Tainted Victory

The first hint that there might be something improper going on with the Harbor City Narbonne girls basketball team came at the Marina Tournament last December, when a Narbonne player blurted out to me that she lived in Orange County, which is not anywhere near Narbonne's attendance boundaries.

So, last April I wasn't shocked when the Gauchos were stripped of their L.A. City Section 4-A title and are expected to forfeit Southern California Regional and state titles for flagrant rules violations. Three standout players, all reportedly from the same summer traveling team, have been declared ineligible for CIF competition next season for using fake addresses and the Gauchos were banned from all playoff participation in 1999.

Credit L.A. City Section Commissioner Barbara Fiege for getting to the bottom of what had been rumored for months. Her action should quiet those on this side of the Orange County line who have chastised the City Section for sticking its head in the sand all these years.

Unfortunately, Fiege's action came too late to do anything about the seasons of Marina, Palos Verdes Peninsula and Berkeley, all trampled by Narbonne in the state playoffs. Anyone of the teams was good enough to be a state champion and it's a shame they didn't have a fair chance to prove it.

As a parent of a Marina player, I feel bad for my daughter because Narbonne's 67-40 victory in the quarterfinals turned a great, fun-filled season into a big downer and left her questioning the value of following rules.

But as a sportswriter, I question the integrity of Narbonne's administrators, the coach and particularly the parents. Were they blind to the fact that they were in violation of CIF rules? Or were they just willing to peddle children for the sake of winning?

These may be questions that will never be answered.

In reality, however, the actions of a small few at Narbonne have given high school sports and their integrity, in general, a huge swollen eye.

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