Graduating seniors from the varsity boys basketball team will be leaving the hallowed halls of Riverbank High School with a hint of disappointment in their hearts – for a third consecutive year, they have been denied a place in league, and thus section, championship playoffs.
The dust has settled, playoff games have come and gone, and basketball courts in the Trans-Valley League converted to use by volleyball nets. And some players now work out on the volleyball, baseball or track and field teams.
RHS varsity basketball coach Jeff Jennings has communicated his appreciation for his players and their friends, families and fans by taking to social media and releasing this statement:
“I truly believe that it is through challenging or difficult times that our true character is revealed and that is why I am so very proud of our young men. As a team, we decided to focus on all the positive things that occurred this year and there were many.
“It would be very easy for us to remain frustrated and angry about being left out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, earning a second place finish in our league and going 8-4, but our season and our time together was so much more.
“We also realized that we have an abundant amount of love and support.”
Jennings went on to add that both Athletic Director John Bartlett and RHS Principal Dr. Sean Richey “went to bat” for the Bruin hoopsters at the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Office.
“Our parents and fans were awesome in their support and for demanding justice for our guys. I also heard from a lot of fellow coaches who wanted us to know that they support and believe our guys earned the right to compete,” Jennings wrote. “Thank you to all of you who supported our RBK Basketball Family and a huge thank you to the 14 young men who chose to handle this situation with great character and maturity. I was honored to be your coach!”
Friends, parents and Bruin Boosters reiterated their support in comments to the coach’s posting, online.
The culprit over the years, it seems, is the way the California Interscholastic Federation handles it tie-breaking plan.
In this particular case, with Riverbank coming in with a three-way league tie this year, the CIF looked at each team’s overall won-loss record, and eliminated the Bruins because of a higher pre-season loss tally.
The problem is, some coaches, Jennings included, are prone to arrange for pre-season games to be against larger, higher ranked teams than those in their own league. The idea being that tougher early competition creates a tougher team going into the regular season.
So teams that have harder pre-game schedules, and likely more pre-season losses, end up getting penalized by their Win-Loss record, even though they tied with other teams in their league.
Since the CIF ruling, and the appeals, Jennings has said, officials indicate there may be a decision made to create a new method for breaking ties.
Bruin fans – and players – are hoping it’s so.