reach 1,000 career points.
Perhaps the bigger question should be, was it really worth throwing sportsmanship out the window to achieve an individual milestone?
Basketball is, after all, a team game. And if you can’t achieve your personal goals within the context of winning the game, then maybe they aren’t meant to be.
Countless other teams could have run the score up or had players put up 50 points against the undermanned Maples.
In fact, the 81 points scored by the Trojans was 15 more than anyone else chose to score against the Maples.
Most teams chose not to embarrass the Mapletown players. California, which was in Mapletown’s shoes not all that long ago, chose to try to get McMasters a career milestone.
But in doing so, the Trojans cheapened the achievement.
F. Dale Lolley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.