Gene Henley: Rivalries great; violence must stop

Gene Henley: Rivalries great; violence must stop

December 4th, 2012 by Gene Henley in Sports - Columns

Starting this past weekend, we have been swamped with rivalry games that shape not only basketball seasons but the way high school teams are perceived in the community.

The longstanding rivalry between Cleveland and Bradley Central had another chapter Friday night, with Bradley's girls and Cleveland's boys getting big district victories. It has been good that in recent memory the atmosphere has stayed heated on the court but with a proper perspective off it.

Older fans will remember how the rivalry was halted in football for almost 10 years because the fan bases did not get along.

In 1998 a basketball game at the Raider Dome was interrupted during the fourth quarter when mace leaked onto the court after police sprayed some in attempts to stop a fight between authorities and fans in the gym lobby.

Fast forward to 2010 and a basketball game at Brainerd between the Panthers and the Tyner Rams. Late in the contest, a fight broke out between fans in the stands. Again, play was stopped. The gym eventually was locked down as the violence spilled outside.

Last Friday night a teenager was arrested for firing a gun outside the Brainerd-Howard basketball game, although reportedly the shots were fired off the Brainerd campus in a nearby neighborhood.

What I'm getting at is simply this: It's got to stop. In these rivalries, the action already is heated on the court. Let's keep it there and off the streets. Today it's the streets. Tomorrow it's gunfire. The next time it's going to be a stray bullet that misses its intended target and injures -- or worse -- a young kid. An adult. A single father or mother. Anybody. Somebody. Then families are left with the what-ifs or an even harder question to answer: Why?

These battles are going to be won or lost on the court: There's no reason to fight them off.

With that being said, let me point you to my "Three to See" tonight. (A freebie: East Hamilton at Cleveland. You're welcome.)

Boyd-Buchanan boys at Silverdale: This could be the best game of the evening. Silverdale coach Randy Evans gets his first look at District 5-A basketball as a coach and gets it at home against a solid bunch of Buccaneers.

Bledsoe County boys at Notre Dame: These are the two preseason favorites in District 7-AA, and I'm expecting scoring in at least the 60s. Like Evans, Irish coach J.P. Nermun (the perfect name for a Notre Dame guy) will get his first taste of district basketball at home.

McCallie at Tyner: McCallie's Blue Tornado are off to a slow start, as coach Dan Wadley looks to mold some help around stalwart guards Jamaal Calvin and the sneaker-junkie himself, Jorden Williams. They were drilled by almost 40 against Knoxville Webb last week and now get to go against a Rams team that isn't great anywhere but is solid everywhere.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311.