Suitland 78, Largo 66

Reprinted from yesterday's late editions

Exploding firecrackers in the bleachers caused the majority of a capacity crowd to rush the basketball court and forced the 15th-ranked Suitland boys' basketball game at Largo to be delayed for more than 20 minutes. When play resumed early in the third quarter, Suitland went on to a 78-66 overtime victory Friday night in Upper Marlboro.

Though the game was continued in front of a crowd that was limited to school faculty and the players' families, Suitland's victory in a Prince George's County 4A game Friday night in Upper Marlboro will be remembered for what happened both on and off the court.

With Suitland trailing 60-57 with 11 seconds left, senior guard Brent Henderson hit a three-pointer to tie the game and force overtime, where Henderson scored six more points to spark the Rams (3-0, 3-0 Prince George's 4A) to their third consecutive victory over the Lions (1-1 overall, 1-1 league).

Largo's gymnasium, which seats about 960 spectators, was filled a few hundred fans more than capacity because Largo sold tickets throughout the day. Students were allowed to buy tickets during their lunch period, and then again at 5 p.m., two hours before tip-off. Largo Principal Richmond Myrick said he did not know how many tickets were sold before the game, and when he stopped selling tickets, the crowd continued to grow because spectators arrived with tickets they had bought earlier in the day.

"I stopped selling tickets when the gym was full," Myrick said, "but I couldn't turn away people who had already paid for their tickets."

During the 10-minute halftime, when the large portion of the crowd went into the school's lobby, another portion stood on the court, which made it impossible for either team to warm up for the second half. Less than a minute into the third quarter, an argument broke out in a section of the bleachers containing Suitland and Largo alumni. Prince George's County police officers escorted at least 10 fans from the gym, Mryick said.

The chaos reached its height with 6:14 remaining, when approximately 20 firecrackers were set off in the same section where the argument had taken place, causing fans to rush onto the court. Officials stopped play with Largo leading 37-27.

Officials from each school eventually made the decision to continue the game after the gym was cleared.

"Our decision wasn't about basketball, it was when something like this happens do you run away or fight through it," Massenburg said.