Referees Toss Two Fans, Then Have Bleachers Cleared Late in Coronado Victory
By Daniel Dullum
The court wasn’t the only place action could be found during Apache Junction’s girls basketball game against Scottsdale Coronado on Jan. 10. As the game wore on, the bleachers became more boisterous, and, in the perception of the referees, less than cordial.
As a result, the Dons came from behind and won the 4A Black Canyon Region game 44-41 before what became a nearly empty AJHS gym.
Two fans in particular were verbally addressing the game officials to the extent that the officials halted the game with 5:05 remaining in the fourth quarter, ordering their removal. One of them ventured onto the court near the center circle.
Within minutes, that action was extended to clearing the gym of everyone, except the participants, with assistance from school administrators and the Apache Junction Police.
AJHS Assistant Principal Tanya Loftis was securing the money boxes in the front office when the incident occurred. “What was reported to me was that there was some gathering to the refs that they were offended by, and some jabbering between the two stands that they were offended by, and they asked to have the gym cleared.
“I’ve never seen this happen for a girls game. It’s happened for the boys, but it’s been a few years. Very rarely does this happen,” she continued. “The other staff that was here did not state that there was any threatening tone to the refs. People in the stands were talking about a particular player who was shoving a lot. The ref was offended and cleared the gym. So we cleared the gym.”
As a safety precaution, police escorted the referees to their vehicles without incident. A spokesperson for the AJPD said that no arrests were made.
AJHS Athletic Director Tina Harshman said she received word from the AIA on Jan. 11, stating that the school was cited for violating Bylaw 18.104.22.168 – Conduct of Participants.
The bylaw states: “The responsibility for the conduct of the coaches, players and spectators at any athletic or nonathletic contest shall lie with the administrators of the schools whose teams are participating in the contest.
“This responsibility includes ensuring conduct by the coaches, players and spectators which adheres at all times to the principles and spirit of good sportsmanship.”
Harshman said that future AJHS varsity home games “will have a police presence.”
Apache Junction (8-8 overall, 2-2 region) pulled away from a 22-22 halftime deadlock and built a 10-point lead twice – first on a layup by Kylee Vanwormer with 1:50 left in the third quarter, and again at 37-27 on Maya Richardson’s 3-pointer in the period’s closing seconds.
Coronado (4-7 overall, 2-0 region) chipped away, largely due to the individual efforts of guard Delaney Howard, who scored a game-high 30 points – 14 in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Prospectors led 38-36 on a McKayla Adams free throw with 5:10 remaining in the fourth quarter. Five seconds later, teams were ordered to remain in their bench areas while officials had the bleachers cleared.
“That break helped them,” AJ Coach Victor Rodriguez said. “That 15 minutes killed us and helped (Coronado). We had them tired, they couldn’t get up and down the floor with us, they didn’t want to press anymore. No break, we win. With that break, the momentum shifts, (Coronado’s) girls get their legs back.
“It should have worked the same for us, but it becomes a mental thing. We worked on running them out all week. … I’ve never seen a game stopped for such a long period of time. But we’re good enough that we should be able to overcome that.”
Graciela Parada’s layup with 3:50 to play tied the game for Coronado at 38-38. Howard’s jumper at 3:08 put the Dons ahead to stay at 40-38.
Kaitlyn Sites’ three-point play brought AJ as close as it would get at 42-40 with 50 seconds remaining.
Vanwormer led the Lady Prospectors with 11 points, followed by Kaylee Smith with 10, and nine points each from Richardson and Adams.
“Our girls are playing well and they just can’t catch a break,” Rodriguez said. “Now we need to hope for a little help from the other teams while we take care of our own business.”