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Moorpark Playoff Game Goes Off Without Incident

Girls' basketball: Under scrutiny for alleged racial epithets, school is on best behavior playing host to Compton Dominguez.

March 06, 1997|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

THOUSAND OAKS — Moorpark High was under scrutiny, and a trial of sorts was held on a court rather than in one.

Could the school play host to an emotionally charged basketball game in a gracious manner?

Could the players and fans conduct themselves appropriately when the opposing team is composed mostly of African American players and fans?

Yes, the Musketeers had something to prove against Compton Dominguez in a Southern Section Division II-A girls' semifinal game at Thousand Oaks. And it had nothing to do with Moorpark's 52-42 victory.

Southern Section administrators Dean Crowley and Harold Cebrum sat high in the stands, serving as judge and jury.

Verdict?

"There is no fault in anything I see," Crowley said. "Two teams playing hard, and a positive response from the crowd. It's great."

Questions arose after more than 20 players, coaches and cheerleaders from San Bernardino, Moorpark's most recent opponent, filed written charges that racial epithets were directed at them during Saturday's game at Moorpark.

Moorpark Principal John McIntosh conducted an investigation Monday that he said cleared his school of the allegations. He was certain no problems would surface Wednesday and said early Wednesday that no special precautions would be taken against Dominguez.

"I haven't talked to [the student body] about it because I uncovered nothing that indicates that our students are racist," McIntosh said. "We have a diverse student body and there is [ethnic] diversity on our team."

Nevertheless, four Ventura County Sheriff's deputies were on hand as well as two Compton Unified School District police officers. A man in a suit greeted fans entering the gym, instructing them politely but firmly: "Moorpark fans sit on this side; Dominguez fans on this side."

Hostilities were absent, however, and everyone's attention was riveted to the action on the floor.

In the first quarter, a Dominguez player was hit hard across the face during a scramble for the ball. Fans on both sides gave her an ovation when it was clear she could continue.

A Moorpark fan caused the game to be halted momentarily in the fourth quarter. A rubber ball got away from a 2-year-old boy and it rolled onto the floor. Otherwise, it was a basketball game, nothing less, nothing more.

One of the allegations made by San Bernardino administrators was that Moorpark fans threw pennies onto the court. The only change Wednesday was for the better.

A sign taped on the wall read: "Welcome Dominguez." There was a noticeable lack of taunting and trash-talking from either team.

"This is a well-supervised game and a positive atmosphere for kids," Crowley said.

Could Moorpark's behavior have gone from boorish to exemplary in only five days?

"I handed [McIntosh] a thick packet with the allegations when I walked into the gym," Crowley said. "I wasn't at the game against San Bernardino, but there obviously aren't any problems tonight."

McIntosh and Moorpark Coach Brent Milburn will join San Bernardino administrators and coaches in a meeting with Crowley next week to discuss the allegations stemming from Saturday's game.

"I'm trying to put myself in San Bernardino's shoes," said Milburn, who is African American. "They wouldn't make up [the allegations]. But I didn't hear our kids say one word that could be interpreted as a racial slur. It's puzzling."

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