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Tempers flare following the post-game handshakes between Simeon and Morgan Park as Chicago police and CPS security look to restore peace. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
For 32 minutes, Morgan Park and Simeon and the 5,000 or so fans in attendance at Chicago State University’s Jones Convocation Center were on their best behavior.
In fact, only one technical foul was assessed all game, when Morgan Park called for a timeout, but didn’t have any remaining.
Considering the stakes -- Morgan Park is the SouthtownStar’s No. 1 ranked squad and Simeon is ranked No. 12 nationally, not to mention the teams’ long-simmering rivalry -- all parties involved should have been applauded for acting in a civilized manner.
That is, until the obligatory handshakes after the game, won by Simeon 53-51, occurred between the teams.
Tempers flared and some pushing and shoving ensued between players.
Spectators tried to get in on the act and for the most part, security did a solid job of keeping those immature fans off the court.
The players, however, kept pushing and shoving, forcing additional security to step in.
Within minutes, the arena was evacuated.
And while order was eventually restored inside, though neither team was allowed to talk to waiting media, the scene outside of Chicago State University was something I’ve never witnessed and likely something the campus has never witnessed in all its years at 95th Street and Martin Luther King Drive.
Children crying, teenagers running around, adults scampering to their cars searching for shelter.
By the dozen, police cars descended on the campus, lights flashing, sirens blaring.
Not five or 10, mind you. Try 30 or 40 police cars — at least.
The fortunate few spectators, myself included, that were able to leave the campus had their cars spot-checked by police, flash lights in hand.
A fire truck and ambulance hurriedly made their way on to campus, as it was reported that gun shots were fired.
It was chaos ... it was sad.
Which leads me to this: The game was initially scheduled at Morgan Park but moved to Chicago State to accommodate demand.
Not even the $10 price tag for tickets and additional $5 to park your car discouraged thousands of fans from seeing the action up close.
The rivalry itself is always a big draw. But the chance to see Simeon’s Jabari Parker, a Duke recruit and one of the best players in the state, up close and personal made a hot ticket even hotter.
I know the additional funds benefit the Chicago Public League and the game itself was a fine way to showcase Chicago State’s Jones Convocation Center.
But if teams can’t keep their emotions in check and demonstrate sportsmanship and respect for one another, what’s the point?
I know school pride is at stake, not to mention a spot in the standings and various top 10 polls. In the big picture of life, however, it’s just a game.
But it was, after all, an entertaining game.
Simeon (13-2) tried to pull away on multiple occasions, boasting double-digit leads in both halves.
Morgan Park, though, would not relent in its pursuit of pulling off the upset.
DePaul recruit Billy Garrett tried with all his might to lead the Mustangs (16-2) down victory lane. His clutch three-pointer with 30.9 seconds remaining in the game brought Morgan Park within one at 50-49. Garrett finished with a team-high 23 points.
But Garrett received little help from his teammates most of the night.
After a dunk by D.J. Williams with 31.6 remaining, one of at least a half-dozen jams by the Wolverines, upped the lead to 52-49, Morgan Park called for time.
Problem was, the Mustangs had no timeouts.
Williams split the ensuing free throws to secure the win.
The antics that followed, however, are what most will remember when recalling this game.
Not the half-dozen or so Division I athletes that competed on the court.