Ron Gregory

March 11, 2014

A genuine theft occurred Friday night in Logan and law enforcement did nothing about it

Shall we discuss Chaomanville Regional High School’s disturbing “win” over Scott Friday evening at Logan? Playing in the sectional finals, the Tigers were declared the victors before a large crowd, including the arena’s namesake, legendary Logan High Coach Willie Akers.

Akers looks better and better each time I see him after his tragic accident at the Charleston Civic Center. He improves each day, it seems, which is good news for all basketball fans in the state.

But Akers and the hundreds of other fans saw a robbery right in front of their eyes Friday. The crime was committed for all the world to see. Perhaps state police and sheriff’s deputies were not “beckoned” onto the floor to prevent the theft. Nevertheless, it DID occur.

The CRHS-Scott game was stolen from the Skyhawks. And the theft was not done by anyone from Chapmanville, a community and school I came to love dearly during the time I covered the Tigers for The Lincoln Journal. I still consider many at Chapmanville among my best friends in the world. Still, the game official, who I will leave unnamed for the moment, stole the game right in front of that huge crowd.

Normally, I do not think a game official can actually change the outcome of a game. Usually, even if I disagree with a call on the court, I realize nobody is perfect and errors do occur. Even I, the omnipotent one, made a mistake in 1972 and another in 1986.

But this game official did take the contest away from Scott — or at least the potential of Scott winning. There definitely should have been an overtime at Logan because Logan Webb’s bucket with four seconds on the clock was signaled a trey by the official and it WAS a three-pointer. Game film will leave no question about that. So, the change to make it a two-pointer was simply, and totally, incorrect. THAT alone was enough to cost the Skyhawks a shot at winning in overtime.

The bigger “crime,” though, is that the official did not have the common sense to let everyone know he had finally called it a deuce. With four seconds left, if Scott Coach Nick Cabell and his assistants had any idea the game was not tied, the Skyhawks would have immediately fouled someone from CRHS. Facing a free throw line with the game on the line, Chapmanville might have missed. Scott would then have had three seconds or so to make the winning bucket.

That official had to know everyone but he thought the game was tied. The scoreboard said it was; and Scott dropped back frantically trying to stop a desperate CRHS shot that might have won the game. CRHS threw up a shot at the buzzer, which they would never have done if they believed they were ahead by one. The evidence is overwhelming.

Only after time expired did the official join his two compatriots at center court to discuss the matter. When they finally emerged to say Chapmanville had won by one point, the theft was confirmed. There was no time for Scott to do ANYTHING; no appeals board for Cabell to go to with game film.

Actually, all three referees could be charged with the heist. It is incomprehensible for me to believe three supposedly qualified officials would have let the game end that way. They ALL knew everyone thought the game was tied for that final four seconds. At the very least, one of them should have said, “Well, to be fair, we’ll have to reset the clock to four seconds and let CRHS inbound it.” That none of them did that is astounding and another example of why fans detest mediocre refs.

A likely high school state tournament bid was denied because game officials were too inept to figure out if a three-point shot was lifted or if it was a two. And how on earth did the official who initially signaled the shot a three-pointer manage to change his mind? He, likewise, did not have benefit of replay to determine where Webb’s feet were when the shot went off. Since he called it a three to start with, what changed his mind?

Scott now has to regroup and try to figure a way to beat a powerhouse Poca team that is ranked second in the state and has been mowing down opponents with ease of late. To say that the Skyhawks are now tremendous underdogs is an understatement. They would have been favored by 20 points against Nicholas County, if the officials had not stolen the game from them. It’s as simple as that: highway robbery in Willie Akers Arena and nobody can do anything about it. Game officials in West Virginia high school already think they are omnipotent. Now, they know they can control who goes to the state tournament. Shame on anyone who treats high school student/athletes, no matter which school they represent, that way.

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On the other hand, I am delighted that CRHS will now likely make the state field for the first time in Chapmanville history. I just wish they had done it fairly and squarely — and again it is not their fault that they didn’t.

The old Chapmanville High and now CRHS have had some pretty fine teams in years past but never managed to go to the state’s big dance. That means more than a half-century of frustration will be overcome with a Tiger victory over Nicholas. The odds are that the Tigers will head to Charleston next week.

Head Coach Alan Hatcher, a coaching legend himself, did a masterful job in melding his talent at CRHS. As usual, Hatcher worked well with his players and staff. His winning attitude did much to further the team to greatness.

Because of my affection for Chapmanville, I want to see the Tigers win as many games as possible. While my son graduated from Logan and I also cheer for the Wildcats, I have a soft spot for Chapnmanville and willingly admit it.

I regret that the first CRHS appearance in Charleston comes as the result of a tainted victory. The game should have gone on to overtime, where I suspect Scott would have prevailed. However, it did not. So, I am pleased as a Tiger fan but disappointed in the way the win was engineered by inept game officials.

It is sad but true. But, let me repeat, Chapmanville did nothing wrong. They just accepted an outcome that was incorrect — and they had no choice but to do so.

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While his team will likely be contemplating its trip to Charleston Friday, CRHS Head Coach Hatcher may well be focused on another matter. That is the date set for a hearing of the charges against his son, Logan High Coach Mark Hatcher.

Mark Hatcher was charged with assaulting a police officer during a melee at Chapmanville on December 14, 2013. The fight broke out after Logan and Scott players became entangled following a free throw miss.

The elder Hatcher actually left his team bench during the following tournament game to advocate for his son at the Chapmanville police headquarters. In apparent violation of West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (SSAC) rules, Alan Hatcher left his spot on the bench vacant for several minutes while he appeared at police headquarters with his son.

Mark Hatcher maintains he was simply trying to break up the scuffle when he pushed a Chapmanville town police officer. The officer also maintains that the Logan coach pushed him as he tried to escort Mark Hatcher back to the LHS bench. Video of the brawl appears to show Hatcher pushing the officer on the floor but does not include any film of the alleged push on the way back to the bench.

Some Hatcher defenders have insisted law enforcement officers, at the game for security, could not legally come onto the floor without being “beckoned” to do so by game officials. Back to the omnipotency of game officials, I guess. Nobody at the SSAC had every heard of such a rule when I asked them about it and it is generally accepted that law enforcement officials can enforce the law anywhere at any time in their jurisdiction.

I have said that Hatcher will never be tried in Logan County and I still have my doubts. I am confident the worst he would ever get would be a slap on the wrist from the Logan judicial system, over which his step-father, Circuit Judge Eric O’Briant, presides. I am also convinced the Logan board of education will continue to keep their collective heads in the sand as they have done during previous episodes involving Mark Hatcher.

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In an answer to the inevitable question, “is there any way Scott can beat Poca,” the answer is a definite yes. As one Scott partisan told me, though, it “will take the worst game played by Poca this year and the best one played by Scott.”

The Dots are THAT good under Coach Alan Osborne. The veteran coach has tremendous talent coupled with his unquestioned coaching skills.

Still, on some evenings this year, Scott has appeared capable of being anyone in Class AA. I believe that kind of performance is still in the Hawks and they stand a reasonable chance Thursday. Chapmanville, meanwhile, should have no trouble with Nicholas County.

It would be fabulous if both CRHS and Scott made the state tourney field.

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It is good news that Van High star Brandon Elswick is moving his athletic career on to the college level next season. Elswick is one talented athlete, who excels at all sports. His skills as a football player are likely his best sport but he could play about anything well at the college level.

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Among the many fans supporting CRHS during their tourney run were those from Harts. It should never be ignored that CRHS is a consolidation of the old Harts High and Chapmanville. Nobody should miss the fact, either, that CRHS athletic teams have improved with the addition of the players from Harts Creek. There is a reason Harts was a regular state tournament contender in Class A while Chapmanville High was not. That’s the pure and simple truth. While I appreciate and value my friends from Chapmanvile, I hope they never forget what Harts has done for them

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Comments, game results, story ideas and rumors are always welcome. Use my listed email or call my cell, 304-533-5185.