By Phil Anastasia
One last thing about the NJSIAA's disappointing policy of playing sectional finals in boys' and girls' basketball at the site of the higher seed instead of a large, neutral site:
One of the best things about this time of the year is not just the action on the court but the scene in the stands -- hundreds of kids in the same-colored T-shirts, hopping around, chanting, having a great time.
A time they'll remember the rest of their lives.
But when games are played at little gyms such as Medford Tech -- which hosted Sterling and won the SJ 2 title by an 87-69 score Monday night -- and Paulsboro -- which will host Pitman in the SJ 1 Group 1 final Tuesday night -- that puts a serious crimp in the size of the visiting student section.
In other words, this NJSIAA policy is denying students from a great experience directly related to their support of high school sports.
That's as backwards as backwards can be.
Sterling had about 50-75 students at Med Tech. They did the best they could to stir up some spirit -- not easy given their small number and the Silver Knights' slow start (credit the Jaguars for that).
But given the excitement surrounding Sterling's surprising run to the sectional final, I'll bet the school could have represented with a 300-plus student section if tickets were available.
Same goes for Pitman students tonight. The Panthers likely will have around 100 students at the game, give or take a few.
There easily were double that many at Pitman's home victory over Penns Grove on Saturday, all in white, having a blast.
They can only hope the Panthers upset the Red Raiders and they get a chance to all show up at the state semifinals on Thursday -- and then maybe the state finals on Sunday at Rutgers.
But if form holds, and Paulsboro wins, then literally hundreds of Pitman students will have been denied their last chance (this season) to support their school, to pile in a bus with their friends, to have one of the best experiences in high school sports.
Once again, to be clear: All the blame doesn't go to NJSIAA officials. The organization probably would prefer neutral sites for these games.
But the NJSIAA can't get enough schools to volunteer to host the sites. Security concerns, administrative headaches, logistical complications, liability worries -- all that stuff seems to combine to convince many ADs and principals and superintentendents that they are better off without the hassle of hosting one of these games.
Yeah, that's the world in which we live.
It's too bad that there are adults who can't get into these games.
It's much worse that there are students who are being denied the opportunity to be there as well.
This situation doesn't affect the larger schools nearly as much. There was plenty of room at AC Monday night for Lenape students and there will be space at Camden Tuesday night for Timber Creek students.
Same goes for Paul VI students and Gloucester Catholic students who will make the trip to Jackson Liberty on Tuesday to watch their boys' and girls' teams, respectviely, in the South A finals.
But there were a lot of people shut out of Medford Tech on Monday night.
There will be a lot of people shut out of Pitman Tuesday night.
And a lot of those on the outside looking in will be students.
Does it even have to be said that NJSIAA should never have a policy that punishes them?
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @PhilAnastasia