Pondering a disturbing Harford County girls basketball score [Commentary]

Working as a journalist makes one very suspicious, even paranoid.

I live with a fairly constant fear that one of my contacts is going to send me some erroneous information. For instance, maybe a box score in which the teams have been switched around, so that I report the wrong side as having won the game (that's happened a few times), or that someone is going to hit the four button by mistake, and I make a big deal out of a player scoring 42 points, when it was really only 32 (that's happened as well). I've had enough of these mishaps, and made enough mistakes on my own, that when I see something truly out-of-the-ordinary in a game recap, my initial thought is that someone messed up, not that something strange happened.

My mind was in a similar place Tuesday night, when a recap of the Patterson Mill vs. Elkton girls basketball game was forwarded to me from the mailbox of Aegis Sports Editor Randy McRoberts, who normally covers that sport, but is on vacation. The email, sent from Huskies' Head Coach Holly Ismail, read, "Patterson Mill, 73, Elkton, 2." Now, I've seen some pretty big blowouts during my six seasons covering basketball, some in the range of 50 points (I seem to remember the Edgewood boys team beating some poor opponent by 55 a few years ago), but 73-2? That just did not register correctly in my mind. How can a team only score one field goal the entire game? As far as I was concerned, someone forgot to double tap "2" on their keyboard, and the score was really, 73-22, or maybe, 73-12, which still would have made me suspicious, but not nearly so much as a team coming up with two points in an entire game.

Wanting to double check before I posted a girls basketball story on the Internet, I emailed coach Ismail, who within a few minutes confirmed that her Huskies really had defeated the Elkton team, 73-2. I was dumbfounded, which doesn't happen much anymore. That is, without a doubt, the worst drubbing I've heard of during my time at The Aegis. After I wrote the basketball story and was sitting around, ruminating, I started to get a little agitated thinking about that game. Good teams playing bad teams and the resulting final scores are a product of mismatches in sports, I'm well aware of that, but a 73-2 result is something else. That isn't a mismatch. It's a mockery, and I think someone ought to do something about it.

There are a few points that make the story worse, the first of which is that Elkton, which went 1-11 in Chesapeake (upper) Division games last year, but managed to avoid relegation to the Susquehanna because Fallston had an equally bad record, is still playing in the upper division. Tuesday's game was not some early-season tune up for Patterson Mill. It was a Chesapeake Division contest. I wouldn't be particularly thrilled seeing a Chesapeake team beat up on a Susquehanna team that badly, but in a game that counts toward the standings in what is supposed to be the better of the two divisions, a 71-point spread is just not right. What that means, essentially, is that the rest of the Chesapeake has two guaranteed wins on their division schedule. I don't like the thought of that one bit because it messes up the competitive balance. The other Chesapeake teams will be able to sit their starters, if need be, and players who are lucky enough to be healing injuries while their team has a game against Elkton will get to do so without there being any repercussions. I think that if you're playing in the upper division, and you don't want to get knocked out of it, you should expect a challenge every single time you play a Chesapeake team, but that is not what's going to happen this season.

I'm not going to name anyone in particular, but I know there are some players in Harford County who are being scouted by colleges. What does those players' coaches do when they're going to play Elkton? Do they bench the star so they don't suffer some freak injury in what amounts to a scrimmage? What if scouts are going to be at the game? Do you send that player out there to thump on poor Elkton? I'm coming up with a lot of questions, and not many answers, though I think the answer is simple: Elkton, and I mean no disrespect to the Golden Elks, should not be playing in the Chesapeake Division. It's that simple.

After confirming the final score of Tuesday's game, Coach Ismail, and I'm going to paraphrase her here, said that, though she respects Elkton's coach and players, the results could have been more lopsided. I ask, how much more? Could a team like Aberdeen, which topped Patterson Mill by 19 points last week, beat Elkton 100-0? I don't think anyone would take it that far, but really, when a 100-0 result becomes a possibility, we aren't talking about athletics anymore. We're talking about a mockery of the game, and nobody, Elkton least of all, deserves to be of the wrong end of that.

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