As the regular season winds down in high school hoops, the stakes are getting higher. And the repercussions of a Jan. 25 melee involving teams from Wooddale, Melrose, Westwood and Fairley has thrown the TSSAA tournament into a state of flux.
Wooddale, Westwood, Melrose and Fairley all have been banned by the TSSAA for their parts in the fights. The schools have appealed the ruling, and with district meetings coming later this week, a resolution should come soon on whether TSSAA will uphold the bans for Westwood and Melrose.
The Westwood-Fairley brawl started as the teams were going to the handshake line, an end-of-game custom to promote sportsmanship. It was during that ritual that words were exchanged and chaos spread throughout the gym. According to reports and smartphone video of the brawl, several fights had to be broken up by school officials and security officers.
The Westwood Longhorns were in the middle of their best season in years. Westwood (21-2,14-0) is ranked seventh in the latest Class A AP poll in the state and were looking to a deep run at a state title. Fairley (10-7, 7-5) was a good season and were looking to make their mark in the postseason as well.
According to the official’s report, the fight involving Wooddale and Melrose came with 1:13 left after a Wooddale player tossed the ball behind him to a player from Melrose, who threw it back at the Wooddale player and hit him in the head. A Wooddale teammate then grabbed the ball and hit the Melrose player with the ball.
Fans stormed the court from both sides and at least one Melrose player ran onto the court from the bench. Officials called the game off after order was restored because multiple Melrose players had mace in their eyes.
Wooddale is ranked third in the state in Class AA (22-3, 6-0) was one of the favorites to contend for a state title. Melrose (18-6, 3-3) was looking also to make a deep run in postseasonason.
All of the players that were directly seen throwing a punch or leaving the bench area will have to serve a suspension for their violation. However, the ban only applies to the schools and not the players. Meaning that if a player transfers to another school, he will be allowed to play without restrictions as long as he’s served all games of any suspension.
According to TSSAA Bylaws state in Article III: “The TSSAA and its member schools believe strongly that the major purpose of athletics at the secondary level is to be part of the total education program. A major part of this purpose is to stress to coaches, players, officials and fans the vital importance of sportsmanship. It is critical that all people in each of these categories understand that major role that they play and the role model that they can be for others.”
All teams were fined $500 for fans coming onto the court, $1,000 each season for being placed on restrictive probation, and probation for 2019 thru 2021 with a fine of $500 each season. In total, each team was fined $3,500.
Shelby County Schools has filed an appeal on behalf of Westwood, Wooddale and Melrose. All expect to have an emergency meeting sometime this week with District play starting early next week. Fairley is not part of the SCS and they will have to appeal on their own. Attempts to reach SCS for comment were unsuccessful.
Both Westwood and Wooddale will participate in the Shelby County Championship on Friday, Feb. 9 at White Station High School. The County Championship is not considered postseason play.