Peter Webb of Stetson has been the State Basketball Commissioner in Maine for the past 21 years. The commission oversees the five officiating boards in the state and is responsible for assigning officials for tournament play. Webb, who officiating high school and college games for 30 years, took time out recently for a few questions.
Q: How has officiating changed since you began?
A: "To a great extent it hasn’t changed. Statewide. The big change is an increase in ongoing communication throughout the state, on the administrative and training side. Results statewide are a more consistent application of the rules. Years ago, the biggest difference is the offense was favored, which is not the case today. Today every situation matters the same to both teams."
Q: Assess the state of high school officiating today.
A: "We believe high school officiating in Maine is in very good order. Schoolboy and schoolgirl basketball remains a major focal point from November to early March way beyond many other states. With the scrutiny there is out there, it speaks well of the time and effort that is put into basketball officiating in Maine."
Q: Are there enough officials?
A: "Yes, not an overabundance but an ample supply. Annually each of the five boards of officials sponsor an extensive course each fall for prospective officials. It’s followed up by a written exam and a floor test."
Q: How is the training?
A: "Maine has a near 70 year relationship with IAABO, the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials. Videotapes and DVDs are used in addition to observations. Maine has always paid attention to training."
Q: Three man vs. two man — how much better with three?
A: "There’s no question it’s better with three. I observe about 150 or 160 games a year. And I do observe beyond Maine in another role I’m in. Eighty percent of the games I see need the service of a crew of three. The game changed from an officiating point of view drastically with the three-point arc. It requires a substantially different responsibility for the trail official. The other thing is there was a day when most of the defensive pressure didn’t come about until two or three minutes left in the game. Today, typically with boys and girls there’s pressure all game long. We’ve had crews of three completely in our tournaments for at least a dozen years. About 30 percent of the regular season games are crews of three. It isn’t a great difference in cost."
Q: Are there any points of emphasis this year?
A: "There are five points of emphasis this year, arrived at by the national federation for state high schools. The points of emphasis for this year, both for the NCAA level and high school, include rules enforcement. Really it means don’t bring your personal version of the rules to the game. The second point of emphasis is on sportsmanlike behavior of players and coaches. The third point is pretty much contact, especially on the perimeter. Officials have been encouraged to give that a lot of attention. The fourth point is closely guarded situations. The rule is six feet between the offensive and defensive player. The fifth one is referred to as the principle of verticality. Just because the defender is airborne, it doesn’t make him wrong or the offensive player wrong. But they must be vertical. It also applies in rebound play, too."
Q: What’s most difficult call or rule to enforce?
A: "The most difficult rule to enforce is traveling, no question. You have to watch the defender and a third person coming to set a screen while also watching the person with the ball. That’s what makes traveling difficult. A block-charge is probably the easiest rule for a well trained official."
Q: Have fans or coaches changed in their approach to officials?
A: "Overall I don’t think it’s changed. I think schools have changed their approach to how they regulate them."
Q: How are officials chosen for the tournament?
A: "There’s a long-time system in place. They have to have officiated a minimum of 50 regular-season Heal point games overall and 15 in that season to be eligible to be considered. They must also be fit and injury free. The commissioner has to have seen them officiate. Forms are sent to schools and coaches say who they would recommend. We usually have just about 100 for the three tournament sites. Coach recommendations and regional board recommendations are given consideration. I finalize it.
Q: What makes a good official?
A: "The quality official is someone who probably has a basketball background. From that point on, you truly have to have a passion for officiating. It’s obvious you have to have a mastery for the rules and the mechanics. You also have to be high on the composure side. It’s a rare official who gets to the varsity level in Maine prior to
five years. Without the commitment and passion you’re not going to make it. Basketball is played in a big living room compared to other sports and the emotions are high. The people around the court, it’s kind of like Sunday school, you have to forgive them when they complain. The good official gets every bit as much of an adrenaline flow as a ballplayer when he’s doing things well."
BOYS BASKETBALL TOP 10
1. Cheverus (7-0) The defending Class A state champions continued to roll through Western Maine with a 51-35 win against a good Thornton club in Saco.
2. Camden Hills (9-0) Keegan Pieri, a 6-foot-6 guard, returned after a month-long suspension to help the Wndjammers win 74-48 at previously unbeaten Winslow.
3. Bangor (8-1) After an opening loss, the Rams have reeled off eight straight, including Tuesday’s 49-35 win at Mt. Blue.
4. Hamden (7-2) The Broncos lost a 57-55 squeaker at Mt. Blue then bounced back with a 66-45 win against Messalonskee.
5. Edward Little (8-1) The two-time defending Eastern Maine champs downed Mt. Ararat 63-42 then nipped Brunswick 64-63.
6. Mt. Blue (7-2) The Cougars knocked off Hampden at home 57-55 but faltered a couple of nights later in losing to Bangor, 49-35.
7. Mountain Valley (9-0) The Falcons are going for their second straight unbeaten regular season. They recently faced their toughest test to date in a 52-45 win over Dirigo.
8. Thornton (5-2) After a 5-0 start the Trojans lost 50-48 to Deering then were beaten at home by Cheverus, 51-35.
9. Cape Elizabeth (6-1) After a loss to Yarmouth, the Capers bounced back with wins against Greely and Gray-New Gloucester.
10. Ellsworth (8-0) The Eagles remained unbeaten but face their toughest test of the season this week against unbeaten Mount Desert Island.
Junior point guard D.J. Johnson of Islesboro scored his 1,000th point recently against Calvary Chapel.
Senior forward Maggie Sabine of Oak Hill topped the 1,000-career point mark with a 21-point performance against Rockland.
GIRLS' BASKETBALL TOP 10
1. McAuley (7-0) The Lions, who routed Scarborough and topped Bonny Eagle, 48-33, await a couple of late-season tests against in-town rival Deering.
2. Cheverus (7-1) The Stags’ only blemish is a three-point loss to McAuley. They’re coming off a 34-point win against Thornton.
3. Deering (7-0) The Rams had surprisingly close wins against Biddeford (48-37) and Thornton (53-46).
4. Morse (10-0) The Shipbuilders remained unbeaten with a big 59-47 victory against previously unbeaten Edward Little.
5. York (10-0) The defending Class B champions downed Greely 48-22 and have yet to be challenged.
6. Leavitt (10-0) The Hornets kept pace with York in Class B West with a 66-61 statement win against Nokomis.
7. Gorham (6-1) The Rams, whose only loss is to unbeaten Deering, cruised to a big victory against Kennebunk this week.
8. Windham (7-2) The Eagles’ only losses tis seaosn are to McAuley and Cheverus. Next up is a key test against Gorham.
9. Edward Little (8-1) After losing to Morse in a battle of unbeatens, the Red Eddies bounced back with wins against Brunswick and Mt. Ararat.
10. Hampden (8-1) After losing a showdown against Edward Little, the Broncos rebounded with wins over Mt. Blue and Messalonskee.
BOYS' HOCKEY TOP 10
2. St. Dominic
9. Edward Little
WRESTLING TOP 10
2. Camden Hills
5. Mountain Valley
8. Mt. Blue