If Gwynn Lake was hoping to shake up the area girls basketball scene in its first season, yesterday's 45-43 victory at No. 10 Western certainly accomplished it.
It also sparked a controversy concerning player eligibility and school policies.
Gwynn Lake Prep, a Woodlawn private school (grades four through 12) in its second year of existence and supported by New Destiny Christian Center, has two players who, based on their ages, normally would be in the eighth grade and one who would be in the seventh grade.
The players, however, despite being 12- and 13-year-olds, are classified as ninth graders because of their scores on a diagnostic test before entering the school, Gwynn Lake athletic director Donchez Graham said.
Apparently, the clarification wasn't explained to Western coach Breezy Bishop or athletic director Eva Scott. Both said they made inquiries to Gwynn Lake earlier this week, asking if all of their players were ninth-graders and above, and were assured that they were.
Bishop and Scott were worried that Western could be penalized by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association for playing a team with seventh- and eighth-graders.
Scott even had Gwynn Lake coach Roland Hall sign a form at halftime stating that: "Gwynn Lake Prep is not playing any student in this game who is not 9th through 12th grade."
Two of the players in question, 13-year-olds Tameka Jackson (five points) and Tiffany Blue (no points) started yesterday. The other, 12-year-old Tiffany Jones (seven points) played as a substitute.
MPSSAA executive secretary Ned Sparks, said that neither Western nor top-ranked Arundel -- which edged Gwynn Lake 61-58 Thursday -- violated any state rules by playing the Lakers.
MPSSAA by-laws say: "Middle, intermediate and junior high school students are not eligible to compete or practice with high school teams. MPSSAA members shall practice with and play against only high school teams."
No specifications are made in the by-laws as to how young a player can be -- only that a player cannot be 19 as of Aug. 31.
"Theoretically," Sparks said, "it could happen to one of our [MPSSAA] schools, that kids could skip two or three grades and wind up in ninth grade at age 12 and play. It probably has happened, but it's such minutiae that it's not that big of a deal. I'm sure there have been kids in high school [who played sports] who skipped a grade."
No rules were broken, but Bishop was still irate after the game.
"They lied to us," she said. "The school verified and the coach swore -- he signed a paper -- that they were not seventh- or eighth-graders. To lie and cheat, just to win a ballgame? What kind of role model is that?
"I don't care about any diagnostic test. The bottom line is that a kid who is 12 or 13 should not be playing varsity ball. It's unethical, and they are using kids to cheat."
Hall, however, stood by Gwynn Lake's student-athlete policies.
"We give academic scholarships, not athletic scholarships," Hall said. "To get an academic scholarship, you have to have high test scores. And all of our athletes must maintain a 90.5 average, or they can't play."
In the game, the Lakers (4-1) led by as many as 15 points and withstood a furious Western rally.
Western sophomore Letia Few went to the foul line to shoot a one-and-one with the Doves trailing, 45-42, with 3.5 seconds remaining. She made the first free throw but missed the second.
Crystal Fallin grabbed the rebound for Western (0-1), but missed a put-back, and Few missed another as time expired.
Pub Date: 12/07/96