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Once-Suspended High School Basketball Team Wins Regional Championship

In mid-February, the Indiana High School Athletic Association announced that the boys' basketball teams from Hammond High School and Griffith High School would forfeit the remaining games on their regular-season schedule following a bench-clearing brawl between the two squads.

One month later, Griffith players were cutting down the nets after winning their first-ever regional championship, per the Post-Tribune.

The two schools initially appealed the punishment to the IHSAA Review Committee, which upheld the original ruling in late February. They proceeded to then file a civil case against the state high school association, per The Times of Northwest Indiana. In early March, Lake Civil Court John R. Pera ruled in favor of the two schools, issuing a temporary restraining order to allow them entrance into the state basketball tournament.

While Hammond fell during sectional action, Griffith won the Class 3A Gavit Sectional and moved on to the Class 3A Kankakee Valley Regional, where it took down Twin Lakes High School, 64-52, in the semifinals, and emerged victorious over the South Bend-based Saint Joseph High School, 62-50, in the regional final this past Saturday. Griffith now has a date with Bishop Dwenger High School on March 21 in the state semifinals.

However, the state high school association isn't done battling with Griffith. Commissioner Bobby Cox told The Times this past Friday that the association has filed an appeal in appellate court to have the Griffith ruling overturned.

"We have filed an appeal, because we had an adverse decision against us, and that's unacceptable to this organization," Cox told the paper. "Griffith will play until it's eliminated or wins the state championship. And then any one of several things could happen—forfeiture of the (tourney) games, forfeiture of finances, none of the above or all of the above."

Following Griffith's regional semifinal win over Twin Lakes, head coach Gary Hayes told the Post-Tribune he believed the IHSAA's action only added fuel to his team's fire:

The kids were fired-up when they saw that today. I don't care what the IHSAA does to me, but don't mess with kids, man. I just can't see that. Why would you do that to kids? Our kids have a little chip on their shoulders from all this—and they're carrying themselves like great young men on the court. I love the way they picked up the (Twin Lakes players) on the court today.

On Monday, the Hammond and Griffith teams met once again. This time, however, it was for a sportsmanship dinner, according to the Post-Tribune.

Chicago Bulls guard E'Twaun Moore attended as the dinner's keynote speaker, telling the student-athletes about his experience playing basketball against older kids while growing up:

I knew it would take something else to get their respect, so I could either outsmart or out work them. That's what I did.

Being tough doesn't mean you have to be physical all the time, and you're not a chump for using your head.

As part of the dinner, players from both teams took a sportsmanship pledge and signed their names to banners that each school will display, per The Times.

Want all the latest K-12 sports news? Follow @SchooledinSport on Twitter.

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