Local teams upset with treatment at Morehouse

Most of the coaches at last Saturday's Class AAAAA Elite Eight basketball games at Morehouse College had to deal with clock and scoreboard issues.

Three of the four games had multiple delays to correct one of those two errors, and the day's first game had it the worst. The South Gwinnett and Campbell girls matchup had no fewer than a half dozen stoppages so the referees could fix mistakes at the scorers' table - either wrong score, wrong foul total or wrong time.

On two occasions, Campbell girls coach Randy McClure had to show the official timekeeper how to fix the scoreboard. The stoppages and re-starts clearly affected the flow of the game.

"The person who normally runs the Morehouse clock wasn't around that weekend, so we had to train someone new on their scoreboard," Georgia High School Association executive director Ralph Swearngin said. "When we go to arenas with sophisticated scoreboards, like the Georgia Dome or Georgia Tech, we prefer to have their scoreboard operator. Unfortunately that wasn't an option this time."

The scoreboard issues weren't the only ones encountered by the teams and fans at Morehouse. Some others included:

•Unlocked locker rooms were a problem, particularly for the Norcross boys team. It had a necklace, cash and an I-Pod stolen.

•The South Cobb boys team got dressed in the small, public men's restroom, the only one in the upstairs entrance area for the public. An official moved the team to a locker room, but the team was nearly dressed by that point.

•Other teams had to leave their dressing rooms at halftime and bring their bags out behind the bench.

•After the Collins Hill and Mill Creek girls completed warm-ups and were ready to play, they were told to warm up 10 more minutes because the large crowds leaving the South Cobb-Wheeler boys game created a logjam of people trying to get in for the next game.

•Traffic driving into the arena area was rough and finding parking was even worse. The South girls had trouble getting near the arena, and they nearly had to walk almost two blocks in the rain.

•The concession staff worked hard to fill orders, but the small area wasn't adequate for such a big state tournament atmosphere. Some South players missed three quarters of the next game while waiting in one of two enormous lines for food.

Swearngin had heard some of the issues from the weekend, and apologized for any problems. Morehouse was a late substitute for the Elite Eight round when plans for larger venues like Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State

didn't pan out.

"We're very appreciative of the folks at Morehouse that they came through to host," Swearngin said. "We tried for several months and looked at several places, but nothing worked out. And obviously if Morehouse was not big enough for us, no high school gym was big enough for us.

"But we're appreciative of Morehouse and we're sorry some things didn't work out."

Sitting in the South section, Comet boys coach Roger Fleetwood witnessed many of the problems at Morehouse. He said they stem from how the GHSA treats the state basketball tournament, nothing like what he was used to in the past in Indiana.

He's seen more grievous scoring errors than anything that happened on Saturday, because the mistakes against the South boys in the 2003 playoffs weren't corrected. In a one-point loss to Redan, the victors were improperly awarded two points, each on an extra free throw at two different points in the game.

As far as the locker room issues, Fleetwood recalls talking to his team in hallways at Georgia Tech. Prior to his game with North Gwinnett two years ago, the South coach and his team were led to the floor right through the middle of North coach Len Garner's pregame speech.

"Not only was (the state tournament) a mess on Saturday (at Morehouse), it's a mess every year," said Fleetwood, who recently resigned from his South position to return to Indiana. "The GHSA needs to emphasize getting the right kind of places and the right kind of people to run the state tournament. In Georgia, you have first-class basketball and second-class tournaments.

"The GHSA truly needs to go out to some other state tournaments and find out how things should be done."