‘Against the spirit’: Irish basketball team refuses order to replay 0.3sec of game

<span>With Portlaoise refusing to play, Limerick Sport Eagles will play Tolka Rovers in the Division 1 playoff semi-finals.</span><span>Photograph: D Hurst/Alamy</span>
With Portlaoise refusing to play, Limerick Sport Eagles will play Tolka Rovers in the Division 1 playoff semi-finals.Photograph: D Hurst/Alamy

An Irish basketball team have refused an order to participate in the surreal spectacle of the last 0.3 seconds of a playoff match being replayed, stating that taking part would be “completely against the spirit” of the sport. The bizarre ruling came about following a controversial conclusion to a game last month.

Portlaoise Panthers were beaten 80-78 by Limerick Sport Eagles at their home venue of St Mary’s Hall on 23 March. However, the conclusion of the second-tier Division 1 men’s playoff match sparked fury among the home faithful, with Limerick’s Jason Killeen, a former Ireland captain and US college player for Winthrop and Augusta State, adjudged to have been fouled while attempting to shoot as the buzzer sounded.

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The scores had been tied but Killeen was allowed to take his free throws, both of which he converted, to give his side the win.

Portlaoise complained that free throws should not have been awarded as the clock had expired and therefore the match had ended. This spilled over behind the scenes into a formal appeal for a full replay of the match, which was initially upheld by the National Appeals Committee. This ruling was then revised on Tuesday to a replay of just the final 0.3sec following complaints from Limerick, who insisted that proper procedures had not been followed, and that they had not been invited to participate in the appeal hearing.

On Wednesday, Portlaoise appeared to put an end to what had looked to be one of the more curious sporting spectacles of recent times, with a fresh statement saying: “We fully appreciate the disruption this has caused the clubs remaining in the Division 1 playoffs and it was never our intention for this to be dragged on for the length it has been by our governing body.

“We think the ordering of 0.3 seconds to be replayed of our quarter-final is completely against the spirit of basketball and [this] was never the basis for appeal. We would never ask nor expect Limerick Sport Eagles, a club we hold in the highest regard, to travel to Portlaoise to play the remaining 0.3 seconds. It would be in nobody’s interest and would not be adherent to the values of the game of basketball. If we are instructed to take to the court to play the 0.3 seconds we will refuse to do so.”

The 0.3sec relates to the minimum amount of time that a team is allowed to take a shot following a free throw. Known as the Trent Tucker rule, following a contentious late score in a 1990 NBA game, it reads: “The game clock or the shot clock must show 0.3 (3 tenths of a second) or more for a player to gain control of the ball on a throw-in or on a rebound after the last free throw in order to attempt a shot for a goal.”

With Portlaoise refusing to take part, Basketball Ireland announced “case closed” and confirmed that Limerick have progressed to face Tolka Rovers at home in the playoff semi-finals on a date still to be announced. The winner of that match will then go on to face UCD Dublin in the 13 April final.