Funzie Cioffi was head football coach at Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland, Vermont, from 1956 through 1989. He won exactly 200 games and 11 state championships.

Over that time, Cioffi’s Green Wave won a lot of lopsided games, and he approached those situations the same way each time. Cioffi would get his reserves and junior varsity players into the game, and he’d make sure to call plays that ate clock as much as yards. If asked, his answer was always pretty much the same, too.

We’re not going to run up the score on them, because we won’t like it if they do it to us when we’re struggling.

Coach Cioffi’s philosophy has stuck with me since I graduated from MSJ in 1990. I’ve thought about it a lot over the last few days as this situation with the Oceanside High boys’ basketball team has unfolded.

To recap, Oceanside is one of the best basketball teams in the state. Coming off a loss to Orono in the Class B state championship game last season, the Mariners are on a mission to earn the Gold Ball that was just out of their grip last March. Friday night’s 96-63 win over Morse improved Oceanside’s record to 12-0.

The Mariners average just under 95 points per game, scoring at a clip almost unheard of in Maine high school basketball. Only rival Camden Hills has stayed within 10 points of Oceanside. Most high school basketball teams go decades without scoring 100 points in a game, if ever. The Mariners have scored at least 100 points four times in a dozen games.


Oceanside plays basketball the best way. The Mariners are frantic but in control. They run and push the pace, daring opponents to keep up while knowing they can’t. They press and they use every square inch of the court. Nothing goes to waste. It’s entertaining to play that style, and entertaining for fans to watch.

It’s also causing a bit of a stir.

Mariners Coach Larry Reed said Friday that the Maine Principals’ Association reached out to Oceanside, requesting in the name of sportsmanship, that his team ease up on opponents. After her boys’ basketball team lost 126-38 to Oceanside on Wednesday, Belfast Athletic Director Susan Robbins contacted Troy Smith, her counterpart at Oceanside. In an email to the Kennebec Journal, Robbins said she was concerned that the Oceanside starters were in the game in the fourth quarter, still playing pressure defense and trapping. Chasing a scoring record doesn’t pass the straight-face test, Robbins said.

Robbins is right. Is it necessary to rub a defeated team’s face in it just because you can? I’ve said this before, no matter how much attention we give high school sports, at its core, it’s still just community sports, and all the attention in the world doesn’t change that. All those lessons we say high school sports teaches don’t come with the caveat “unless there’s a record to be had.”

Did Oceanside beat a winless, obviously much weaker opponent by 88 points simply because it could? Absolutely. There’s nothing dignified about running up the score on a defenseless opponent just because you can.

It’s likely some Oceanside fans grumbled about sportsmanship in November as they watched the Mariners fall to Leavitt in the Class C football state championship game, 71-12. When the schools met on the basketball court on Jan. 9, the Mariners won 114-42.


Should we raise an eyebrow when we see the Mariners’ starters on the court in the fourth quarter of a blowout, still pressing and running with the game no longer in doubt? Absolutely.

Should the MPA admonish Oceanside for the way it plays? Absolutely not. At most, the MPA should make a note to cross Oceanside off the list of sportsmanship banner contenders.

Unless it’s seeing an unusually high rate of technical fouls, no governing body should be telling any high school basketball team how to play the game. That’s not at all what we’re seeing here. In the case of Oceanside, we’re seeing a talented team caught up in its success.

We’re seeing athletes who know individual milestones are on the horizon, and they’re going for them. Oceanside’s Carter Galley is approaching the school’s career points record, while his twin brother, Cohen, is approaching 1,000 career points. Reed said those accomplishments are on the team’s mind, along with postseason accolades. That’s fine, but at the same time, stat collecting against a clearly overmatched opponent is empty calories.

That’s when the adults – Reed, Smith, and parents – need to remind the team the ultimate goal is that elusive Gold Ball. It can achieve that goal without embarrassing most opponents. Remind the Mariners of what John Lennon sang: “Instant Karma’s going to get you. Going to knock you right on the head.”

Coach Cioffi was right. You’re not going to be dominant forever, and hurt people have long memories.

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