Diane Richardson, head coach at No. 7 Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.), said an incident between her team and No. 2 Potter's House Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.) that led to a "no contest" declaration in a national-tournament championship game on Saturday "leaves a black mark on our sport."
Both benches cleared with Potter's House leading 68-50 and 3:23 to play in the National Christian Schools Athletic Association (NCSAA) Division 1A championship game in Erie, Pa. It was unclear, on video streamed by iHigh.com, what ignited the situation. Some jawing back and forth, and rough play, preceded the fracas.
"We don't want kids to think it's cool and OK to behave like that," Richardson said. "It's not a message we want the kids to have."
Officials declared a double disqualification on both schools, according to Nate Hartman, the NCSAA director. He and the officials discussed the possibility of finishing the game, Hartman added, but concluded that all reserves had been disqualified from the game because they left the bench. Also influential was the fact that parents, players and coaches continued aggressive behavior after the game was called, Hartman said.
After speaking to "neutral" parties such as scorekeepers, Hartman said he concludes that neither team was an "innocent party."
Hartman said he takes responsibility for erroneous reports that Riverdale Baptist refused to finish the game. He said he had conversations with both coaches before he had all the facts.
Potter's House coach Tony Bannister said he "agrees 100 percent" that the teams' behavior did not match the spirit of a Christian-based tournament.
"I hated to see it end that way," Bannister said. "We play hard. Riverdale plays hard. It was going to be intense."
Ranked second to Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) in the Powerade Fab 50 for girls' basketball, Potter's House Christian entered the contest with a 36-1 record. None of its previous 14 opponents had come closer than 28 points of the Lady Lions. Riverdale Baptist entered the game 29-5.
Bannister said his team wanted badly to make a case for the No. 1 ranking in national polls. Hartman said the increased stakes "can lead to an environment that's unhealthy for the teams and players," and that even his organization could make the mission of the event more clear.
"If we bring in teams on the basis of what makes the most impressive tournament, we are missing the mark," Hartman said. "This obviously is a really disappointing situation for us. It's great to see great basketball, great teams and great players. But our priority is not to see kids be built up as individuals, it's to honor team play and see that the kids are challenged spiritually. A situation like this undermines our mission."
Hartman stopped short of saying that Potter's House and Riverdale Baptist would be banned from future events, saying, "Obviously, we have a lot of things to consider."
Follow us on Twitter, where you can ask questions and get instant updates.
Become a fan of the site on Facebook and get updates in your news stream.
Discuss this on our Message Board
Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A graduate of Seattle University and Columbia University, he formerly coached girls' club basketball, was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, has had his photography displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.