In a game in which there were 54 fouls and 58 free-throw attempts, the turning point in Chatsworth High's 53-50 victory Friday over Birmingham came, oddly enough, on two free throws for a foul that never occurred.
After a timeout by Chatsworth with 2:48 to play and Birmingham leading, 45-41, in the Northwest Valley League opener, players from both teams began lining up under the Chatsworth basket as if the Chancellors were about to attempt a free throw. Larry Tepper stepped to the line, an official handed him the ball, and the Chatsworth forward calmly sank two free throws to pull the Chancellors within two points.
The only problem was, no foul had been called before the timeout.
"It looked like they were going to shoot free throws, so I stepped up and hit 'em both," Tepper said. "I couldn't believe it. Those referees were clueless."
Chatsworth Coach Gary Shair knew what was happening but remained silent.
"I didn't encourage it, but I wasn't going to say anything," Shair said. "I'll take it."
Birmingham Coach Elliot Turret was unaware what had taken place until after the game. Chatsworth (7-4), buoyed by Tepper's ploy, outscored Birmingham, 14-5, in the final four minutes.
"I'm not surprised," Turret said when informed of the error. "We deserved to win, but the referees took it away from us."
Birmingham (4-6) committed 33 fouls compared to 21 for Chatsworth, and five Braves players fouled out compared to one for the Chancellors.
Chatsworth made all three of its field-goal attempts in the fourth period and sank 11 of 17 free throws. The Chancellors took the lead for good, 49-47, on a layup by Stuart Thompson 45 seconds later.