MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee County judge has ruled in favor of St. Thomas More’s boys basketball team after they filed an injunction before Wednesday night’s WIAA playoff basketball game at Whitefish Bay High School.
On Tuesday, St. Thomas More High School decided to pursue legal action to try to reinstate its varsity boys basketball team in the state tournament after a fight last week ended its season. The team and legal representation appeared in court on Wednesday.
The judge ruled Wednesday they will grant the temporary restraining order, requiring this round be completed before the WIAA tournament moves forward. This means no Brown Deer / Dominican at Whitefish Bay Wednesday night, and instead, STM will play Brown Deer on Thursday. The winner plays Dominican.
The WIAA said Thursday that the regional final between St. Thomas More and Brown Deer will be played at Brown Deer High School Thursday at 7 p.m.
Following the judge's ruling, WIAA released the following statement:
“The WIAA has been informed by the court that the temporary restraining order request by St. Thomas More to restore participation in the 2022 boys basketball Tournament Series has been granted and has deemed all St. Thomas More players eligible for this game.The WIAA staff is working with all teams involved to adjust the schedule accordingly per the judge’s ruling.As difficult as this situation is for everyone with inherent interest in the outcome, the WIAA has the responsibility to uphold the integrity of the rules of education-based athletics as established by the member schools.”
"I'm really happy for our team that we get to play," St. Thomas More Coach John Hoch said. "In particular our four seniors, that their season's not over."
It all started last Friday when Fuller Academy was playing St. Thomas More, and video shows one player push another, and a player pushing back. Then a crowd gathered.
The WIAA suspended both teams for leaving the bench.
NOW: St. Thomas More’s boys basketball team, led by HC John Hoch, walking into court.— Tony Atkins (@TonyAtkinsTV) March 9, 2022
The team hopes for an injunction before tonight’s WIAA playoff basketball game at Whitefish Bay HS. pic.twitter.com/0bmZqTjcJg
Coach John Hoch says he understands the rule, and in this case he believes the circumstances are different.
"I think that rule is made so players don't go out onto the court and participate in a fight, but in this case we were actually protecting ourselves as a fight was heading toward us," Hoch said.
St. Thomas More was given the option of playing its junior varsity team during the next scheduled game against Brown Deer, but Coach Hoch turned that down. The team forfeited, and its season ended.
Brown Deer was scheduled to play Dominican High School on Wednesday night.
"We are asking them to pause that game and allow the WIAA to set up a game between Thomas More and Brown Deer," Hoch said.
Dr. Monica Kelsey Brown, Superintendent of the School District of Brown Deer, released this statement.
"While we are challenged by the decision as it stands, the boys' varsity basketball team is ready to give their all to continue to advance in the playoffs."
A spokesperson for Dominican High School released the following statement:
"Dominican’s Varsity Boys Basketball team is awaiting further information from the WIAA on the date, time, location and opponent for our Division 3 Sectional Semifinal Game. The Dominican community is excited to see our Girls Varsity Basketball team compete in the state semifinals this Thursday in Green Bay and the resumption of our Boys Basketball team’s season. Go Knights!"
Watch Stephanie Haines' report here:
Hoch first filed an appeal with the WIAA. A spokesperson says its rules don't allow for that.
Hoch then decided to try legal action.
"The overwhelming response that I received on Sunday morning through Sunday afternoon really made me think a lot about this," Hoch said. "Parents, students, faculty and staff, alums, and then even strangers, people I didn't even know, were reaching out and really kind of weren't happy with the decision that was made."