Okawville and Carrollton high schools met in the Lebanon 1A Sectional of the Illinois State girls basketball playoffs on Valentine's Day. By all accounts, Cupid was not in attendance at this game. Instead, there was a heartbreaking display of unnecessary physical play and poor sportsmanship.
Granted, playoff games tend to be more physical than those in the regular season. The teams are better defensively and baskets are harder to come by. The Okawville - Carrollton match-up seemed to go overboard, though.
A local newspaper described the physicality as resembling a "MMA or WWE match." One can't help but wonder if that quote was made in reference to the body slam Okawville senior Megan Wienstroer suffered near the end of the game.
Okawville had a tough time scoring from the field in the fourth quarter, but the team continued to put the ball in Wienstroer's hands. She drew consistent contact from Carrollton and made all 15 of her free throws in the game - including four in the final 17 seconds to give her squad the win.
Frustration finally set in for Carrollton during the game's last play. One of its players grabbed Wienstroer from behind and slammed her to the floor. As the final buzzer sounded, Carrollton players could be seen yelling at the disapproving crowd. Coaches rushed the Carrollton players off the court before the situation escalated any further. Video of the incident can be viewed by clicking here.
The young ladies at Carrollton are probably outstanding student-athletes. In every other aspect of their lives, people around them would more than likely shower them with praise academically and athletically. On the other hand, situations like this are where coaches and officials have to take control.
Wienstroer could have been seriously hurt and there would have been no excuse for it. A momentary lapse in judgment can have long-lasting effects. Regardless if this was the state playoffs or not, safety should always be in the forefront of any athletic contest.
Losing is a part of sports, but no one should take on a loser's mentality. Our kids need to learn that reputations far outlive box scores and who you are means a lot more than how you play. Carrollton has imposed undisclosed disciplinary actions on the players involved, but the damage was done.
Coaches say that the difference between winning and losing often comes down to a play or two here or there. Similarly, being labeled a winner or a loser often comes down to the choices we make. Shaking hands with your opponent after a tough loss can make you look like a winner. However, body slamming the other team's best player at the end of the game can make you look like a...