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Central basketball will vacate 2017 Western Mass Championship because of ineligible player

  • Tate Reitkerk, left, of Amherst Regional, moves the ball against Central defenders Hason Ward, center, and Ahmad Conner with seconds left in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 championship Friday at Curry Hicks Cage. Amherst coach Jim Matuszko looks on. A moment later, Reitkerk was fouled on a shot, sending him to the line for three free throw attempts. He scored two. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The Amherst Regional team endures their 61-60 loss as Central receives their trophy following the Western Massachusetts Division 1 championship Friday at Curry Hicks Cage. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tate Reitkerk, of Amherst Regional, scores his second free throw at the close of his team's game against Central during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 championship Friday at Curry Hicks Cage. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Meikyle Murray, left, of Amherst Regional, shoots against Hason Ward, of Central, during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 championship Friday at Curry Hicks Cage. He drew a foul. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional students cheer for their team during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 championship Friday at Curry Hicks Cage. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Meikkel Murray, right, of Amherst Regional, shoots against Thomas Perry, of Central, during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 championship Friday at Curry Hicks Cage. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Seth Bella-Hunter, of Amherst Regional, reaches for a rebound against Central during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 championship Friday at Curry Hicks Cage. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Will Budington, left, of Amherst Regional, moves the ball against Maickel De Jesus Garcia, of Central, during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 championship Friday at Curry Hicks Cage. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



@kylegrbwsk
Friday, August 11, 2017

Springfield Central will vacate the 2016-17 Western Massachusetts Division 1 boys basketball championship, PVIAC executive secretary and tournament director Lou Conte confirmed Friday.

The Eagles defeated Amherst in the championship game in March but will forfeit that title because of an ineligible player.

A clerical error resulted in the player’s ineligibility.

“When you’re dealing with hundreds of athletes, and in the case of Springfield Public Schools thousands, there’s a lot of paperwork in those situations,” Amherst athletic director Rich Ferro said. “As a fellow athletic director, I have sympathy for those situations. It can happen to any of us. I don’t hold a grudge.”

The title will remain vacant rather than transfer to Amherst. Ferro didn’t want the forfeit to overshadow the game.

“That was a really exciting, hard-fought game. It was one of the most exciting basketball games I’ve been involved with,” Ferro said. “It’s too bad you have to take away from that with this situation.”

Amherst coach Jim Matuszko doesn’t view the game or the Hurricanes’ season any differently.

“We were close. You’re that close to winning (the championship) now there isn’t any,” he said. “It doesn’t change as far as where we’re concerned. We’re still the runners-up.”

Matuszko said Amherst pays close attention to eligibility concerns.

“We kind of go overboard sometimes making sure that stuff is correct. You don’t want to forfeit any games or the chance to win the championship,” he said. “I’m sure their school is the same way and sometimes things slip through the cracks.

“I feel bad for them,” Matuszko added. “It’s disappointing it came out so late.”

Seth Bella-Hunter, a senior for Amherst in the championship game, took a wide perspective on the situation. He was surprised at the forfeit and the timing, since the season was so long ago.

“I thought about that game and how hard both teams played and for it not to count anymore is really sad,” Bella-Hunter said. “I also feel for the players on Central because it wasn’t their fault. They did their part, they won the game, they should be proud of themselves for a great season.”

Will Budington, another senior for the Hurricanes last season, also gave Central’s players credit for beating them in the game and expressed his surprise.

“It doesn’t seem to be anyone that was involved with the team’s fault, so I feel terrible for those kids. They’re unbelievable competitors, and it’s a shame the school let them down like that,” he said. “In my mind Central still has that championship, they deserved it.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com.