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Inappropriate Fan Behavior at High School Game

Sangamon Valley fan behavior was unacceptable

Incidents that prompted the premature end of a boys basketball game at Williamsville High School last Friday were unacceptable and measures will be taken to discourage similar occurrences at future games involving the visiting team, Niantic Sangamon Valley.

That was the reaction Tuesday of Sangamon Valley school superintendent Ernie Fowler four days after the Storm’s 67-47 loss at Williamsville — where the game was halted with 1 minute 47 seconds left due to misbehavior by some Storm fans.

Sangamon Valley has submitted its plans to the Illinois High School Association, which also has received reports on what transpired from the game officials and Williamsville officials.

Fowler said the school district would pay for a Macon County Sheriff’s Deputy to be at the rest of this season’s home games, beginning with Tuesday’s game against Decatur Lutheran. And a Sangamon Valley administrator will attend all road games beginning with Friday’s contest at New Berlin.

Fowler said he and Sangamon Valley principal Robert Meadows had a conference call Tuesday with IHSA assistant executive director Kurt Gibson, and they subsequently sent a letter to Gibson with their plans for home and away games.

Gibson indicated it’s likely the IHSA will OK Sangamon Valley’s plans and won’t further penalize the school.

“This is an unusual situation,” Gibson said of the game being called early. “But I think what Sangamon Valley wants to do is good. I’m hoping that’s where we end up.”

Water bottle toss

According to accounts from several individuals involved that night, including floor official Bob Claton of Springfield, the game was called after a plastic water bottle was thrown in Claton’s direction near the scorer’s table.

It came from the Sangamon Valley fan section, although Fowler said the person who threw the bottle has not been identified.

“We’ve asked a lot of questions, but nobody’s owned up to it,” Fowler said. “We don’t have a definitive answer there.

“But if we find out whoever did it, we’d have them banned from any of our activities. It’s unacceptable behavior. I don’t care what you think about the referees or how the game is going.”

Sangamon Valley coach Josh Myers received a technical foul during the second quarter, which meant he had to remain on the Storm bench the rest of the game. Claton, who was part of an officiating crew with Springfield’s Limey Nargelenas and Chatham’s Steve Guikema, said Myers complied.
Claton also said he did not remember Myers or any other Sangamon Valley coaches using inappropriate language that night.

The game was tied at 28 at halftime, but the Bullets outscored Sangamon Valley 39-19 in the second half. Williamsville finished 24-for-34 at the free throw line, while Sangamon Valley was 7-for-14.

Myers was bringing his starters out of the game with less than 2 minutes left when one of them, senior Dan Rentschler, received a technical foul for saying something to one of the officials. Claton said  another technical was assessed to Sangamon Valley assistant coach Nick Viele for something he said to an official as Rentschler came to the bench.

During the ensuing Williamsville free throws, some Sangamon Valley fans — whose section was on the side of the gym with the scorer’s table and team benches — were filing out.  Claton said some fans directed foul language and obscene gestures toward him and the other officials.

“Somebody threw a bag of popcorn on the floor; then a water bottle went by my head,” Claton said. “For the players’ safety and (the officials’) safety, I decided to stop the game.”

‘A black eye’

Myers admitted he deserved the technical foul in the second quarter, but he wanted to put an end to rumors that the situation was more out of control than it actually was.

“It’s not something you ever want to happen again,” Myers said. “I was embarrassed because it gives Sangamon Valley a black eye. An idiot threw a water bottle.

“It was a bad situation, but there wasn’t a fight or anything like that. What I’m most upset about is, there were stories that our players and coaches were out of control. Some of it was blown out of proportion.”

Fowler said he talked with Myers about what transpired, and that Myers — also the school’s athletic director — has the support of the Sangamon Valley administration.

Fowler also said the feedback he received from residents in the Sangamon Valley district (including Illiopolis, Niantic and Harristown) indicated the fans who lost control on Friday were in the minority.

“We have good people in our community who are appalled by the behavior of a handful of fans,” Fowler said. “I’ve gotten calls and emails from people who were at the game, and they’ve expressed outrage over this.”

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