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The Freedom and Strawberry Crest boys basketball teams enter next week's district tournaments severely short-handed as a result of suspensions stemming from an altercation during the teams' Jan. 27 contest.
Florida High School Athletic Association spokesman Corey Sobers confirmed four players from each school have received minimum two-game suspensions as a result of the incident, in which punches were thrown and players left the bench.
The FHSAA refused to release the players' names, but Chargers senior Brandon Channer, a Jacksonville University signee and the team's top scorer and rebounder (17.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg), told the Times he's not among the suspended players.
Strawberry Crest (15-9) is seeded second in the Class 6A, District 11 tournament; Freedom (7-12) is fourth in the 7A-9 tourney.
According to an FHSAA incident report provided to the Times, the altercation was sparked when a player from each school contested a rebound and the ball went out of bounds. At one point, one of the players tackled another, resulting in a flagrant technical foul.
As the Chargers player got up and moved away, the Freedom player took a swing at him and missed, the report indicates. The Freedom player also charged the Crest player and threw several punches without connecting.
The Patriots player was given a Level 2 (six-week) suspension, while three teammates who left the bench each were given Level 1 (two-game) suspensions.
Two Chargers players received Level 2 suspensions (one for receiving a second Level 1 suspension in the same school year) and two others were slapped with Level 1 penalties. In a report submitted by Hillsborough County athletic director Lanness Robinson, a film review of the incident showed one Chargers player throwing a punch and three leaving the bench area.
Additionally, both programs were fined $350 each and placed on administrative probation until the end of the 2012-13 school year.