Trailing 71-61 with more than six minutes remaining in the national semifinals of the MAYB Championships, the Midwest Flight team featuring five-star prospect Bol Bol walked off the court at Goddard High School in protest of the referees, and forfeited the game to Central Kansas Elite.
The walk-off happened after an official whistled a Midwest Flight player for his second technical, then assessed Flight coach Monte Harrison with a technical – the team’s sixth of the game. Before Central Kansas Elite could shoot its technical free throws, Midwest Flight’s players removed their jerseys, shook opponents’ hands and exited the court. Each team had seven fouls in the second half before the game’s conclusion.
Harrison said after the game that the officiating was a problem the entire weekend during the tournament.
“We feel like it’s downright disrespectful the way the refs were treating us this week,” Harrison said. “Who calls (six) technical fouls? That’s crazy to be giving out that many technicals to kids. And then one of the refs told one of our guys to ‘Shut the hell up and play.’ Who does that?”
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Harrison said because of his team’s high profile, particularly Bol, his team was officiated differently.
“This whole weekend we had referees coming up asking about (Bol) and it’s like they’re more worried about who he is then being professional and reffing the game,” Harrison said. “I know it’s exciting to see those type of players and we have some of the top kids in the country. But we didn’t bring our team down here just to be disrespected like that. We had the same thing happen to us last year.”
Central Kansas Elite coach Clint Kinnamon, who has won four state championships as coach of St. John, was stunned at the abrupt ending to the game.
“I have coached a lot of games and never have I ever seen anything like that before,” Kinnamon said. “Honestly, the amount of disrespect their kids and coach showed towards the officials was just wrong on so many levels.”
Harrison stressed that Midwest Flight didn’t leave the court out of disrespect for its opponent, rather it was a culmination of the frustration they experienced during the tournament.
“I wasn’t pulling them off because we were losing,” Harrison said. “The other team played a hell of a game, but there were still six minutes left. We had plenty of time. I don’t teach my kids to be disrespectful. We don’t do things like that in our program. But when you give respect and don’t receive it in return, that’s not what we’re about.”
Midwest Flight features some of the top players in the country with Bol, who is 7-foot-2 and holds offers from Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA and Arizona, being the main attraction, and the team drew standing-room only crowds at Wichita Hoops on Friday and Saturday. After games, Bol could often be seen shaking hands, taking pictures, and signing autographs for fans.
“We came down here to have fun and compete,” Harrison said. “This is the last summer together for these guys and then this happened.”
Central Kansas Elite coach Clint Kinnamon said his team felt a little slighted when Midwest Flight exited.
“It’s not like they were getting beat by guys who aren’t very good,” Kinnamon added. “All of our guys are going to be college players. In some ways, it was kind of disrespectful to our kids a little bit because it was like, ‘Well, we’re getting beat by guys we shouldn’t lose to, so we’re going to take our ball and go home.’ ”
Central Kansas Elite, which is comprised mostly of Wichita-area players, is the defending tournament champion and advanced to the championship game with the victory.