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Monday, March 19th, 2007 at 3:54 pm  |  21 responses

Game Notes: PSAL Championship doubleheader

Tarnished by violence, but still a great night of H.S. basketball.

By Sherman Johnson

Contributor for KING Magazine and the latest addition to our Game Notes writers.

Admittedly the last time I’d been to a high-school game, much less a public high-school championship, there weren’t even three-point stripes to stand behind. But the more things seem to change the more they remain the same. Cliché I know, but it’s the truth and it became painfully evident after a series of major European-soccer-style brawls that erupted during the course of the evening at Madison Square Garden last night and ultimately overshadowed a couple of virtuoso outings from Bergstraum’s Erica Morrow and Lincoln’s Lance Stephenson in the Public School Athletic League’s Championship doubleheader. In a rubber match for bragging rights to the city neither one of the two school’s student bodies can stake a claim to being more superior than the other due to the sordid and selfish behavior that tarnished the reputation of a prestigious affair.

Morrow, a Syracuse-bound McDonald’s All-American and this year’s city scoring champ, was the high (wo)man for the Bergstraum Blazers with 24 points and 4 steals. She turned the heat up in the Garden with a few minutes to go in the first quarter when she connected on the first of three consecutive strikes from deep range that propelled her team to a fifteen-point lead. The catalyst was the Blazers’ defense though. Bergstraum scored 25 points off nearly as many forced turnovers while only committing eight of their own, and sophomore guard Shanee Williams (17 points, 4 steals) and freshman center Shakeya Leary (5 points, 5 rebounds) demonstrated that they’re the foundation for next year’s squad of defending city champs since they’ve got big-time experience despite the fact that they’re really young.

Everything was still relatively chill when the girls’ game ended but there were already circles starting to form outside the pressroom in the concession area by the time the marquee matchup between Lincoln and Boys&Girls High began. The atmosphere was charged with the competitiveness that rivalries tend to generate but there was a level of animosity and contemptuousness reminiscent of my own public high-school days in Detroit where metal detectors were part and parcel at sporting and other social events. At first I thought the heightened security precautions were overkill but when the nosebleed section started to fill up and the atmosphere got more charged my opinion of the situation started to change. Weapons would’ve made the confrontations even more brutal and deadly. As the number of cliquish confrontations grew so too did the police presence and it made a lot of people anxious and uncomfortable. Sitting in the stands before the game with a friend soaking up the atmosphere I got the sense that a lot of kids were there just to profile and gawk at the opposite sex and weren’t even interested in the contest at all.

The violent undertone finally reared its ugly head in the wake of an on-court confrontation between some of the players after a hard foul in the midst of a Lincoln run late in the third quarter led by Stephenson. As you probably know, Lance is only a sophomore and is already a leader. He’s gonna be a monster the next couple of years. He’s another T-Mac in the making. Long and lanky, he’s smooth and deceptively quick not to mention deadly from all angles. He got off to a slow start with a couple of crooked crossovers and fall away jumpers in the first half. He broke down B&G’s guards at will, posted up their centers whenever he wanted, and ended the second quarter with eight points despite some careless ballhandling. But like the beef that was cooking in the crowd he started cracking in the second half and broke the game open with five minutes left in the third when he went on a fifteen-point rampage punctuated by all-out melee that erupted on the mezzanine level and spilled down behind the basket (people were literally being tossed over banisters!) and prompted the host announcer from Hot 97 to lose his cool and scream a bunch of expletives over the PA system for everyone to sit down and behave themselves. It would’ve been funny had the scene not been so disgusting.

At that point it was a wrap. Security completely lost control as smaller skirmishes started to break out around the arena and the dome lights were tuned on and a couple of sections were completely cleared out and blocked off. Lincoln was up by 13 at the end of the quarter and by the middle of the fourth it was a blowout with a lot of exasperated people heading for the exits in droves. Brandon Walters’ tomahawk slam with six minutes to go and Stephenson’s breakaway dunk a couple of minutes later were anticlimactic because nobody was really paying attention to the game at that point. Most people were concerned about their safety and police were already starting to herd people toward the exits. Stephenson finished with a game-high 29 points of 11-of-15 shooting from the floor.

Unfortunately, Lance’s superb performance, along with the solid backup provided by his teammates, was lost in the pandemonium of the moment. Which was a shame because this was supposed to be a great rubber match between two prestigious programs. B&G, behind coach Ruth Lovelace, was ranked up there with some of the best teams in the nation and had stolen a game from Lincoln earlier in the year. By the time the final buzzer sounded and Lincoln collectively hoisted another trophy over their heads at center court, B& G weren’t the only ones looking like losers.

Both schools and their student bodies emerged from the affair with black eyes.

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  • Matthew

    Such a shame.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Glad I didn’t stick around for that one.

  • Howard

    why do Black teens lack common respect?

  • thesubwayconnection

    Whoa, Howard. That’s uncalled for. I wasn’t at the event, but more than “Black teens” lack respect for each other. Race could’ve played a part, but it’s not mentioned. It’s not the 1960s, teens in general now have less respect than even when I was a teenager, and teens in general act no different, regardless of race.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    I wasn’t watching super closely on TV, but it was pretty amazing how much the MSG broadcast ignored the fighting. When I turned on the news this morning I was afraid NY1 was exaggerating things because MSG had said so little about it. Come to find out thanks to these notes that in fact they’d been downplaying it. Very unfortunate this happened. I remember when it had in the mid-90′s, but they’d had a run of peaceful years there…In any event, glad we had someone there to offer a first-person account.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Emry DowningHall

    That was a great recap. I never experienced a pub chip in NYC but I attend the Philadelphia event each year and although it has been relatively calm in recent years I get the same sense of youngsters going to the event not for the hoops but for the opportunity to witness or be a part of some trouble. Each year, no matter who is playing something pops off and it rarely involves the players on the court who, of course, are supposed to be the reason we are all in attendance. Shoutout to all the teens who buy those pub chip tickets to watch the game and thumbs down to the herbs that go to the games to ice grill…. man I sound like an Old Head.

  • Sherman Johnson

    I’m not sure how to answer any of those responses. A couple of older black men asked the same question as Howard did out front of the garden when a group of kids cut in front of them in line. The irony is that the those two men cut in line themselves.

    Public brawls and melees aren’t aren’t unique to one race or particular age group however. I did compare it to the sort of thing you get at football games in europe. Last summer in Berlin brawls were happening all over the place and the media handled it the same way by and large by ignore it until it got out of hand and consumed the entire arena. I think that nearly every game I’ve attended in London or Spain or Germany there has been a fight between kids, grownup and people of the same ethnic group and sometimes differing ethnic groups.

    I witnessed the same phenomenon as Ben too both from a micro and macro level. Coming out of the pressroom there were kids grouping up and circling one another. When the police would break it up the kids would disperse and regroup someplace else. Most of the brawls occurred above the mezzanine level, where it was relatively dark and there were no cameras, media, police, parents, etc.

    When the first brawl was occuring i was at the press table courtside but it was plain to see from there that something bad was going on. The whole arena was buzzing. So that may be one factor in why broadcasters ignored it. When the fight spilled from the mezzanine into the a section behind the basket it could no longer be ignored because people were literally being tossed down.

    The game was stopped at that point but i’m not sure why. There was a hard foul and a confrontation between players on the floor because of a hard foul and then a brief argument ensued between some of the players and the referee who was trying to keep them at arms length.

    The house lights were then turned on in the upper level and the police dispersed the crowd. Only to have it move to another part of the arena where a friend of mine was sitting. That was when I left the table and went upstairs to make sure they were okay. While up there I saw many parents rolling their eyes and shaking their heads like they could’ve been asking the same question as Howard did.

    MSG definitely downplayed the events. There was major brawling. I counted at least three and they were all interconnected. When I caught up with my friend I heard some pretty nihilistic commentary from a group of girls who he was sitting with who giddily filled me in on what i only moments ago seen from down below.

    Heading out of the stadium some police officers were shaking their heads as well trying to make heads or tails of the situation but there were some cops milling about who’d worked high school games in the area who alluded to the fact that such a culture has existed for a long time. None of them singled such a phenomenon as central to any single racial group though. Some of those officers I overheard thought that it was a sad pathetic thing though and hoped it wouldn’t jeapordize future psal championships being played there but most of the journalists i talked to and overheard figured that there was no chance of that because the event is so prestigious and draws so many people. The place was nearly filled to capacity. I was surprised but thought that it was pretty cool even though a lot of people came there to profile like the girls who were flirting with my friend upstairs.

    If this happened yesterday and has occurred in the past as Ben suggested and I’ve witnessed it not only in other places I’ve lived including Detroit, all across Europe, the carribean, etc then i wonder if it was happening back in the days when Lew Alcindor played. You think such a thing happened at the game Bob Cousy played in? Who knows except the people who were there. Certainly the media play a part in the short term collective memory that went into play yesterday with msg largely ignoring it.

    Everybody in the arena witnessed it though. It was hard not to. It was a shame like I said though because the games were very competitive and hotly contested even though both were blowouts.

  • Sherman Johnson

    One other note…when I was leaving the arena through the press entrance on 8th avenue there was a holding area where police were holding participants of the brawls and by and large most of the guys in handcuffs were grown men…

  • Sherman Johnson

    Curiously enough when fans started throwing cups of ice at Ron Artest and Ben Wallace in Auburn Hills no one really asked why suburban fans lack respect for players who are by and large black.

    Such questions are fair but they should probably be asked in the context of society at large because all of these various cultures exist within a larger framework that has undergone some tumultuous times.

  • Tom Jackson

    By the way everybody, OJ Mayo and Patrick Patterson led their Huntington High team to a third straight big division WV state title this past weekend. They won their 3 state tourney games by an average of 41 points, including a blowout in the final of 42.

  • topmeoff

    What the hell are you talking about “Tom” that has nothing to do with this topic (dumb-ass)

  • http://www.lakerstalk.net LakersTalk

    I’m w/ Howard on this one.

  • http://www.myspace.com/yungjames07 James

    Howard u a racist piece of trash! Khalid where u at man, talk some sense into this ignorant fool!

  • Mr. Pink

    Sherman Johnson says:
    Curiously enough when fans started throwing cups of ice at Ron Artest and Ben Wallace in Auburn Hills no one really asked why suburban fans lack respect for players who are by and large black.

    KUDOS!!!!!!!!!!! GREAT POINT!!!!

  • Kretsche

    Good points Sherman. Here in Germany I soccer fans
    are 90% white and no black people. Still they beat each other up on any given sunday. It`s a matter of class.
    To all those saying teens lack respect: Since 2500 years, people say the young folks lack respect, don`t care about anything but fun, don`t respect the elders and so on. Even the great aristotle (the real one from Greece, not from Miami) said that, it seems to be natural human behaviour to disrespect the youth. Check your history books and think about it.

  • http://breadcity.wordpress.com JAKE

    Don’t be stupid LakersTalk. When you get 13,000 high school kids, most of them from bitter rival schools, and put them together in a highly charged Madison Square garden, there is going to be fighting and other stupid stuff no matter what race they are. Case in point: brawling during the PSAL championship in 1964 had the game banned from MSG for 25 years. I was at the game on Sunday myself (and wrote about it), and I can tell you that reports of a riot were greatly exagerated.

  • Shiz

    shit like this unfortunately happens a lot at championship games. I remember playing in our sectional final games at our arena. And a fight broke out EVERY game. No lie. and that was 97. Ten years later, the same shit went down. Needless to say, the arena heads aint touchin another high school basketball tourney with a 10 ft poll.
    It sucks cuz it makes basketball seem like a game for thugs when in reality its the thugs that come and as people have said arent there for the game. they’re there to poster and catch honeys. And these fights don’t necessarily have to be about school rivalries. A lot of these guys (and girls) hail from the same basic area and have had beef before. The game is just another venue where beef gets brought with em. such a shame but as someone who regularly had to deal with this shit, either as a player, or later on as a spectator, aint too surprising. Lets just be thankful nobody got seriously hurt.

  • Shiz

    It REALLY sux for the players cuz until Sherman “dont call me Hercules” Johnson’s report about Lance Stephenson, I’d never heard of him. I mean I wonder how many scouts just ditched their clipboards and headed for the closest, biggest boy-in-blue, totally forgetting that this kid has that “Next T-mac” moniker..And maybe he’s not the next T-mac, but its still a tragedy to have such an opportunity for recognition robbed by a few knuckeheads and even more monkey-see-monkey-do muthafuckas…

  • gokillyourself

    niggas fight all the time..are we really shocked?

  • Sherman Johnson

    Questions like Howard’s are perfectly legitimate especially if they lead to larger questions like WHY is there such a high incidence of poverty and homelessness among blacks and other so-called minorities in a country that can afford to spend a billion dollars a week liberating another country largely made up of brown people of their natural resources…

    WHY the majority of people in this country who are called minorities lack affordable health care…WHY is the incidence of HIV/AIDS so high in countries like Africa…WHY does Barack Obama stand no better chance than Jesse Jackson and Allan Keyes did of becoming the first black president of a country comprised of an overwhelming majority of black, brown, yellow, red &c. people…

    WHY was Abner Louima raped on the bathroom floor of a police station and only two officers went to jail for it…WHY was Amadou Diallo shot by three/four (?) gendarmes and none of them convicted for their involvemet…for that matter WHY will the four/five (?) officers who took part in the murder of Sean Bell and wounded two of his friends be likely to beat the charges against them…WHY ARE PEOPLE STILL PISSED OFF AT O.J. EVEN AFTER HE WAS PROVEN NOT GUILTY BY A JURY OF HIS PEERS…WHY DID THE LOS ANGELES RIOTS OF A DECADE OR SO AGO POP OFF?

    WHY DO A MINORITY OF PEOPLE CONTROL THE MAJORITY OF WEALTH IN THE WORLD.

    WHY HASN’T osama bin laden BEEN APPREHENDED YET…

    WHY HAVEN’T bush &c…AND WHY WON’T BE PUT ON TRIAL FOR THE CRIMES THEY HAVE PERTPETUATED AGAINST HUMANITY…

    WHY IS THE STATE OF ISRAEL ALLOWED TO POSSESS NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND IRAN ISN’T WHEN THE LATTER IS A SIGNATORY TO THE NUCLEAR SCIENCE GROUP AND THE FORMER ISN’T AND REFUSES (ALONG WITH THE U.S.) TO SIGN A NATO TREATY AGAINST NON PROLIFERATION…

    WHY WERE THOSE DUKE LACROSSE PLAYERS ALLOWED BACK ON THE SQUAD AFTER EXHIBITING SUCH MISOGYNISTIC BEHAVIOR…

    HOW COME ONLY BLACK PLAYERS GO PRO STRAIGHT OUTTA HIGH SCHOOL…

    WHY DO BLACK TEENS LACK SELF-RESPECT?

    WHY DID BLACK LEADERS LIKE condoleeza rice AND colon powell TRY TO CONVINCE SO MANY OF US TO ENLIST IN(OR ACCEPT) THE BRUTAL OPPRESSION OF PEOPLE THEY ARE GENETICALLY RELATED TO…

    WHY DO PEOPLE HAVE SO MUCH RACIAL BEEF EVEN WHEN THEY HAVE SO MANY THINGS IN COMMON LIKE LACK OF RESOURCES, LACK OF EDUCATION, LACK OF AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE & MOST OF ALL A LACK OF RESPECT FROM THEIR PEERS WHO ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY BETTER OFF?

    I thought Howard’s response was a genuine question but I guess I was wrong seeing as how many of you took it as purely rhetorical…so I have a question for all of you:

    WHY ARE THERE SO MANY INTELLIGENT AND PERCEPTIVE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD AND THE WORLD IS IN THE SAME PREDICAMENT MORE OR LESS THAT IT HAS BEEN IN SINCE HUMAN BEINGS BEGAN WALKING UPRIGHT…

  • Sherman Johnson

    Questions like that may be legitimate but they’re no more relevant than say “WHY ARE ALL SERIAL KILLERS WHITE”…intentional or not it serves to distort the true nature of all of our existences to the tune of a billion dollars a week for the last three years…that’s assuming everyone in this forum works for a living…if you don’t then like a lot of other people you may not understand that it’s your head thats getting pissed on when our leaders refer to a the military/industrial/prison complex and a trickle down economy…

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