Posted on Sat, Sep. 16, 2006
Saginaw-area basketball rivalry ends because of gang concerns
SAGINAW, Mich. - A 27-year basketball rivalry between Saginaw and Buena Vista high schools has ended because of concerns about gang violence.
After ending Thursday's girls basketball game at halftime because of skirmishes inside Buena Vista's gymnasium, officials decided to cancel all future games between the Saginaw Trojans and the Buena Vista Knights.
The two schools, just three miles apart, began playing girls basketball against each other in 1979, Saginaw High Athletic Director Marshall Thomas said.
"This will end the rivalry," he said.
The high schools' wrestling and boys and girls track teams also have met regularly in recent years. It was unclear if those teams would still meet.
On Thursday, 13 police cars from four departments swarmed Buena Vista High after members of a gang showed up at the gym, where rival gang members were already among the crowd of about 300, authorities said.
"People in the gym saw them enter, and they came off the (bleachers) and rushed the door trying to get to these kids," Buena Vista police Sgt. James Baker said. Officers held back the crowd while the visitors were escorted off the property, he said.
"The people inside continued to be uncooperative, fights broke out, and they stopped the game," Baker said.
Security guards and police initially quieted the crowd while the game was suspended for 15 minutes in the second quarter.
But at halftime, students jumped off the bleachers again, Baker said. Police and school officials then decided to cancel the game, and the crowd dispersed without incident, Baker said.
There were no injuries or arrests.
John Johnson, spokesman for the Michigan High School Athletic Association, said the extraordinary measure of calling off a game as well as future meetings is all but unprecedented.
"This would be the first time in my 20 years at the association I've heard of this," he told The Saginaw News for a story published Saturday.
The two schools already do not schedule boys basketball games against each other for fear of violence.
"These games end up as a stage that attracts the wrong people. (Thursday) was evidence of that," Saginaw School District spokesman Michael Manley said. "We don't want to put our kids in a situation that could be detrimental to them."
Sixth-year Knights girls basketball coach Leslie Toole said administrators should consider crowd-control tactics such as pre-sold tickets, requiring students to show identification, or limiting crowds to family members only.
"It's more important that the kids get the clean competition even if it means limiting the crowd," she said.