The Eastern team rushed the court celebrating, and the Marywood team was crushed. The players were forming a line to congratulate each other on a game well-played and won by a single point. But a controversial last-instant referee’s call based on timekeeping by a Marywood student caused a reversal of the results and kept Eastern out of the conference playoffs.The February 9 varsity men’s basketball game at Marywood University, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, held playoff implications for both teams.
Hard-fought throughout, the final second of play resulted in disagreement between the schools’ athletic departments, but no eventual win for Eastern.
Junior guard Chris McMonagle hit two free throws to give the Eastern men’s basketball team a one point advantage with less than a second left in the game. Marywood passed the ball down the court, it was knocked out of bounds by an Eastern player, and the celebration began.
But then, the referees realized that the clock had not been started after the last time stoppage. Four tenths of a second were given to finish the game, Marywood was awarded the ball, and a buzzer-beating shot – made with four tenths of a second still visible on the unmoving clock, according to those who have seen the videotape – gave them the 72-71 victory.
“I rushed over to the refs’ table,” Eastern coach Matt Nadelhoffer said. “But at that point, a coach is handcuffed.”
Had Eastern won the game, they would have advanced to the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference playoffs and hosted a game as the fourth seed this past weekend. But because they lost, they were dropped to the seventh spot in the PAC standings and their season ended without a playoff chance.
If the reverse scenario had occurred and Eastern won a game under the same circumstances, they would have conceded to their opponents,said both Nadelhoffer and Eastern athletic director Harry Gutelius.
Having reviewed videotape of the game with qualified referees, Gutelius requested that Marywood agree in overturning the official results.
But in a letter of response to Gutelius, Marywood athletic director Mary Jo Gunning said there was no chance that her school would concede.
“I strongly disagree that Marywood should have lost that game,” Gunning wrote.
Eric Grundman, coach of the Marywood team, declined to comment on the situation, saying he had been instructed by the Marywood administration to refer calls to the PAC.
PAC Commissioner Tom Bonerbo said there was no step that could have been taken to reverse the outcome.
“Once the game is over and the refs sign the book, it’s over,” Bonerbo said. “There are no protests, like in major league baseball. That’s the bottom line.”
Bonerbo said the only way the outcome could have changed would have been through a mutual agreement by the teams, to which they did not come.