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    Tuesday, February 20, 2024

    Why must NL girls and boys play for their seasons on the same night?

    Sports fans of Connecticut, often a wishbone between the leanings of Boston and New York, get to call one thing their own: college basketball. And no other program in the country has more championships among the men and women than UConn, perhaps deepening our sensitivity to the combined success of the genders — and making it a point of pride.

    It’s why UConn athletic officials since the arrivals of Jim and Geno have worked diligently to schedule men’s and women’s games at different times and different days, allowing the fans to watch both without conflict. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable. But mostly, each team has its own stage.

    The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference had a chance earlier this week to ensure the fans, players, parents, students, staff, faculty and administrators of New London High had the same consideration. The boys’ and girls’ basketball teams are still around in the state tournament, but have the unfortunate happenstance of playing their next round of games Friday night.

    The girls play their Class MM state semifinal at 5:30 p.m. in Guilford (neutral site) before the boys play Fitch in the Division II quarterfinals at 7 at Conway Gym.

    Google Maps shows a 38-minute drive between the campuses, meaning that if the girls’ game was played in (the average) 90 minutes or so, the earliest the girls and the fans could get back home would be at 7:38, or into the second half of the boys game. This presupposes they’d have a place to park and the boys’ game isn’t sold out, which it could be with a game against a neighboring rival.

    The girls won their quarterfinal Monday night (March 6). The state championships at Mohegan Sun don’t begin until March 18. New London’s semifinal game could have been played, realistically, any day from March 8-16.

    CIAC officials have chosen to keep the game Friday as scheduled, thus forcing New London loyalists to make a choice.

    I reached out to all the dramatis personae.

    “I will confirm that I spoke with the CIAC about the potential conflict Tuesday morning and was told later that afternoon that my request was denied,” New London athletic director Phil Orbe wrote in an email. “My question to them was why the girls have to wait seven or eight days to play a final. If you move it to Saturday or Monday or even Tuesday, the coaches would prefer it.”

    I emailed the following to CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini:

    “Hi Glenn — New London HS has a conflict (Friday) night with boys’ and girls’ tournament games at the same time. Phil Orbe, the athletic director, tells me he made CIAC aware of the potential conflict earlier this week and asked one of the days/dates get switched. He says his request was denied.

    “Given that the finals aren’t for more than a week, why couldn’t one of the games get moved so fans and kids could see both?”

    This was Lungarini’s reply: “(Friday’s) New London tournament games are at different times. The girls’ game was moved to a 5:30 PM start. The boys’ game is a home game for New London against Fitch, a fellow ECC school. If New London would like more time between games, the boys game could be moved to a 7:30 PM start time with mutual agreement by both New London and Fitch.”

    While I appreciate Lungarini’s willingness to reply, his reply was no answer at all.

    I’m still confused as to why Orbe’s request was denied and why New Londoners must make a choice Friday night. Make no mistake: This is a choice when it’s a 38-minute drive between games on a Friday night and the vagaries of traffic on I-95.

    Again, I understand that CIAC hears such requests frequently. Not every school’s needs can be met. But with a lengthy window, how would anyone here be inconvenienced or placed at a competitive disadvantage by moving the game by a day?

    Half the fun of watching New London games this year has been to watch the players root for each other. The girls always sit in the bottom row of the bleachers opposite the boys’ bench and are often more entertaining than the games. They are full-on participants, cheering on their friends. Heck, when Kaleb McCalla and Ryan Keefe came off the bench to hit late 3-pointers the other night in the second round, Nalyce Dudley, perhaps the best basketball player in the school, nearly danced her way onto the court in celebration.

    Now she won’t have that opportunity — and the boys won’t either — in both teams’ biggest games of the season.

    I’m not sure if CIAC officials understand how obtuse they look. There is no logical reason why the girls’ game couldn’t have been moved with the flexibility of a week-long window.

    Also: If you are going to either game tonight, no cash will be accepted at the door. Patrons must pay online through GoFan.co (note: not GoFan.com, but GoFan.co) either before the game or by scanning the bar code at the door. If you choose the latter, you may be in line for a while.

    Either way, thanks to CIAC, you must choose something. Girls or boys. You really won’t be able to watch both live.

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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