Douglass-Clifton game suspended in 2nd half

Objects, twice thrown on court, bring action from officials

High Schools

January 16, 2002|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

Tension and emotion from a large crowd spilled over onto the basketball court last night at Lake Clifton High School as spectators twice threw objects onto the floor, forcing school administrators to suspend the boys game between No. 1 Douglass and No. 8 Lake Clifton.

Lake Clifton principal Veronica Brown made the decision to call the game between the Baltimore City rivals after a discussion with officials. The contest was stopped near the end of the third quarter with Douglass leading, 53-41, when someone threw a can of soda onto the court.

The game, which could be resumed as early as next week, already had been stopped briefly in the first half after someone threw a stocking cap on the court during play. Brown said she feared the situation might escalate because, at the time, there were no police officers in the gym, which was at full capacity.

"At the start of the game, we had two police officers here working as a favor to us, but they couldn't stay for the entire game," Brown said. "Without any security present, our priority needed to be the safety of everyone involved."

Police did show up at the school to help defuse the situation, which was tense, but never violent, as spectators filed out of the gym. Sgt. William Neugent, a Northeastern District supervisor, said that there were several officers in the area monitoring the situation, but that no arrests were made.

"We couldn't just think about the game and players, we had to think about what was safe for everybody," said Lake Clifton coach Herman Harried. "We didn't have any security here. When things got a little heated, the decision had to be made with that in mind."

Douglass coach Rodney Coffield said he was surprised, as well as frustrated, by the decision. The soda can was thrown after a 17-2 Douglass run, and the Ducks appeared to be on the verge of turning a close game into a rout.

"I didn't feel like it was a whole group of people, just a couple of dumb individuals," Coffield said. "But at the same time, with 1,200 people watching a close, intense game with no police officers, you have to respect the principal's decision. I've certainly never experienced anything like this in my years of coaching."

The stoppage unfortunately interrupted an impressive performance by Douglass guard Tyler Smith, who scored 25 points through three quarters. In fact, it was right after a powerful left-handed dunk by Smith on a fast break that someone threw the soda can.

"I think everyone on our team was real disappointed because we had all the momentum at that point and the game gets stopped because they throw something on the court," Smith said. "In the first half when they were doing well, someone throws something on the court, and we keep playing. It was strange."

Smith said the game was intense on the court, but nothing out of the ordinary. Lake Clifton forward Tavon Smith was called for a technical foul in the third quarter, and three fast-break dunks received emotional reactions from the crowd, but beyond that, there was little to suggest that emotions were about to get out of control.

"I thought we might still play after a little delay but then everyone said the game was canceled," Smith said. "I didn't even know they could just call it like that. It was certainly a first for me."

Bob Wade, the coordinator of athletics for Baltimore City, recently returned from the hospital after having surgery, and was not available for comment last night. Coffield said he hoped the non-divisional game could be resumed possibly as early as Monday. Both teams are scheduled to play in the three-day Mayor's Basketball Academy Tournament that begins tomorrow at Coppin State.

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