Gilbert Higley had to forfeit its play-in win over Scottsdale Saguaro and has given up its spot in the 4A, 16-team state tournament bracket, following a fight that ended the game between Higley and Saguaro last week.
That means Phoenix Moon Valley, which would have opened at home on Wednesday against Higley, advances to Saturday’s quarterfinals.
Because Higley players left the bench area during a fight that ended the game against Saguaro early in the fourth quarter, the Arizona Interscholastic Association ruled both teams had to forfeit the contest.
The decision is non-appealable.
“Both Saguaro and Higley, I commend both for adhering to the bylaws,” AIA Executive Director David Hines said. “It was an unfortunate situation.”
The fight in Friday’s game appeared to begin when a Saguaro player shoved Higley’s 6-foot-10 center Shon Robinson after there was some jawing between the players, said Higley Athletic Director Aaron Dille.
Benches cleared with players from both sides coming onto the floor. The AIA bylaw states that if players leave the bench, they are given automatic one-game suspensions and a forfeiture can be enforced.
Both teams were given forfeits.
The referees determined to terminate the game with a little under seven minutes left and Higley leading 62-37.
Dille notified the players and coaches on Monday afternoon that their season is over.
“They’re just enforcing the rules,” Dille said of the AIA.
“It’s just them doing their job. It’s unfortunate from our standpoint, because none of our kids threw punches or instigated it,” he said. “But they’re going to suffer the consequences for leaving the bench. It’s the rules and we have to follow the rules.”
Hines wouldn’t go into who started the fight.
“It’s not about who is at fault,” he said. “When there is an incident and both teams and kids leave the bench area, our bylaws are specific on the consequences to that. The administration from both schools did a great job of sifting through all of the information, looking at video, and submitting a report based on what our rule is.
“It’s one of those things in the heat of the game, kids react. But they have to be aware that if you leave the bench, or you move in that direction, there are consequences to that.”
Nathan Slater, athletic director of the SUSD, issued a statement Monday:
“I have reviewed the recordings of the incident Friday night between the Saguaro and Higley basketball teams, and I am profoundly disappointed. The entire incident is regrettable, and the behavior of our own players is unacceptable. While we have focused our efforts this year on fostering a culture of Sportsmanship, Respect and Character, it is clear we have more work to do. We have submitted an apology to the AIA and the Higley School District, and will be developing an action plan for further improvement.”