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Time to cool rivalry burning out of control Dave Konopki Opinion

There’s a rivalry heating up in the Wyoming Valley Conference boys basketball league. And if cooler heads don’t prevail, it could reach a boiling point.

Very soon.

Wyoming Seminary travels to Northwest to play the Rangers in a WVC Division IV game at Gayeski Gymnasium at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. To say there has been some bad blood between the teams recently would be an understatement.

Accusations have been flying from both sides. Seminary feels its team – and its fans – have been treated less than kind during and after games at Northwest in recent years.

Last year, a group of Northwest students went onto the court in the final minutes of the game before security escorted them out the door. Following the game, a group of Northwest students surrounded the Blue Knights’ bus before it left.

But Northwest has been making claims of its own. Among them: Seminary left the visiting locker room in complete disarray following last year’s game.

Now, an incident during a game between the teams last month at Seminary has added plenty of fuel to the fire.

Late in the game, a Northwest player was injured after being fouled while attempting a lay-up. During the course of the play, the player fell to the floor and unfortunately suffered a broken wrist that required subsequent surgery.

Northwest immediately cried foul – in more ways than one.

Many of the Ranger faithful accuse Seminary parents of cheering when the Northwest player was injured. They are also convinced the foul was an intentional effort to injure the Ranger player. None of the three game officials working the game – including two veteran referees – felt it was an intentional or flagrant foul.

There are others who agree with the officials.

I’m one of them.

I saw the play on DVD last week. What I saw was a Northwest player being fouled. It might have been a hard foul. But it wasn’t flagrant. It wasn’t intentional. And there was certainly no sign of intent to injure someone.

Ranger Nation isn’t buying it.

And now, there’s talk of retaliation against the Seminary player who committed the foul.

Zero tolerance policy

I’m calling for a zero tolerance policy for Saturday night’s game – for players of both teams, as well as their fans. Here’s my policy:

• Any player who commits an unsportsmanlike act – whether it’s an intentional foul or otherwise – will be suspended from participating in all school sports for a 365-day period. If the player is a senior, he will be prohibited from playing in all school sports and attending all athletic events for the rest of the school year.

• Any student who conducts themselves in an unsportsmanlike manner will be immediately suspended from participating in all sports for a one-year period and will be prohibited from attending any athletic events during that time.

• Any parent who acts in an unsportsmanlike manner will be immediately removed from the gymnasium and prohibited from attending any school athletic event for a one-year period.

Finally, here’s a little advice to the players who will take the court tomorrow night:

Keep it clean.

Keep your mouths shut.

Let your play do the talking.

And may the best team win.

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