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Fans of El Toro Girls Cause Trouble

Basketball: Incident after Tuesday's game leads to battery charge. Chargers lose to San Clemente, 67-59, in third-place game at Santa Barbara.


The raucous fans who follow the El Toro High girls' basketball team wore out their welcome at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.

While the Chargers were losing to San Clemente, 67-59, Wednesday in the third-place game of the Gold Division, a 15-year-old boy was filing a police report for battery with the Santa Barbara Police Department.

Tournament director Steve Kozaki said El Toro probably wouldn't be invited back to the prestigious 20-year-old tournament "for as long as I'm tournament director.

"That's the unfortunate thing--I like [Coach Vincent Avitabile] and he's been very gracious, and it may be something he may or may not have control over.

"But when a team plays in Santa Barbara, their conduct has to be pristine. . . . It doesn't matter if I like the coach, or it's one bad apple or the whole crew. This type of behavior won't be tolerated."

Kozaki said there are other teams that won't be invited back for minor conduct issues, but El Toro's was the worst in the tournament's history.

The alleged battery incident took place outside the Santa Barbara High gymnasium after El Toro's 59-58 loss to Chino Don Lugo in Tuesday's semifinal game. According to Sgt. Mike Warren, the unidentified minor--a student at Santa Barbara--was confronted about his cheering for Don Lugo by one El Toro fan, then allegedly struck from behind by a second. The boy suffered a cut over his eye.

Both El Toro fans then fled.

"It's going to be resolved after this," Avitabile said of El Toro's unruly fans. "My administration will take whatever actions are warranted.

"Obviously, you can't have situations like that take place."

It was the second incident involving the game. In the fourth quarter, El Toro's Gioconda Mendiola elbowed Don Lugo's Diana Taurasi across the throat, bringing Don Lugo fans to their feet. Two of the Conquistadores' fans went onto the floor with one reaching center court, waving his finger at Mendiola.

A group of Mendiola family and friends, sitting on the opposite side, also stepped onto the edge of the court.

A technical was assessed Mendiola, who stayed in the game, and Taurasi made three consecutive three-point baskets as part of a 46-point effort, including the winning basket as time expired.

None of the fans who went onto the court were ejected from the gym.

Officials for El Toro's game against San Clemente had been advised of the previous night's happenings. Referee Alain Weltier warned the fan group once and advised a tournament official at the end of the third quarter that the group "is cussing at us."

Mary Mulligan, San Clemente's coach, said there were no incidents of name-calling at her players by the El Toro backers on Wednesday, unlike what she heard from the stands while watching Tuesday's game.

"They didn't address our girls at all," Mulligan said. "They were just fans of the game, which is what they should be."

Kozaki confirmed that one team filed a formal complaint with the host hotel, Fess Parker's Doubletree Resort, alleging the El Toro group loitered in the lobby making catcalls and harassing players. However, it was not the only team to complain.

The day's events overshadowed seventh-ranked San Clemente's second victory of the season over third-ranked El Toro.

The Tritons (7-4) got 20 points from Colleen Turnbull and 14 from Debby Caine, both of whom made the all-tournament team, and 12 from freshman Whitney Jones. San Clemente didn't make a field goal the final 5 minutes 30 seconds, but made 13 of 18 free throws to protect its 52-45 lead.

El Toro (8-3) was led by their all-tournament player, Giuliana Mendiola (21 points). Gioconda Mendiola scored 17.

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