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Bizzare disqualification puts losing Wisconsin team in sectional semifinals

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Little Chute (Wis.) High's boys basketball team recently completed an impressive season, reaching the state sectional finals. Incredibly, they reached that point despite losing a sectional semifinal.

How? The program pulled a proverbial rabbit out of its hat by proving that a player from the team that knocked it out was technically ineligible … though not until the day of the semifinal game they had failed to earn a spot in.

As reported in great detail by the Appleton Post-Crescent, the Appleton (Wis.) Xavier High boys basketball team defeated Little Chute in the state playoffs, but was then booted from its rightful place in the sectional semifinals because of what some considered to be an "ambush" by Little Chute administrators. The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association ruled to disqualify Xavier after photos and videos showed a Xavier player taking part in a non-scholastic basketball game earlier in the day of the school's upset victory against Little Chute.

WIAA rules state that a player can not play in a non-state sanctioned game on the same day as an official game, which meant that the player in question was deemed ineligible to play in the later state game against Little Chute.

While that might seem like a black-and-white ruling to make, it appears that the decision may have actually been anything but so straightforward. According to the Post-Crescent's reporting, the player didn't realize that the event he took part in earlier in the day was an official game, rather believing that he had been called in to take part in a sort of pick-up game. While the game was sponsored by the CatholicYouth Organization (CYO), the player either didn't understand that CYO was an officially accredited organization or didn't believe that was relevant to whether or not the event would be considered a conflict with WIAA state rules.

That gray area led Xavier to file for a last minute restraining order attempting to delay tip off of the state semifinal, only for that motion to be rejected and for Little Chute to take the Hawks' place.

"The student, who was asked to play in the game by a friend, was unaware that the game was a very loose league game played at a local athletic facility where many pickup games are believed to be played," Xavier argued in its motion for a restraining order.

Perhaps more troublingly, the Little Chute officials who brought the case to the attention of Xavier administrators and others on the day of Xavier's scheduled sectional quarterfinal against Fox Valley (Wis.) Lutheran High couldn't even confirm that the video or pictures taken of the event were independent and not taken directly by someone affiliated with the Little Chute program.

Considering the fact that there were four days between Xavier's victory against Little Chute and the moment when the team was disqualified from the tournament, the entire timing of the accusations were questionable, at best, not least of all for Fox Valley Lutheran, which spent nearly an entire week preparing for a game against Xavier only to find itself playing Little Chute just hours before tip off.

As fate would have it, that appeared to have an effect on the sectional semi's outcome, with Little Chute pulling out a 52-50 victory in the game. The team's playoff reprieve didn't last any longer than that, however, with Brillion (Wis.) High pulling out a defensive, 39-35 victory to reach Friday's state semifinals in Madison.

Naturally, Little Chute's eventual elimination doesn't go too far toward easing the disappointment of Xavier or Fox Valley Lutheran, with both squads feeling they easily -- and rightfully -- could have been competing against Brillion in Little Chute's place.

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