You play to win the game.
The players on the girls basketball teams from Riverdale and Smyrna high schools in Tennessee are probably too young to remember that famous 2002 quote from former New York Jets coach Herm Edwards. And apparently their coaches weren't about to remind them of that philosophy during their District 7-AAA playoff game on Saturday.
As a result, both teams have been banned from the rest of the postseason tournament after a referee determined that they "played to lose the game,"according to the Daily News Journal.
It probably wasn't too difficult to come to that conclusion, judging from some of the examples given in the referee's report:
-- Riverdale "missed 12-16 free throws intentionally;"
-- Smyrna "wouldn't get the ball across the half-court line to get a 10-second count or to make us call an over and back violation intentionally;"
-- "One time a Riverdale girl looked at one of the officials and gave the official a 3-second signal wanting him to call three seconds on her. Smyrna stood in the lane as well to have us call three seconds on them."
The referee wrote that the last straw was when "a Smyrna player was about to attempt a shot at the wrong basket (but there was a 10-second violation call before they attempted the shot) on purpose.
"That was when I called both coaches together and told them we are not going to make a travesty or mockery of the game. WE ARE NOT GOING TO START TRYING TO SHOOT AND SCORE FOR THE OTHER TEAM."
Apparently both teams were trying to avoid having to play Blackman High for as long as possible in the playoffs, because the losing team would have ended up on the other side of the bracket from the national powerhouse.
According to the Daily News Journal, both coaches -- Cory Barrett of Riverdale and Shawn Middleton of Smyrna -- had their starters on the bench at various points during the tight game. Smyrna principal Rick Powell said a school administrator approached Middleton with about four minutes left in the game and his team up, 30-25.
"We were told the [administrator] went up to him and said, 'What are you doing," said Childress, who did not attend the game. "They told them, 'You need to play to win the ball game and stop this.' That's when he put his starters back in."
Smyrna went on to win the game, 55-29.
Both schools have been placed on restrictive probation for the rest of the school year and probation for the next school year, as well as being fined $1,500 each.
Riverdale has suspended Barrett for the first two games of next season. Smyrna is still deciding whether to place additional punishment on Middleton.
"The bottom line is as a coach you make decisions in the heat of the game," Middleton said. "No way would I do it again."
Attempts to reach Barrett by the Daily News Journal were unsuccessful.