Brawl leads to full-team suspension, future forfeit

A fight that led to the cancellation of a holiday tournament final is still affecting a California boys basketball power, forcing it to forfeit its conference opener on Wednesday night.

That forthcoming forfeit by Burbank (Calif.) High is made more painful by the fact that it comes against a team with just two wins this year, meaning that a near-certain win will now go as a loss on Burbank's record.

"We're taking it on the chin," Burbank coach Lindsey Ferrell told the Sacramento Bee. "The kids feel bad about what happened. We know we made a mistake. But we want to move on. For us, it's a life-learned lesson."

According to the Bee, Burbank was forced into the forfeit because all 14 players that were present for the brawl during the Modesto Christian Tournament championship game against Inglewood Morningside (Calif.) High on New Year's Day were handed a one-game suspension, in accordance with California Interscholastic Federation regulations that stipulate all players who leave the bench for a brawl are handed an automatic one-game suspension.

The Daily Breeze reported that all nine Burbank bench players ran onto the court when the fight began, which ensured that all nine earned a suspension, with the five players who were in the game when the fight started also facing a single-game ban.

The fight ended the tournament's championship game in the third quarter, with Burbank holding a 42-37 lead. The teams were separated and the game was called off with more than a full quarter remaining, with Burbank being named the tournament champion after the teams were in their respective locker rooms.

"Basically it was an all-out brawl," Morningside coach Donnell Meekins told the Daily Breeze. "And there were no signs of a fight occurring until it occurred.

"When their bench cleared, it became a matter of survival. We were on the road, the incident occurred under their basket and their bench cleared first. Our players were intervening to help a teammate."

Morningside forfeited a nonleague game Tuesday, the Bee reported.

Burbank could have played Wednesday's game against Hiram Johnson (Calif.) High by promoting a handful of the program's best junior varsity players, but such a move would have made all the promoted players ineligible to play on junior varsity games later in the season, which would have stunted their development and hurt other players on that squad.

Ferrell was unwilling to take that step, leaving his team to absorb an unlikely loss early in the conference season. Despite the surprising sudden setback, Ferrell is convinced Burbank will rally once it finally does get its conference campaign underway.

"I think we're going to come into [the conference schedule] locked in," Ferrell told the Bee. " ... Those four games in Modesto have prepared us well for the Metro."

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