MILWAUKEE — St. Thomas More will advance to the next round of the state basketball tournament after winning the game the judge ordered they play Thursday night.
A brawl nearly upended the St. Thomas More basketball team's chances to compete for the WIAA state championship this month.
"It's been surreal and it's just been tough on everyone,” said John Hoch, head coach of St. Thomas Moor, prior to the game.
Now, after a big win in court, St Thomas More returned to the court Thursday night for a regional final game against Brown Deer High School.
St. Thomas More beat Brown Deer High School in overtime 83 to 76.
"I feel really great for our guys," said Coach Hoch. "Lots of ups and downs over the last five days, six days, I don't know what it is right now. And I'm just so happy, thrilled for our guys."
The bleachers were packed. Fans were often on their feet, cheering on their teams.
Before the game Thursday night, St. Thomas More fans brimmed with nervousness and excitement.
"I am glad they are getting a chance to play," said Kyle Backes. "I think the WIAA was unfair."
"Whatever happens, happens, they play really well," said Francine Felske. "I don't know what Brown Deer has been doing, but I just glad they get to play."
Felske's son plays on the St. Thomas More team. She says the last few days have been emotional whiplash.
Following a fight on the court during the team's game with Fuller Academy last Friday, the whole team was suspended for leaving the bench.
St. Thomas More then forfeited their next game against Brown Deer. Coach Hoch tried to appeal with the WIAA, and then he took them to court. On Wednesday, a Milwaukee County Judge ordered the St. Thomas More team back in the state tournament.
"It's fair, because they were up by 30 and I don't want their season to get taken away from them," said Brown Deer fan Omarrion Alford.
Brown Deer fans said they were excited to watch what they anticipated to be a good game.
"We're excited to be here and support our team for the game," said Brown Deer fan Jessica Russell.
Coach Hoch says St. Thomas More will play Dominican High School on Friday at 7 p.m. at Marquette University High School.
Coach Hoch said he has been working to keep his team mentally prepared.
"I think we are keeping them as focused as possible, but they are human beings and with all these ups and downs that have happened in the last few days, I give them a lot of credit for being teenage boys and they have been able to keep their composure,” he said.
Before moving forward, WIAA required St. Thomas More provide a safety plan for hosting fans.
"We had increased security. Both police officers, as well as security,” Hoch said.
WIAA chose to move Thursday's game to Brown Deer High School. The league says they made the decision after considering game management information from both schools, as well as the size of Brown Deer's facility.
WIAA sent TMJ4 News this statement:
The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association regional final between St. Thomas More and Brown Deer will be played at Brown Deer High School tonight at 7 p.m.
After a review of game management information provided by both schools as well as the size of Brown Deer’s facility, the WIAA has changed the site of the game.
The WIAA Winter Regulations for basketball states the WIAA has authority to make final decisions regarding tournament host sites.
"We're fine with that. We're fine with going to Brown Deer and playing tonight,” Hoch said. "We're focused on the game and I'm just glad. That's it and I'm just glad our guys are going to be playing."
Brown Deer Schools shared 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."