Pike, Ben Davis girls basketball seasons, including tournament, canceled

Pike, Ben Davis girls basketball seasons, including tournament, canceled

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Pike, Ben Davis girls basketball seasons, including tournament, canceled

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Placers from Ben Davis and Pike fight in the fourth quarter of the game as fans and players spilled on to the court

Placers from Ben Davis and Pike fight in the fourth quarter of the game as fans and players spilled on to the court

When it comes to fighting, the Indiana High School Athletic Association is not backing down.

The IHSAA made that message clear on Monday evening as it cancelled the remainder of the girls basketball seasons for Pike and Ben Davis following a nasty on-court brawl in a game on Saturday afternoon that involved players and spectators.

IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox called the incident, “unacceptable, egregious and violent.” He estimated that as many as 50 to 60 people were on the court during the brawl, which erupted in the fourth quarter with Pike leading 57-41.

Pike senior Robinson not involved in fight, but season over

“When you have something that is this dangerous, this violent and unacceptable with respect to our sportsmanship within our rules, swift and stern discipline has to be issued,” Cox said. “We take no pleasure in issuing these kinds of penalties, but it’s consistent and strong and determined in how we are going to administer sportsmanship in our state.”

The game was officially called a double forfeit, Cox said. Both programs will go on probation for the 2016-17 season, and coaches and players from both schools are required to complete online courses before coaching or competing next season.

The IHSAA reviewed the game video over the weekend before meeting with representatives from both schools on Monday afternoon. Ben Davis principal Sandra Squire, athletic director John Clark and coach Joe Lentz attended, along with Pike principal Troy Inman, athletic director Doug Schornick and coach Jason Hohlt.

The schools administrators left the IHSAA office without commenting, though Cox classified their reaction to the penalty as “supportive.”

The decision immediately calls to mind the incident in February between the Griffith and Hammond boys basketball teams. A brawl erupted early in that game as players and fans emptied on to the floor. The IHSAA swiftly canceled the seasons for both teams.

IHSAA cancels Griffith, Hammond seasons after basketball brawl

Three weeks later, however, a civil court judge issued a temporary restraining order to allow both Griffith and Hammond to play in the tournament, ruling that the IHSAA’s punishment was unequal compared to similar previous situations. Griffith made a run to the Class 3A state finals, creating an awkward situation for the IHSAA.

It is unclear at this point if there will be legal action taken in this case. The sectional draw for girls basketball is set for Jan. 25.

“I can’t speak for what a group might do and try to sue the association,” Cox said. “The penalty we issued today is consistent with what we did last year, and we will remain consistent. If it happens again, it’s going to be the same penalty. And it is the same penalty. If it happens again, it’s going to be the same penalty. Eventually, we’re going to get the message across to our student-athletes, coaches and fans that this is unacceptable at this level. We aren’t going to tolerate it.”

Both Pike and Ben Davis had legitimate aspirations for a tournament run. Pike, the two-time defending sectional champion, was ranked No. 10 in Class 4A and 14-4 entering Saturday’s game. Ben Davis, a four-time state champion, was 13-5 and enjoying its best season in four years.

IHSAA’s appeal of Griffith, Hammond to be heard next month

Cox said after watching the game video that it was clear the game was physical and emotional from the outset. He said the referees did their part in attempting to defuse the emotion by calling two double fouls and three technical fouls prior to the brawl. Cox added that the coaches called timeouts on multiple occasions to calm their players.

“I think our contest officials did everything in their power to try to keep that thing under control,” Cox said. “I know the coaches did as well. They tried to calm things down.”

Cox said the IHSAA will not further penalize any individuals involved in the brawl, leaving that up to the schools. The programs will be able to play junior varsity and freshman games, provided the players on those teams weren’t not involved in Saturday’s incident.

The IHSAA has clearly taken a tougher stance on fighting in recent years. Cox said the Griffith-Hammond decision did necessarily set a precedent, but that it falls in line with the guidelines of the sportsmanship task force.

Cox said one of his greatest fears is that a situation such as Saturday’s results in a catastrophic injury. Meanwhile, the IHSAA will continue to take a hard-line stance on fighting.

“If we end up having to fight this fight like we did last year (in court), we’re going to fight it,” he said. “We believe it’s the right thing.”

Ben Davis chief communications officer Mary Lang said in an email Monday night that the school would have no further comment other than to refer to a statement made Saturday after the game that “this behavior is not representative of our values, beliefs or how we coach our student athletes. It is not reflective of the Ben Davis pride our students, alumni and community share. And it certainly does not reflect the rich tradition and success of our girls basketball team.”

Lang did say that Ben Davis would comply with the consequences received from the IHSAA.

“I hope the message is that this is not going to be tolerated,” Cox said.

Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.

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Pike, Ben Davis girls basketball seasons, including tournament, canceled
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