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HERMITAGE, PA. Tournament's end being considered



Published: Tue, August 14, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Between 100 and 150 people were involved in each of three fights on Sunday.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

HERMITAGE, Pa. -- The Shenango Valley YMCA is taking another look at its sponsorship of an annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament after last weekend's event was marred by a series of fights.

Police said an 18-year-old player was treated at Sharon Regional Health System for facial injuries following one of the fights and two other people were arrested in an earlier fight at the tournament grounds in the rear parking lot of the Shenango Valley Mall.

All of the fights occurred Sunday and all occurred on courts where a team of black players was pitted against a team of white players, police said.

However, police said they had no reports of ethnic intimidation.

"I have a lot of concern about it," said Atty. James Goodwin, chairman of the YMCA board of directors.

Possibility: Cancellation of future tournaments is a possibility, he said, adding that the board wants to discuss the event with its new executive director, Richard Marshall, before making any decisions.

Marshall was on hand for the tournament but was on vacation Monday. Sharon Regional is a co-sponsor of the tournament, but a spokesman was unavailable for comment Monday.

"There was no problem on 90 percent of the courts," said Goodwin, who attended the event. "It wasn't even the players. It was the families," he said.

The YMCA almost dropped the tournament a couple of years ago because of this type of problem, he said.

Gary Hinkson, Hermitage city manager, said the city provides police security for the tournament but might rethink its involvement in the future if the event is a security risk.

Goodwin said the tournament also hires private security guards, but they seemed ineffective in the three fights Sunday.

Two police officers were assigned to the event.

The YMCA has been a sponsor of the tournament for eight or nine years, he said, noting it was a Gus Macker tournament before that.

Larry Matchak, deputy police chief, said the tournament was marred by fights two years ago and police officials met with YMCA officials to work out ways to deal with problems on and around the courts, he said.

Official's call: Last year, referees were given the authority to end a game immediately if any problems arose around the court and the 2000 tournament went smoothly, Matchak said.

The police didn't have a similar meeting with the YMCA's new executive director this year and referees may not have had that same authority, Matchak said.

"There was a potential for this thing to be real serious," he said, noting that officers at the scene reported as many as 100 to 150 people involved in some fashion in each of the three fights.

The first occurred at 10:30 a.m. and started among some players in a young age bracket but quickly spread to the crowd surrounding the court, Matchak said.

There was some pushing and shoving but no one was hurt and no one was arrested, he said.

The second fight broke out around 12:15 p.m. when two men in the crowd jumped onto a court and attacked a player. That player suffered some facial injuries and was treated at Sharon Regional, Matchak said, adding that police are still trying to learn the identity of the assailants.

That attack also quickly turned into a pushing and shoving match among spectators, he said.

The third fight started around 2:30 p.m. when Natasha S. Claiborne, 18, of Emerson Avenue, Farrell, rushed onto the court and began yelling at a player.

When police tried to remove her, a 17-year-old Farrell boy playing on one of the teams tried to intervene.

Both he and Claiborne were given citations for disorderly conduct and Claiborne got an additional citation for harassment.

Matchak said people in the crowd also tried to intervene in the arrests.




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