County Upper Under-19s may have suffered a one-point heartbreak in the semi-finals of the ABL play-offs, but they could still make the final, according to Darren Johnson.
The basketball academy coach has said he has put in a ‘protest’ to Basketball England about the referee provided by opponents Stoke Trent College, suspecting they were not qualified to the necessary standard to officiate the match.
County Upper U19s fell to a 65-64 defeat in Stoke on Wednesday, a result that Johnson said could have been affected by the referee.
He said: “If it had been a blowout then so be it, we would have lost and a referee couldn’t have had an impact, but one point — that’s could be just one bad call that’s made the difference.
“I contacted the Basketball federation before the game with my concerns, but I didn’t hear anoything back so on the day I had to call again as I was still concerned.
“They told me to go ahead with the fixture and complain afterwards, and that’s what I’ve done.
“He did make a few dubious calls, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t a Level Two referee.”
Johnson said the players were ‘beyond gutted’ on Thursday morning, feeling they blew a chance to make the final for the first time in the school’s history as they led by a point until the final 10 seconds.
It is also the first loss the U19s have experienced all season, making the semi-final defeat an even more bitter pill to swallow.
But, as Johnson pointed out, their opponents have also not lost at home all season and have enjoyed inflicting heavy losses.
It is an extra source of pride that the team came so close to being the first to overcome this Stoke Trent team at home.
He added: “It’s a heartbreaking moment for them, there’s nothing like the feeling of losing such a close game. They’re beyond gutted.
“We had to do it on their turf which is much harder, and we almost got there.
“To get as far as we have has taken a lot of hard work and dedication, they’ve given it their all this season.
“They made mistakes on the day but that’s sport.
“It’s very rare you don’t make some kind of error, but you only focus on it if you lose — everyone misses a free throw somewhere.
“They made the last four in the country, as a team, they lost as a team and they made themselves proud, as a team.
“No one let the side down, they all did they’re best and it wasn’t meant to be this year.
“I will be speaking to them this weekend about what they have achieved, because it is something to be very happy about — but I’m also giving them a bit of time to just feel sad about it right now.
“But I think it’s very important that none of them feel like they played worse than any other, it really was a team effort.”
Bradley Day was the side’s top scorer with 17 points, supported by John Bourne and Stefan Petkovic with 14 points and 13 points.