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WPIAL rules Minnie ineligible ... again

| Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Christopher Horner
Lincoln Park's Elijah Minnie works out with the Leopards team at the high school in Midland. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

The second time around for Elijah Minnie hoping to play basketball for WPIAL Class A champion Lincoln Park was again denied by the WPIAL.

After Lincoln Park petitioned the WPIAL for a second hearing on Minnie's eligibility, citing new evidence, the WPIAL agreed to hear the evidence at a hearing Monday in Green Tree.

Minnie transferred to Lincoln Park after spending the 2011-12 school year at Summit Academy.

Monessen, Minnie's home district, fought the transfer.

The WPIAL had previously found the 6-8 junior to be ineligible at Lincoln Park in an October hearing saying the transfer was athletically motivated and the PIAA subsequently upheld the ruling.

Monessen Principal Brian Sutherland, who attended Monday's second hearing before the WPIAL Board of Control, said he thought that the WPIAL would be denying the appeal.

“Lincoln Park's new evidence was mainly information by Elijah's mother on why she wants her son to go to Lincoln Park instead of Monessen,” Sutherland said. “There was some other stuff as well. Myself and our solicitor (John Toohey) had very little to day. It was mostly their new evidence.”

With phone records and testimony from mothers of two teammates, Lincoln Park attempted Monday to disprove previous WPIAL findings that Minnie was recruited to the Beaver County school.

Minnie insisted during the hearing the transfer has been beneficial to his academic improvement and was not motivated by athletic intent.

“If I wanted to be a star, I would have stayed at Monessen and done whatever I wanted,” said Minnie, who averaged 15.5 ppg last year at Summit Academy.

During the hearing, his mother, Justina Minnie, described an environment of “drug trafficking and shootings” in Monessen that she wanted Minnie to avoid.

But WPIAL board members were not convinced that desire alone fueled the transfer because Minnie still resides in Monessen and they viewed those problems as community-oriented and not school-related,WPIAL Executive Director Tim O'Malley said.

Justina Minnie said she could not move because of a mortgage arrangement with the city of Monessen. But, she also admitted a number of alternate schools closer than Lincoln Park were not considered.

Mike Bariski, who serves as the athletic director at Lincoln Park, a charter school located in Midland, said he was notified of the decision after the hearing.

“I thought we put up a great case,” said Bariski, who planned to appeal the decision to the PIAA.

Sutherland said he was told by O'Malley that a second appeal to the PIAA could he held in January.

Lincoln Park is the top-ranked WPIAL school in Class A this season.

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or joliver@tribweb.com. Trib Total Media staff writer Chris Harlan contributed to this story.

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