Payson High School Athletic Director Gary Fishel has issued a statement regarding the unfortunate scuffle that took place immediately after a PHS vs. Fountain Hills boys basketball game on Jan. 31 in Wilson Dome.
“There was a confrontation among spectators following the Payson – Fountain Hills boys varsity basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012, won by Fountain Hills 78-49. Words had been bantered back and forth by groups from both schools during the night’s game, and the situation escalated at the completion of the game when unidentified Payson spectators threw T-shirts at one of the Fountain Hills spectators (the shirts had been tossed into the crowd as complimentary gifts earlier in the game by the PHS Cheer Squad).
“School and community members separated the agitated parties and kept the situation from further escalation, and Payson Police Department presence provided a calming influence.
“The good news is that no current players from either team were involved as both teams were heading to their respective locker rooms. However, a black gym bag belonging to a Fountain Hills player disappeared during the confusion. Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of the bag should contact the high school at 474-2233.
“The incident is under review by school administration as the behavior was inappropriate and not consistent with the level of sportsmanship expected from our community, and apologies are extended to Fountain Hills High School for this breach of hospitality and respect.”
While the incident was unfortunate, it should not be blown out of proportion because those types of situations can and do occur in sports events at all levels.
One in particular I remember occurred, I believe, at the onset of the 1984-85 basketball season in a game that pitted Show Low against Payson High in old PHS gym.
That year I was the SLHS football coach and had driven to Payson to watch some of my players begin the season against the Longhorns.
As I remember, some heckling was occurring especially at a young man who only a few weeks earlier was playing tight end on the Cougar football team.
He had always had a short fuse and I was constantly on guard during the football season to be sure he wasn’t at the forefront of any disturbances that might occur in games or practices.
But in the heat of the PHS vs. SLHS basketball game, he apparently grew upset with some of the heckling from Payson fans and responded with an obscene gesture to the crowd, maybe one student in particular. That prompted a young man to run out of the stands onto the floor to challenge the Show Low teen to a fistfight.
What resulted was the mother of all basketball scraps with both benches emptying, fans running onto the floor and administrators, coaches and teachers trying to quell the disturbance.
The melee went on for quite a while, but eventually police arrived and order was restored.
It was an ugly situation that was resolved somewhat peaceably. But every once in awhile I cross paths with some Payson fans or players who were at that game and know I was there also, but dressed in Show Low green and gold.
Those impromptu meetings usually result in some good-natured teasing and bantering as we look back on the fisticuffs that shouldn’t have been.
Join the free PATS Monument Peak Loop Trail hike at 9 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 18. Meet at the Monument Peak Trailhead.