Prep Basketball Team Ineligible for Playing Extra Game

Brock Fritz Headshot

A prep basketball team in New York has been ruled ineligible for the playoffs after playing one too many games in the regular season.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association allows teams to play 20 regular-season games, including 16 league games. The Southampton girls basketball team played 21, scheduling five non-conference games due to an oversight in the process, according to Newsday.

“It was just a human error, just something that got overlooked somehow,” Southampton athletic director Darren Phillips said, noting that the school is appealing the decision to Suffolk County’s Athletic Council. “The infraction really doesn’t impact anything. It doesn’t impact the playoffs or standings. It’s not like we had an ineligible player. To me, it’s an easy fix or correction by not penalizing the kids.”

Phillips said he learned of the issue in late January, but with only three conference games remaining, the Mariners had no choice but to play them.

“I would have done something about that at the beginning if I knew,” Southampton coach Richard Wingfield said, stating that the players are struggling with the decision. “They’re broken. They’re children. They don’t understand why they have to be so punished for such a rigorous discipline policy for a mistake that coach made. Then they’re sorry for coach because they know that coach wouldn’t do anything wrong like that.”

Southampton’s 10-6 league record was enough to qualify for the Class B playoffs – the third largest division in the NYSPHSAA. The tournament was seeded Friday, according to Tom Combs, the executive director of Section XI, the board that governs high school sports in Suffolk County.

“We did it with Southampton in the tournament and with them out,” Combs said of the postseason, which starts Thursday.

Southampton’s extra games likely took place in December, as the Mariners played Rocky Point on Dec. 3 and Amityville on Dec. 14.

Rocky Point didn’t have a coach until just prior to the season, when it hired Reagan Lynch, who once played AAU basketball for Wingfield. Lynch was rushing to finish Rocky Point’s schedule, so Wingfield offered him a game, according to 27East.

Amityville held a game to honor longtime coach Claude Byer, who was a mentor to Wingfield.

“My heart was in doing the right thing, the same way I’ve done for 30 years,” Wingfield said.

According to 27East, Southampton’s first appeal was denied, but Phillips planned to file another appeal.

“There was no malicious intent or anything,” he said. “I know it’s very hard for the players and parents to be told about this penalty. I think that it’s unfair and we’re going to make our case.

“At the end of the day, it’s just a bad rule. I don’t think most coaches are going to try and sneak an extra game, and our feeling is that the players should not be punished because of our mistake, and that’s really what this penalty is doing. The players didn’t do anything wrong, so why should they be punished? I think they need to look at it.”

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