Fight erupts after Jeannette-NC playoff game

| Sunday, March 9, 2008

The WPIAL could discipline the Jeannette and North Catholic boys basketball teams in the aftermath of a fight among players Saturday following the teams' PIAA Class AA quarterfinal game at the Hempfield High School Field House.

WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said his office will conduct a hearing at 4 p.m. Tuesday at an undisclosed location. Both schools are expected to file written reports Monday about the incident.

Jeannette won the game, 86-60, to advance to the semifinals of the tournament Wednesday, but penalties could include suspensions that may affect the playing status of the Jeannette players. Jeannette is scheduled to play the winner of today's Farrell/North East game.

"The possibility exists that anytime you have inappropriate behavior, there are consequences," said O'Malley, who did not attend the Jeannette-North Catholic game. "It is up to the board to make a determination after it hears from both sides. We heard some things. Clearly, both sides will have an opportunity to explain to the board what took place. The board will react on Tuesday."

Jeannette coach Jim Nesser declined comment about the fight.

The incident occurred moments after an overflow crowd of more than 2,800 people was leaving the game. Players confronted each other outside the North Catholic locker room, which is located down a flight of stairs from the gymnasium.

Two Hempfield faculty members and North Catholic's coaches reportedly tried to break up the fight. Rob Stauffer, an assistant basketball coach at Hempfield, was visibly shaken after trying to serve as a peacemaker and had his eyeglasses broken. Stauffer said he was holding back Jeannette star Terrelle Pryor during the incident.

North Catholic coach Dave Long said members of his team were treated for "lacerations, bruising and swelling in and around the eyes."

"There were things that were said upstairs, and we came down and tried to get into the men's (locker) room. Obviously, when you're dealing with 18-year-olds and highly emotional at that point, it wasn't a pretty scene."

Long praised Stauffer's efforts to help keep Jeannette and North Catholic players apart.

Hempfield officials summoned state police from the Greensburg barracks to the school. Four officers investigated, and no charges were filed as of last night. State police officially described the incident as a disturbance.

Players had to stay in their locker rooms until police finished the initial investigation. Players and coaches were permitted to leave nearly an hour after the game.

There were no visible confrontations among players or fans during the game other than some chants exchanged by the student bodies.

Jeannette dominated the game, shooting 68 percent in the first half and taking a 15-5 lead with 4:34 left in the first period. The first five Jayhawks' baskets were scored by five players, including 3-pointers by Shaw Sunder and Jordan Hall.

"By now, people realize that we're more than Terrelle Pryor," Nesser said. "We've been playing like this all year."

Pryor and Sunder led Jeannette (23-4) with 21 points each. Hall added 19, and Moziah Harris 13. North Catholic's Henry Pwono led all scorers with 22, but his team never threatened to take the lead.

"The way they started the game, it was obvious that they were going to have a great night," said Long, whose team ended its season at 25-5.

Jeannette led, 46-35, at halftime, and the Jayhawks turned up the defensive pressure in the second half, increasing their lead to 18 late in the third period.

"I was really proud of how our team played defensively in the second half. I really thought that was the difference in the game," Nesser said.

Pryor is now tied for 11th place on the WPIAL's all-time scoring list, with 2,245 points. He passed Lance Jeter of Beaver Falls and tied James Hairston of Connellsville yesterday. Pryor is two points from reaching Pine-Richland's Allen McQuarrie for the No. 10 spot.

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