Southampton’s Season Over After Losing Second Appeal

The Southampton girls basketball team’s season is officially over.

The Mariners were denied a chance to compete after the district lost its second appeal February 11 for playing one too many games this season. The team, which finished 13-8 overall with a 10-6 League VII record and would have been the No. 3 seed in the Class B playoffs, competed in 21 instead of the maximum 20 games. The one extra game was a nonleague contest.

Grace Perello attempts to hold back Southampton senior Caroline Oakley while Madison Taylor tries to help free her in a game earlier this season. Independent/Gordon M. Grant

“Southampton was denied in its appeal,” said Tom Combs, the executive director of Section XI, the governing body of high school sports in Suffolk County. “They exceeded the maximum number of contests and were deemed ineligible for postseason play.”

The district, which first appealed the decision February 5, has the right to appeal the decision to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, but Athletic Director Darren Phillips said that won’t happen. Section XI has already released the brackets for the playoffs, scheduled to begin February 13.

“I think it would fall on deaf ears,” Phillips said. “I don’t think they’d go against their own rule. But it’s not even about the rule, it’s about the penalty.”

He doesn’t see how the punishment fits the crime, and he’s hoping this appeal will open the eyes of athletic directors and section representatives across the state that something needs to change.

“To penalize the kids is unfair,” Phillips said previously. “I understand they want everyone to play the same number of games, but even with a violation like this it doesn’t impact playoffs — the team’s win-loss record in the league remains the same. It was an honest mistake.”

“They don’t understand why they have to be punished … for a mistake that coach made,” Wingfield added. “The girls are broken.”

Senior Caraline Oakley’s parents wrote a letter to the New York Public High School Athletic Association expressing disappointment over the rule. Oakley was on last year’s team that missed the playoffs by one win. She, and her fellow classmates like Ishanti Gumbs, are shocked to have their last opportunity to play high school basketball taken away from them.

“It’s not fair at all,” Gumbs said. “Not only do we not know every rule there is to make sure that doesn’t happen, but we don’t make the schedules. And being one single game over the limit was the worst part, because it’s something so small but so big. We tried to forfeit a game so that we could try and work with the section, and it still didn’t work. All of our hard work just went down the drain.”

The Mariners couldn’t forfeit a game because by the time they were notified by Section XI about the issue the girls only had league games left to play.

“I’m just shocked that adults in education … would rather see kids penalized than the coach or school district,” Phillips said. “It just blows my mind.”

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