With their coach, Michael Ray Richardson, calling the Premier Basketball League “a joke,” the Lawton-Fort Sill Cavalry pulled out of the league and ceased basketball operations just days after falling to Rochester in the PBL Finals.
At issue was officiating, not only in the championship series but throughout the season.
“In professional sports, you have winners and losers but to sit here and cheat our owners, who have put in close to a million dollars in four years in minor league basketball and to take it away from us like that wasn't right,” Richardson said. “To cheat our owners is a disgrace to minor league sports.”
The Cavs lost 87-84 at home to the RazorSharks in Game 3 of the championship series, with the referee calling the game with less than a second remaining and Richardson chasing the officials off the court.
The Lawton-Fort Sill team returned to the floor later and declared themselves league champions.
In the final game, Rochester had 43 free-throw chances to the Cavs' 14, including an 18-1 edge after halftime.
In the series, Rochester had 132 free-throw tries to Lawton-Fort Sill's 47. In the semifinals, Rochester had 299 free-throw shots to Quebec's 128.
“The owner of the league owns the franchise in Rochester. It's a joke,” Richardson said, also saying the referees were from Rochester.
The Cavalry have company in withdrawing, with Halifax and St. John sending the league their intentions to leave after witnessing what happened in Lawton.
“We don't recognize Rochester as the PBL champion,” Ian McCarthy, president of the St. John Mill Rats, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
“It was apparent the fix was in from our standpoint,” Halifax owner Andre Levingston told the paper. “I was just sick to my stomach to even watch that display.
“I felt bad for the fans of Oklahoma; I felt bad for the players on the court because they deserved the win.”
Richardson said his team huddled in the locker room after the game and before going back out to the court.
“We all cried like babies because we were cheated out of something that we deserved to win,” Richardson said. “We know we were the champions. If it would've just been called half right, we would've blown them out.”
Severko Hrywnak is the PBL founder and chairman of the board as well as the majority owner of the RazorSharks.
Hrywnak said it was a financial move for the teams to leave the league.
“I'm disappointed that two teams are using the officiating as an excuse to drop out,” he told the Democrat and Chronicle.
Richardson said that was not the case and the teams that dropped out were stable.