Since many of you weren’t in Glens Falls to see the match, I wanted to write about, then get your opinion on something that caused a bit of controversy yesterday into today. There is a poll at the end of this article, so please vote if you have a second!
Not many teams playing in a state tournament have the luxury of choosing their opponent for the next game or match; especially when that next game or match is the state championship. And for those select few that are in that situation, it means you could hold the fate of one team entirely in your hands. So if you could — for all intents and purposes — “play God” in that situation, what would you do? Would you try and face a specific team, or just play and let nature run its course?
After a perfect 5-0 start in pool play on Saturday, the Blue Devils had already secured its own spot in Sunday’s Class D state final. The team they would face in the final was — strategically — up to them. Facing Section 6 representative Randolph in the second of two pool play games, the Blue Devils would face the 2010 champs and 2011 runners-up with a loss. If Haldane had won the second game, the final championship match spot would go to a tiebreaker between Randolph and Tioga of Section 4.
The NYSPHSAA tournament tiebreaker for two teams would be head-to-head record against one another. Randolph and Tioga split earlier in the day. Tioga still had its final pool play match to play, but facing winless Waterford-Halfmoon, it seemed likely that a sweep would be the probable outcome.
The next tiebreaker would be one 25-point game to determine who would join Haldane in the final.
Prior to the start of the second game, Haldane pulled its starters, then proceeded to fall into a 9-1 deficit. Tioga fans — watching on — were less-than-pleased with the team’s decision. Fans heckled and angrily expressed their opinions towards Haldane, which ultimately lost the game to Randolph 25-14, mathematically eliminating Tioga from a shot at the state title.
Now, whether or not Haldane intentionally pulled its starters to face Randolph, which it beat 25-15 in the first game with full starters, or Tioga, which it narrowly swept, 28-26, 25-23, I don’t know. Haldane and Randolph have a history — exchanging state-title victories over each other in 2010 and 2011, so it’s not out of the realm to think the Blue Devils wanted another shot at the Cardinals.
Haldane has no history with Tioga, other than the earlier pool play match, so its unlikely they somehow built up that big of a rivalry in two games — no matter how close they may have been.
Most of the people I heard in the stands or saw on Twitter were against Haldane’s move — intentional or not. Just for the purpose of playing Devil’s advocate, I see both ends of the move — intentional or not.
The quick judgement in Haldane pulling its starters is that it was a ploy to eliminate Tioga. But what some people seemed to ignore is that the reserves — some of whom never get a lot of playing time — were still trying to win. Also, for those reserves, this could be the highlight of their career. Haldane may have been to four straight semifinals, but it’s no guarantee that it will be back next year. When the girls leave, with championship in hand or not, they can say they played at the Civic Center, and didn’t just watch as their teammates won it for them.
On the other note — this is the state Final Four and you have a chance to choose who you want to face for the title. I understand that every team wants to have a fair shot, but when it comes down to it, all four of these teams (four in each class, that is) are here to win — plain and simple.
If Haldane felt that Randolph was an easier opponent, why not throw the game and face them rather than risk playing a team (Tioga) that almost beat you in both pool play games? If I’m Tioga, believe me, I’d be upset. It has to be an awful feeling knowing that another team controls your fate and there’s nothing you can do about it. But on the other hand, if Tioga was in the same situation, you don’t think the thought would at least enter its mind?
Again, I’m not speaking for the actions of Haldane or the thoughts of Tioga, I’m simply stating that I see both sides of Haldane’s move and that I think — “think” being the operative word — there’s at least a small part of Tioga that would at least think about what they would do in the same situation.
It’s easy to be on the offensive if you’re Tioga, and it does look like Haldane may have “let up” to face Randolph. But at the end of the day, even if it was intentional (and I’m not saying it was or wasn’t), it’s not illegal and these teams are here to win a state championship. If most teams had the chance to give themselves a higher probability of winning, many would take it.
I just think there are more questions that should be asked before people automatically jump to assume that Haldane pulled its starters on purpose to eliminate Tioga. So, given the opportunity, if you’re Haldane, do you play ‘em or pull ‘em?