Jordan Decicco of the Kingston boys’ team said the electricity in the stands is an integral part of the game.
“The tension on the court isn’t as bad as the crowd, but I think that idea would really take the tension between us away,” he said. “The crowd is the biggest part of the game whenever we play Newburgh.”
Lacey, who was hit in the altercation at Newburgh, also counts the fans as being an important part of the game, especially one against a longtime rival.
“I think of the fans as fellow teammates because we all carry our school pride and represent Kingston so we clearly need their support,” she said.
But the idea didn’t strike all the players as such a bad idea. Britt Littlejohn, a junior on the Newburgh girls’ team, said she can understand the wisdom in the notion.
“I think that’s a good idea and the team and I will be more focused,” she said. “We really want this game and we’re excited and know what we have to do to win. Clear out the fans and we’ll just play the game we know how to play.”
For the time being, security for all games at Kate Walton Field House, including those Kingston plays against other teams, will be heightened. Padalino added that he plans on conferring with Richard Ballezza, Kingston’s coordinator of prevention and safety, Glen Maisch, the district’s athletic director, and Kingston High Principal Adrian Manuel before deciding on whether to implement attendance limits.
Kingston Police Officer Chris Hulbert is one of Kingston’s pair of student resource officers and frequently works as part of a security team at Kingston’s home games. He said that Kingston’s security, along with a small contingent from Newburgh, should be able to ensure the girls’ game next week is played without incident.
“We wand people through with magnetometers, but otherwise it’s business as usual,” Hulbert said. “We always hope it’s something that isn’t out of control.”
Padalino said the idea is to change the atmosphere, not to remove the rivalry, but rather the heightened tension that’s led to incidents in the past.
“We want to create a culture that this is a sporting event and it’s supposed to be fun,” said Padalino. “It’s supposed to be about the kids on the court and the fans having fun enjoying watching the athletic event. It’s not a place to come and create trouble. In the heat of a basketball game, sometimes kids push each other and sometimes words are exchanged. That happens. It’s part of the game and the intensity. But when the crowd spills into it or it gets beyond that, then it’s an issue.”
For the players, the incidents involving players and fans are obscuring the fun of the game, too.
“I mean the fight was uncalled for but poor sportsmanship on the court kept showing a fight was going to erupt,” said Rayford. “I feel Kingston and Newburgh should just get over the beef and just play basketball.”
That would be more than alright with Kwasnowski. Rayford’s former teammate said all the attention being paid to squabbles and security is getting in the way of the fact that the teams often play really good games against one another.
“It’s unfortunate that spectators had to get involved in our last game at Newburgh because it took away from the amazing performance our team put on,” she said. “It was a well-fought game by both sides and I wish the press was more about how our team really had great chemistry rather than focusing on the fight.”