Rivalries in sports are as old as competition itself; it’s customary for players and fans of one particular team to have an opponent they want to beat more than any other. For the Kingston High School boys’ and girls’ varsity basketball teams, that rival is Newburgh Free Academy, and there’s a rich history of spirited contests between the Tigers and the Goldbacks. But recent altercations involving both players and fans of have led school officials to consider drastic measures, including the possibility of games being played in an empty arena.
The most recent incident occurred in a girls’ game at Newburgh on Wednesday, January 11. With less than two minutes remaining in the game and the Tigers up 49-34, a physical game suddenly got too physical. Earlier in the fourth quarter, a woman had stepped onto the court to confront Kingston’s Shamari Brodhead; the woman was ejected from the gym, but the air of tension didn’t go with her.
A scramble for a loose ball, a few words exchanged between opponents: These are common occurrences in basketball games, only this time it got out of hand. Players began shoving one another, Newburgh’s bench was emptied and the home team saw one of its senior stars ejected for throwing a punch. Fans spilled onto the court and Kingston’s Alisia Lacey was reportedly punched by a male spectator.
One night earlier, the boys’ varsity teams from both schools played at Kate Walton Field House, and while the game went off without incident, security was beefed up and attendance was strictly regulated so the cavernous hall was only around half-filled. Last January, the boys’ teams had a game at Kingston High end in eerily similar fashion to the girls’ game earlier this month. In that instance, it was an altercation with less than 15 seconds remaining that led to fans leaving the stands and hitting the court.
Though melees haven’t often been part of this longstanding rivalry, the recent incidents at boys’ and girls’ games in the home arenas of both courts have school officials concerned.
On Wednesday, Jan. 11, Paul Padalino was in the middle of his first official week as Kingston’s superintendent. Though he didn’t grow up in Kingston or Newburgh and didn’t work in either district before taking his administrative role on Crown Street, the rivalry was not unfamiliar to him.
“I think it’s been a lot more than the last couple of years,” he said. “It’s been a longstanding rivalry.”
The rivalry is also not unfamiliar to players from both schools, some of whom agreed to speak to the Kingston Times for this report. While a few denied the existence of a rivalry at all, preferring to focus on each game as its own unique challenge, others spoke about the very tangible tension between the two teams, which represent the two biggest Mid-Hudson cities on the west bank.
“[It’s] just the way they carry themselves, the cockiness,” said Kingston’s Micah Riddick, a junior standout on the boys’ team. “It definitely is tense on the court. Every bucket, it gets a lot more intense.”
Riddick’s teammate, Myles Santiago, has known about the rivalry for a long time.