NHR Commentary: The Minneota Free Throws

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Posted On: 02/12/19 1:13 PM

Suspensions.  Cheating.  Top ranked team falls in the aftermath.  All over a couple sets of free throws.  The opinions of the Minneota incident range from firm to ridiculous.  Today we break down the situation and offer our own opinion in NHR Commentary. 

On Thursday, January 31st undefeated Minneota picked up their 18th win of the season at MACCRAY High School.  The Vikings were the number one ranked team in the state at the time and the win pushed their undefeated record to 18-0.  Senior Thomas Hennen scored 45 points, one point shy of the school record held by Shane Hennen.  But that’s not what this game will be remembered for. 

In the final minute multiple sources at the game tell NHR that MACCRAY began to foul trying to stop the clock.  At one point the Wolverines fouled junior Logan Sussner and at another stoppage MACCRAY fouled sophomore Jacob Hennen, a player that earned Freshman All State Honors in the 2017-18 season. 

Instead of Logan and Jacob going to the free throw line, Thomas stepped to the foul line and considering the commotion around this situation we would assume he made them. We’ve been told by fans in the stands that they did not see a protest from MACCRAY but have also heard that there was a protest of the shooter and the officials didn’t agree or didn’t make the change.

In the situation of a foul such as the ones committed by MACCRAY the referee blows his whistle, identifies the player committing the foul, and then identifies the shooter.  This may have occurred but the officials did not make sure the proper player was at the foul line taking the shots.  

In the days that followed the staff from MACCRAY is said to of pointed out that Thomas Hennen took the foul shots when they reviewed film of the game.  Lucas Post is the Wolverines Head Coach and Jim Trulock is the Athletic Director.  They contacted the Minnesota State High School League and the Minneota Athletic Department.  

A decision was made by Minneota to suspend Thomas Hennen TWO GAMES for shooting the foul shots of another player plus both Jacob Hennen and Logan Sussner were suspended for a game.  

Early Monday morning I was researching and compiling this week’s Minnesota State High School Basketball rankings for the Prep Hoops network and initially didn’t notice that Minneota had lost.  The Minnesota-Scores.Net website (a fantastic resource) showed 18-0 on the section pages.  However, fans alerted me to a Minneota 57-55 loss to Yellow Medicine East on February 9th. 

Initially I thought “YME? They’ve only won two games, that has to be a mistake”.  I began checking with sources and learned about the suspensions.  A loss to a team without the two best players on the team and a third starter does make more sense.  From there I learned what the suspensions consisted of. 

My initial reaction to a two game suspension for walking to the free throw line and shooting foul shots when somebody else was fouled was “What? You have got to be kidding me!”  But as I commonly do I sought out the opinions of others to hear what they had to say.  I spoke with three sources from outstate Minnesota and three from the metro about this situation and here are the responses:

Outstate Athletic Director:  “Two games sounds absurd but in a situation like this a precedent needs to be set.  If it’s not, then it may happen again and again.  The player did get caught breaking the rules and the punishment fits.”

Outstate Basketball Coach:  “You can not go do that.  It’s against the rules and if the rules are not followed a punishment needs to be swiftly put in, end of story.”

Outstate Basketball Coach:  “My first game ever we had a kid with a broken hand who couldn’t shoot well with his hand the way it was so our eyes locked and he then went to the trainer to get help.  A new shooter came on and we won the game. It happens all the time, coaches and officials need to be on top of this just like any other call.  Do you think that MACCRAY would send in video of a game winner that left the hands of their player a fraction of a second after the buzzer?  I think not.  They don’t tell the official they traveled and should lose the ball either.”

Metro Athletic Director:  “I would look at my coach in the eye and tell them ‘how could you let those kids switch like that and you didn’t notice or say anything?’.  The refs are the ones who had the error here.”

Metro Coach: “Hahahaha.  Our athletic director would tell me all the many things he has to do with 26 sports and to manage the game better.”

Metro Athletic Director:  “When I was a coach down the stretch it was the number one thing in our league we had to watch for when trying to foul.  Speaking of fouling late, you aren’t allowed to foul late, it is should be intentional, remember that rules emphasis?  In this situation the coach should of been suspended and the officials made the giant mistake.”

There are your varying opinions from around the state of Minnesota.  In my own experience I recall being a part of teams where we would notice our kids switched as they went to the foul line.  It was not directed by the coaching staff, it was the kids playing 12 months a year together for several years knowing one another.  All it took was a look and a quick statement that was understood. I was an assistant coach for many years at Simley, Henry Sibley, Tartan, and Minnetonka and one of the jobs of the assistant coach is to make sure the right shooter is going to the foul line for the other team. 

When we a potential switch happening, or other coaches saw it happening from our players, the officials would then be notified and switch the shooter and everybody went about their day.  It was a common occurrence.  Doesn’t make it right, but it’s one of the many items that fall into the game of basketball that you really don’t think twice about after the game. Never in my wildest thoughts did I ever think that a staff I was on or the opposing staff would turn somebody into the high school league for this.  

A punishment.  If a punishment needs to be handed out in this situation I would start with the officials and then move to the head coach.  They are in charge of the situation.  If you must suspend a player then a one game suspension is the maximum punishment that I could even be talked into.  Even that seems a lot for this situation.  What happened was breaking the rules but where do we stop?

The game of basketball is very tough to officiate.  Things are commonly missed because officiating 16, 17, 18 year old varsity athletes is tough.  They are agile and there is a lot to manage for the officials.  So I ask those of you who think the Hennen suspension was correct, what else should occur?  

If an official misses a buzzer beater should the MACCRAY staff send in the video and say they don’t deserve to win the game?  I doubt the Wolverines will be doing that.  If a player on the MACCRAY team tries to draw a charge and goes to the floor before contact trying to sell it, will the staff then tell the officials that their player should be given a technical for trying to fool the refs?  What about when a jumpball is given to the wrong and the coach doesn’t say anything, do we say something there? These are all situations where something happened that is against the rules but coaches rarely will speak up because it’s part of managing a difficult game.

I realize I have gone to an extreme here with a few of those situations but high school basketball has players intentionally fouling guys with the intent to hurt that don’t lead to suspensions.  We have players cursing during a game and yelling at officials getting technical fouls that don’t get suspended, but walking to the foul line instead of teammate gets two games?  Seems a bit wild to me.

Because it was reported multiple governing bodies felt a statement needed to be made and I agree with that.  But I think they made the type of statement that is being laughed at as opposed to making a real statement. 

Or maybe this will lead to bigger suspensions when student athletes actually do something wrong and a statement really needs to be made.

Minneota lost to Yellow Medicine East and deserved to fall from one to seven in the Class A rankings for this loss (no they don’t deserve to be pulled from the rankings, that’s ridiculous). With Sussner and Jacob Hennen returning to the line-up the Vikings defeated Adrian 90-44.  The Vikings will continue to contend for a state title and life will move on.