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Prep Talk: Is it ethical to chase individual records in a blowout?

The outcome is all but settled.

There's no way an overmatched opponent is going to make a comeback for the ages simply because if the losing team had that ability to begin with, it likely wouldn't be in that position.

But a member of the winning squad has a chance to attain a milestone during what's otherwise known as garbage time. What is a coach to do?

The choices:

-- Let an athlete make a run at a memory.

-- Deny the opportunity that may or may not present itself again because running up the score is considered unsportsmanlike – regardless of the situation.

It's a tough call.

Medina girls basketball coach Ken Haak opted to let Maddie Williams keep shooting and she now has a memory she won't soon forget.

Williams set a state record for three-pointers in a single game, draining 16 of them during a 54-point effort in an 83-23 rout of host Holley on Jan. 30. It's the second time Medina beat Holley this season with the other contest a 50-14 win on the Mustangs' home court in December.

Williams, whose previous career-best point total in a game was 22, broke the mark of 15 treys set more than nine years ago by Courtney Galecki of the Albany-area Cohoes. The outcome of that game – Cohoes triumphed 91-36.

One record set in a blowout gets broken in another not-so-close game.

Haak doesn't regret the decision, and his reasoning makes sense.

"I didn't want to take away an opportunity she may never have again," said Haak of the sophomore guard's effort that included 11 steals and 10 rebounds. "As a coach and a player, I've been on the other end of running it up. … It was absolutely a tough call. We had the game in hand. I almost didn't make it."

A factor in Haak's decision: Williams is a good, hard-working kid of character, who is even well-liked by the opposition.

Medina sophomore Maddie Williams hit a state-record 16 three-pointers while breaking the school record for points in a single game with 54. (photo from @maddiew1lliams)

One player's Tweet: "I play for Holley & while it's so impressive you hit 16 threes tonight, I just wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed playing with you because of your great sportsmanship and the kindness you displayed during the game. Congratulations!!"

An athlete's behavior more often than not influences a coach's decision in this situation. If the individual has the respect of teammates, a tough choice becomes somewhat easier.

"It's how players act, if they act with character and not as a character," said longtime Williamsville North hockey coach Bob Rosen said. "I don't know if there's a right or wrong answer. You can argue both sides. I've gone both ways with that. … You have to carry yourself and do the right things as opposed to putting yourself above the team in different situations.

"Sometimes I've made a decision that's not popular with the other team."

Communication can alleviate the sting.

Haak said he and his Holley counterpart discussed the situation once Haak was informed by a parent (you have to love the digital age) that Williams – who made eight three-pointers in each half – was closing in on the state record with more than 6 minutes left. Williams broke the mark with her sweet 16th trey in the closing seconds.

"She was about to be pulled," said Haak. "At that point being so close, why not let her go for it? … It's not like we're talking layups here. Three-pointers are hard to make. … She was absolutely on fire.

"The Holley fans made it an easier decision in that they were very supportive. If the atmosphere was different I'm not sure I would've made the same choice. You're in the heat of the moment. You're trying to make the right decision for the team. … Communicating with the coach helped out."

Williams, who admitted she was shaking while draining the record shot, said her individual record was a team accomplishment.

Perhaps that right there is all that's needed to justify Haak's decision.

He's not the only coach who made a tough decision last week in a blowout. Amherst/Sweet Home/Clarence (aka CASH) girls hockey coach Nicola Adimey found herself in a similar situation – albeit in a different sport.

Adimey opted to let star senior Julia Mings, another student-athlete held in high regard by her teammates and the opposition, stay on the ice for an extended shift of more than four minutes late in a 10-4 win. The reason: Adimey wanted to give Mings a chance at netting the 100th goal of her career.

Mings already had four in the game, including two during a wide-open third period in which the teams combined for seven goals. She finished with five goals and two assists.

Adimey said afterward she wasn't sure if five in a game was doable. As a result, she didn't give the Lancaster/Iroquois/Depew coaching staff a head's up.

Oops.

Eventually, LID figured out why Mings was on the ice so long and why the Katz had a bench-clearing celebration after Mings achieved her milestone. Mings became just the second player in the history of the Western New York Girls Varsity Hockey Federation to hit triple-digits in goals.

Ironically, Buffalo State junior Erin Gehen, while playing for West Seneca, netted her 100th career goal against the Katz en route to finishing her scholastic career with 112.

"That's quite the accomplishment," said assistant coach Pete Tonsoline, who is also Iroquois' athletic director and longtime field hockey coach, of Mings' milestone.

It's understandable Adimey made the call she did because each hockey game is different. Yes, CASH had at least two more playoff games on the docket (a Section VI semifinal it lost and an upcoming Federation playoff quarterfinal), but there's no guarantee Mings would have scored the goal in either of those games. For that matter, it wasn't guaranteed she get it against LID even though she had a hot hand. Hat tricks are rare let alone five-goal games.

Still, whatever initial hard feelings LID may have had could have been avoided via communication.

"I think a situation like that you give the other coach a head's up this might happen; I would've said, 'OK go for it,' " said Tonsoline, who in a similar spot in field hockey gave the opposing coach a head's up. "I would've clarified the situation. I was clueless for about 2 or 3 minutes. …. It's just something a coach has to be aware of. Sometimes kids take it to heart.

"It's something that comes with experience."

Even that doesn't guarantee a coach will make a correct or popular call (keep in mind the correct decision isn't always the popular one) in the heat of the moment.

"Sometimes being on the receiving end is easier to do while on the other end, you can be on the wrong end," Tonsoline said. "You're damned if you do and damned if you don't."

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