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High Schools - Brawl mars Constitution's Public League debut

ABDUL KING DESCRIBED himself as being "upset . . . real upset'' and he'd been the most productive player on the team with the most points.

ABDUL KING DESCRIBED himself as being "upset . . . real upset'' and he'd been the most productive player on the team with the most points.

So, yes, your instincts are correct.

Something indeed went horribly wrong yesterday as Constitution High, a special-admit school at 7th and Chestnut hoping to become a crown jewel in the Philadelphia system, played World Communications Charter, at South Philly's Shot Tower Recreation Center, in its first-ever Public League basketball game.

All hell broke loose in the Division D (smallest enrollment) contest with 2:46 remaining in the third quarter, and Constitution on top by 46-30. Punches were thrown. Both benches completely emptied. Spectators also came streaming onto the court to get involved in pushing/yelling.

Just as order was being restored, emotions flared again. More insults flew back and forth between the players and coaches and there was minor shoving, but nothing to rival the original flare-up . . . Though WC coach Kenyatta McKinney said the parent of a Constitution player did invite his top player, Markeith Mont, "outside for a fair one.''

Soon, McKinney was herding his players to the safety of the locker room and Constitution's principal, Dr. Thomas Davidson, was ordering his school's cheerleaders to leave the premises because they'd razzed the WC players as they walked by. And the lead referee, Chris Green, who worked the game with Mark Carfagno, was placing a call to the PL hoops chairman, Charles Sumter. And Sumter was saying to halt it.

Later, Davidson gathered Constitution's players in the southwest corner of the gym, catty-corner from where the incident commenced, and talked to them in stern fashion. Among other things, he promised disciplinary action for anyone caught commenting about the incident on Facebook.

At 8:30 last night, the fallout was announced.

Robert Coleman, the director of PL sports and the District 12 chairman, said he ruled the game a double forfeit. Also, both schools will forfeit their next game (Math, Civics and Sciences tomorrow for Constitution; A. Philip Randolph for World Comm on Monday) and then be unable to use the ejected players in their ensuing games. (Stephen A. Douglas for Constitution on Monday; Boys' Latin for World Comm.)

Coleman said he cleared that punishment with his PIAA superiors.

All but seven players were ejected - three for WC, four for Constitution. Ejections were automatic for everyone who left the bench. With the help of the coaches and scorekeeper Todd Latimore, the president of Constitution's first senior class, the officials determined which seven players on the court at the time of the melee had not thrown punches.

Coleman said the schools would have to promote JV players to flesh out their rosters. Constitution has no JV. It has until Tuesday to find more players and make sure they're eligible medically and academically.

A brand new team forfeiting its first Pub game is not new. In fact, it happened just last season. Randolph and Science Leadership Academy somehow played a game before the official starting date and that one went into the books as a double forfeit.

Sumter said he ordered the refs to halt this contest when Green informed him only seven players were still available.

"I also feared for everyone's safety," he said. "Not being there, I didn't know for sure about the situation. I'm not taking chances.''

Green said he and Carfagno witnessed three players throwing punches - Shon Phillips and Anthony Guess of WC; Tamir Bolger of Constitution.

The mess, out on the deep left wing, not far from the entrance to the gym, began just as a World Comm player was preparing to shoot free throws; the physical game featured 34 personal fouls. It had taken root moments earlier when Bolger, as he acknowledged later, slapped Mont in the face after their bodies became entangled after a tumble.

"I feel bad about everything that went down. It's on me. I'm sorry about that,'' said Bolger, a 5-7 sophomore guard.

Without saying he thought there'd been intent, Bolger said Mont hit him in his "private parts'' as they sprawled.

"Then I [hit] him,'' Bolger said. "Back at this end, he came after me [verbally].''

Mont confirmed Bolger slapped him in the face to cap their pileup.

The coaches - Constitution's is Rob Moore - are bitter rivals. Yesterday, they made assorted allegations against each other and McKinney claimed one of the Generals' key players is using a fake address and doesn't live in Philadelphia. Moore denied that.

Moore said McKinney is upset because three Constitution players were going to enroll at World Comm, then decided against it.

"We weren't going there,'' McKinney said. "We weren't taking them.''

For what it's worth, considering everything that happened later, the first General to score PL points was King, a 6-1 junior guard and transfer from Roman Catholic. They came on two free throws with 3:34 left in the first quarter. After his team had fallen into an 8-0 hole.

King finished with 12 points in that quarter and 21 total. He also had four apiece of rebounds, assists and steals.

"We started off slow,'' King said. "Being a captain, I had to pick us up. I'm just disappointed we couldn't finish the game, and that this is going to put a negative light on our team and school.''

Said Moore: "The kids played hard. It was an emotional game. One small thing, whatever it was, led to an unfortunate situation and now the kids are paying the price.''

"I apologize for our behavior,'' McKinney said last night. "It got heated in there. A lot going on. It still shouldn't happen.''

Coleman said repeat problems involving either team could result in sanctions or suspensions. Or any team, for that matter.

"We're not going to stand for teams getting involved in conflict on the floor,'' he added. "Let that message go out very clear.''