The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

January 26, 2011

Fanning the flames

Lakeside-Conneaut boys clash called with 27.8 seconds left after fans go onto the floor

CONNEAUT — Having just closed to within six points of Lakeside, Conneaut’s boys basketball team had seized control of momentum and was poised to make an uphill climb toward an exciting finish.

However, no one will ever know just what would have happened. With 27.8 seconds remaining, the game was declared concluded by officials Walt Klepac, Kevin Robertson and Morris Jones after the bleachers at Garcia Gymnasium began to empty. Lakeside claimed a 78-72 victory.

After Lakeside’s Brendan Hester fouled out and was called for a technical foul as he made it to the bench, fans behind the Lakeside bench began jawing at Hester. Hester stood and turned toward the offending adult and said something. Officers from the Conneaut Police Department and the Lakeside coaching staff got tentative control of the situation.

As that was being tended to, members of the Lakeside student section began emptying the bleachers and going across the gym floor toward the Conneaut fans. Officials called the game at that point.

Neither bench made a move toward the altercation, though words were exchanged here and there.

The Conneaut Police, Lakeside principal Sylvia Atkinson, Lakeside athletic director Rob McGruder, Conneaut principal Dawn Zappitelli and Conneaut AD Joel Taylor were able to clear the gym and restore peace relatively quickly.

Lakeside coach Rob Pisano and Conneaut Tim Tallbacka sent the teams to their respective locker rooms as quickly as was possible.

“The game was played awfully dirty from the start, in my opinion,” Pisano said. “That it would carry over to the fans that had moved — they weren’t sitting there before — to behind the bench and were grown adults is disgraceful.

“The kids were emotional (because of the situation in the game) and they can be easily set off. They read that speech (about sportsmanship) before the game. That did not happen here tonight. I’m really upset with what went on here tonight.”

“It’s extremely disappointing for the game to end the way it did,” Tallbacka said. “I got no explanation from the officials, but it’s a shame for it to end the way it did.

“We were down six with 30 seconds left. It would have been a tough finish. Congratulate Rob. He has a nice team and it was a hard-fought game both ways.”

Entering the fourth quarter, Lakeside held a 63-46 lead on the heels of an 11-1 run in which Cody Blizzard, Adam Bahr and Harry Story all connected on 3-pointers.

“We started to get the ball inside a little bit and (Conneaut) started to back off, opening up the outside,” Pisano said.

“They had nine 3s on the night,” Tallbacka said. “If you told me before the game they’d have nine 3s and we’d only lose by six, I wouldn’t have believed it. We wanted to take away their penetration. They’ve got shooters all over the place.”

Lakeside held onto that 16-point advantage for the first six minutes of the final period.

With 1:51 to play, Cody Thompson jumpstarted the Conneaut comeback with a trey from the top of the key. After two missed free throws by the Dragons (9-3, 6-2 in the Premier Athletic Conference), Nick Blood scored on a feed from Christian Williams and the Spartans trailed, 76-65, with 1:23 to play.

Hester then sandwiched two free throws around one from Conneaut’s Blake Heinonen and the flurry was on with Lakeside leading, 77-65, with 53 seconds remaining.

Hester committed his fifth foul. As he was sent to the bench, he received a technical foul. Heinonen hit on one of his two free throws in the double bonus, Thompson made both of his attempts from the technical and the Spartans had the ball with 39 seconds left.

Thompson connected on a trey from the wing, right in front of the Lakeside student section and that quickly Conneaut (2-10) had trimmed its deficit to six, 78-72.

“We went to a man (defense) in the fourth quarter,” Tallbacka said. “We had to. We were down 16 or 17 going into it.

“We made shots tonight. When you make shots, the energy level is so much better. The more I watch basketball, there’s a certain synergy when you make shots that things seem to go better. We made shots tonight.”

“We were in heavy foul trouble,” Pisano said. “That’s all I’ll say. We played a lot of the second half with three and four fouls.”

As the Dragons tried to inbound the ball, the game was called.

Blizzard and Story led the Dragons with 22 and 21 points, respectively. Emonte Parks added 15 and Hester scored 10.

Thompson paced the Spartans with 19 points, Josh Furmage scored 16, Blood tallied 14 and Matt Munson added 13.

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