On fourth try, Minnie eligible
After four hearings and three losses, Lincoln Park and Elijah Minnie finally won one.
And it's the one that counts the most.
The PIAA overturned a WPIAL ruling that the 6-8 Minnie was ineligible to play basketball at the Midland charter school. The decision, which was reached Thursday by a 3-2 vote of the PIAA appeals panel, makes Minnie eligible to play basketball immediately at Lincoln Park.
Minnie had been ruled ineligible at three earlier hearings, two before the WPIAL and one in front of the PIAA.
After the first two rulings, Lincoln Park petitioned for a new hearing before the WPIAL because of new evidence. The WPIAL granted the hearing and again ruled that Minnie, a former Monessen student who still lives in Monessen, went to Lincoln Park for athletic purposes.
Lincoln Park then appealed to the PIAA — again — and this time was victorious.
“It was a three-hour hearing,” said Monessen Principal Brian Sutherland, who represented Monessen at the hearing in Mechanicsburg along with district solicitor John Toohey.
“It was a close vote and I don't think we can appeal an appealed decision,” Sutherland said. “As far as I'm concerned, the case is closed.”
“(The PIAA) thought the new evidence was compelling in our favor,” Lincoln Park Athletic Director Mike Bariski said. “One of the jurors who had voted ineligible the first time changed his mind.
“Elijah had big tears,” Bariski said. “All kind of tears. The family that was there supporting him cheered.”
Sutherland managed a smile and said, “Hey, we went 3-1 in the hearings, so we didn't do too bad.”
Minnie played for Monessen as a freshman and then went to Summit Academy, a school for delinquent youths, as a sophomore, where he averaged 15.5 points per game last season.
After his time at Summit was over in May, he went to Lincoln Park instead of returning to Monessen, sparking Monessen to protest the transfer for athletic intent.
Minnie will be able to play for Lincoln Park (6-4), the defending WPIAL Class A champions, beginning with the team's next game tonight at home against Our Lady of Sacred Heart.
Lincoln Park's roster already includes three 6-6 players and 6-7 junior Ryan Skovranko.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.