By Ray Hamill — Lost in the midst of the mayhem at Pierce High on Tuesday night is the fact the Hoopa Valley Warriors had a fantastic season on the basketball court.
It might not be what people are talking about today, but the players involved should be proud of themselves and what they achieved.
They took a community that supports its basketball teams as well as any community along for a thrilling ride.
The Hoopa boys posted their most wins in a season since 2014 and made a trip to the NorCal tournament for the first time in 15 years.
Senior George Navarro is a special talent who will get a lot of looks at the collegiate level, and he and his teammates were among the most entertaining teams on the North Coast this winter.
A special mention also for head coach Tyler Mitchell and assistant Joe Marshall, each of whom did a commendable job preparing their players for their remarkable run and getting the most out of them, while doing their part to restore Hoopa pride.
The Warriors are the only public school to win a North Coast Section Division-V title in the past quarter century, and it’s a tradition we were reminded of again this season.
Simply put, Hoopa playing good basketball is good for the Humboldt-Del Norte League.
So congratulations to them for achieving what they did.
Its also a program, however, that has had to regularly overcome obstacles that most schools never encounter, and obstacles many schools would shy away from.
Most notably the travel.
The Road Warriors played 26 games away from home this season, and just four in Hoopa.
Not only do they travel more than just about any other team in California, but they travel a lot farther for each of their games as well.
A lot of Hoopa fans have suggested they also have to battle the officiating, with calls persistently going against them.
It’s a complaint many teams and their fans will throw out there, and not always without merit, because the quality of officiating at the high school level is often questionable, even if most officials are doing their best.
But it’s frustrating when an obviously blown call costs your team at a pivotal part of the game, especially at a pivotal part of the season.
Because one incompetent — or worse still spiteful — official can cost your players everything they have worked for over the previous year.
The Warriors have suffered a lopsided foul count against them in each of their past three playoffs games, and it’s something Mitchell, who is not prone to complaining, admits he is frustrated by.
So too are many of their fans.
Skeptics will argue where there’s a common denominator, there’s a reason, but I’ve seen this team play several times this season and I have seen nothing to explain why they would be called at a 10:1 ratio late in games.
According to several fans and Mitchell, the calls were blatant against Hoopa late in Tuesday’s NorCal game at Pierce.
And it wasn’t the only thing blatant about the night.
No place for raging principals
Apparently, and allegedly, the Warriors now also have to battle raging principals from opposing schools when they travel.
That’s certainly something most teams don’t usually encounter.
Let’s look at some of the facts from the ugly aftermath to Tuesday’s game, just so no principal defenders out there are confused about things.
Fact one: An 83-year-old Hoopa man was knocked over and had to be taken to hospital.
That’s a fact, not an opinion, and I’m pretty certain it wasn’t a Hoopa fan who knocked him to the ground.
Fact two: A Hoopa player was approached by a man, who several eyewitnesses say was David Vujovich, the principal of Pierce High School, who then began shouting at him unprovoked.
That’s something that has been corroborated by numerous witnesses, as well as both the player himself and his coach.
An eyewitness even told the Lost Coast Outpost that Vujovich also got in the face of another Hoopa player, while others say it was the principal who knocked over the 83-year-old tribal elder.
Fact three: No high school principal should ever act like a sugared-up, out-of-control juvenile clown at a high school basketball game.
Fact four: No sportswriter should ever have to point out fact three to anyone.
It should be sort of obvious.
There is never an excuse for that sort of behavior from someone who is entrusted to lead the way in shaping young minds.
Now, I’m certainly not going to suggest every single Hoopa fan is in line for sainthood, but no matter what any Hoopa fan may or may not have said before any of that took place, or how the chaos got started, there is no excuse for that type of reaction by a person in charge.
If things were getting heated, it’s a principal’s job to defuse the situation, not to escalate it.
Simple as that.
End of debate.
If any principal in the H-DNL acted in the manner Vujovich allegedly did, I’m pretty sure they’d be out of a job before they got out of the gym.
It was nothing short of truly bizarre behavior, and completely unacceptable.
None of what happened, however, should take from what was a memorable season for the Warriors, regardless of how it ended on the court.
It’s a season the players should be proud of, one they worked hard for, and one that years from now they will remember fondly, despite the questionable officiating they had to endure, or any raging school principals they may have encountered along the way.