Controversial Bella Vista Prep/SPIRE finish: Why was there only one technical called?

Photo: Sean Logan/Arizona Republic

Controversial Bella Vista Prep/SPIRE finish: Why was there only one technical called?

Boys Basketball

Controversial Bella Vista Prep/SPIRE finish: Why was there only one technical called?


Bella Vista Prep held off SPIRE Academy to win the 2019 Grind Session World Championship in Benton, Kentucky by a score of 96-94.

This was Bella Vista’s first championship and head coach Kyle Weaver’s second. Weaver also coached Hillcrest Prep (who featured DeAndre Ayton) to a championship two seasons ago.

RECAP: Zion Harmon leads Bella Vista over SPIRE

For a while, it appeared as though Bella Vista would win the game running away. The Bears led by 12 points with 2:37 remaining in the second half, but SPIRE mounted a 17-7 run to create a tight game down the stretch. Myron Gardner threw down a massive poster dunk during that sequence.

After the two teams traded points, Bella Vista took a commanding lead at 96-92 with 8.7 seconds remaining. On the ensuing SPIRE possession, a wild sequence occurred. Bella Vista forward Terry Armstrong stole the ball and was fouled near half court with around two seconds left.

The play should have stopped there, but Armstrong continued. Armstrong kept dribbling towards the basket to attempt an emphatic tomahawk dunk. He missed the dunk, but the entire Bella Vista bench left the sidelines and walked onto the court to celebrate, as you can see at the 1:37:34 mark in the video.

In the video, you can hear several voices claiming that a technical foul should be issued to each individual player that left the Bella Vista bench.

So, are they right?

The Ruling:

The Grind Session operates by a different set of rules than other high school federations.

For example, the game is divided into two halves as opposed to four quarters. Also, players are disqualified whenever they reach 6 fouls (like the NBA). However, for the most part, the nitty-gritty rules seem to reflect those of the rest of high school basketball.

And in this case, the NFHS is clear. Here’s the transcript from Page 1362 of the NFHS rulebook:

ARTICLE 5… The head coach shall not permit team members to leave the bench area and/or playing court for an unauthorized reason.

And here’s the penalty for violating ARTICLE 5:

PENALTY… (Articles 4, 5) Only one technical foul is charged regardless of the number of offenders.


There isn’t an official Grind Session rulebook that we can reference for this, but it stands to reason that the league would mirror the NFHS on this ruling.

The officials were correct with only issuing one technical foul.

How the Game Ended:

Terry Armstrong went to the free throw line and missed both of his free throws.

On the other end, Rocket Watts made two free throws to narrow the score to 96-94 with 1.3 seconds remaining.

SPIRE got a chance to win the game. Terry Lockett inbounded the ball at half court, but Armstrong got a hand on the pass and forced a turnover off the deflection (view the video at the 1:50:18 mark)

Final thoughts on SPIRE Academy:

Although SPIRE didn’t get the victory, it was a banner season for the prep school from Northeast Ohio. Of course, there was plenty of excitement surrounding the arrival of LaMelo Ball; but even outside of that, SPIRE was legitimately one of the best teams in the country.

Michigan State commit Mark ‘Rocket’ Watts became as big a star as Ball over the course of the season. The human pogo-stick Isaiah Jackson was spectacular, and 6-foot-6 forward Myron Gardner elevated his game to new heights.

At the time, I understood the reasoning behind La Lumiere and Oak Hill cancelling their games against SPIRE. With the fact that Ball competed professionally, playing against SPIRE might have jeopardized the eligibility of La Lumiere and Oak Hill for the GEICO Nationals.

Credit: Mars Reel

Nevertheless, it would have been interesting to see what might have happened. SPIRE took only two losses this season. The first being against Prolific Prep (who lost in the semifinals at The Grind Session World Championship) and the second against Bella Vista (who SPIRE had previously defeated twice this season).

Final thoughts on Bella Vista Prep:

As for Bella Vista, the Bears claimed signature victories over some of the top teams in the country. The Bears avenged the losses against SPIRE, they defeated Baltimore power St. Frances Academy (Md.), they got the upper-hand against nationally-ranked Sunrise Christian (Kan.), and they knocked off a red-hot Prolific Prep (Calif.) team on two different occasions.

Terry Armstrong is a big-time commitment for Arizona. Addison Patterson is the next Canadian standout and Zion Harmon (who joined the team after being ruled ineligible at his high school) was huge for Bella Vista during the tournament.

Final Grind Session Championship stats:

Bella Vista Prep- 96

Zion Harmon: 23 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST

Jeron Artest: 21 PTS, 2 REB, 2 AST

Addison Patterson: 17 PTS, 12 REB, 3 AST

Terry Armstrong: 12 PTS, 5 REB, 2 AST

Jimmy Bell: 11 PTS, 12 REB, 1 AST

SPIRE Academy- 94

Myron Gardner: 30 PTS, 10 REB, 2 STL

LaMelo Ball: 25 PTS, 8 REB, 6 AST

Mark “Rocket” Watts Jr: 21 PTS, 2 REB, 2 AST

Terry Lockett Jr: 12 PTS, 2 REB

Check out Mars Reel for more high school basketball coverage.


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