New Jersey high school loses appeal in bid to overturn game it lost on blown call

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TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey’s acting education commissioner has rejected an appeal from a high school that lost a state basketball tournament game when referees wrongly overturned a buzzer-beating basket.

Manasquan school officials had asked Kevin Dehmer to delay a state title game scheduled for Saturday while it appeals its case in court, claiming it deserves to be in the game. But in a ruling issued Friday, Dehme said Manasquan’s claims were “not reviewable,” citing the guidelines of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), which oversees scholastic sports.

Manasquan initially was declared the winner over Camden in Tuesday night’s Group 2 semifinal game. However, the call was soon overturned when the referees discussed the shot and concluded it came after the buzzer, giving Camden a 46-45 win.

A review of multiple videos of the final seconds clearly showed the shot was in the air and was going into the basket when the final buzzer sounded, meaning it should have counted. The controversy quickly became a topic of conversation on national news programs and sports radio and television shows

The NJSIAA acknowledged Wednesday that the referees made the wrong call but said it would not overturn Camden’s victory. Camden is scheduled to play Newark Tech for the title on Saturday.

In a statement, the agency said it understands Manasquan’s frustration but “the rules are clear — once game officials leave the ‘visual confines of the playing court,’ the game is concluded, and the score is official.” The agency does not use instant replay.

Manasquan asked a state superior court judge to put the upcoming state title game on hold. The judge denied the motion Thursday, ruling the court does not have jurisdiction to stop the game until the state education department and a state appellate court weigh in on the matter.

Manasquan then filed its appeal with the education commissioner.

It wasn’t clear Friday whether the school would continue to challenge the game result in court. A message left for school district attorney Michael Gross was not immediately returned.

Gross had told the Asbury Park Press on Thursday that “the district and the students in the district are deserved of getting the right outcome to this incident. So we are taking all these necessary steps to try to right the wrong that was done.”

Lou Cappelli Jr., an attorney representing the Camden school district, painted Manasquan’s legal battle as sour grapes and a waste of taxpayer money and the court’s time.

“Are we going to go back and look at all 32 minutes of the game and come to the judge and say ‘judge, this wasn’t a foul.’ It’s ridiculous,” Cappelli told the newspaper.

Manasquan Schools Superintendent Frank Kaysan, though, called the matter “a learning situation, a learning environment” for students.

“We want to teach the students at Manasquan that there is a process and procedure when you are on the right side of something to obtain equity, and what we did here is use the process and the procedure the State of New Jersey put into effect –- everyone knows we won the game, but we want to do so using the avenue the state has given us to do it properly.,” Kaysan said.

The Newark school district issued a statement Thursday saying it would not oppose efforts to delay Saturday’s title game if that allowed a court to issue a “correct, full and fair decision.”

It also stated that if the call overturning Manasquan’s basket is found to be incorrect, the court should “overturn that decision in the interest of justice and in the interest of teaching our students a valuable lesson … All of the teams who competed this season deserve to know that adults who make mistakes can have them corrected. This is that time. This is that day.”

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