To the north, a battle between the Dayton Public Schools and the Ohio High School Athletic Association is brewing, and Middletown is playing a major role.
On Wednesday, the Dayton Dunbar High School boys basketball team was removed from the Division II state tournament after the state athletic association determined it played an ineligible player.
On Jan. 10, with 4.4 seconds remaining in a junior varsity game between Dunbar and Thurgood Marshall, a Dunbar player committed a hard foul and a fight ensued. Multiple players left the bench, some spectators left their seats, and there was a wild scene on the court.
The rest of the JV game was canceled, and according to multiple parties, game officials told the varsity coaches that no players from the JV game could participate in the varsity game – a penalty generally tied to ejections.
Then in Dunbar’s first-round tournament game, an 84-26 win over West Carrollton, one of the Dunbar players who allegedly left the bench in January played the last three games in the tournament. The player allegedly never served his two-game suspension and Dunbar was removed from the tournament by the OHSAA.
Last week, DPS filed suit in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court seeking a restraining order and injunction to put Dunbar back in the tournament. An announcement is expected after the hearing Tuesday.
Here are five things to know about the controversy and its local impact:
1. A local team is waiting. Bishop Fenwick will play either Dunbar or Thurgood Marshall at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at UD Arena in the Division II sectional final. Fenwick was scheduled to play Thurgood Marshall, which beat Dunbar, on March 4 until the district filed its lawsuit, thus postponing the game.
2. What’s the schedule? The Falcons are caught in the middle. Coach Pat Kreke won’t know his Wednesday opponent until at least Tuesday. The Falcons won’t have much time to prepare for their next opponent. They will play the third game of a triple header Wednesday night. The other two games are Division III district finals at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.
3. Connection to Dayton leadership. The acting school superintendent Dayton Public Schools is Elizabeth Lolli. Before going to Dayton, Lolli served in several leadership roles in the Monroe and Middletown school districts and Butler County Educational Service Center.
She was senior director of curriculum and instruction in Middletown from July 2013 to September 2016, educational consultant at ESC from August 2012 to July 2013 and superintendent of Monroe from January 2008 to August 2012.
During the basketball incident, Lolli has served as spokeswoman for the district.
“We take exception to the fact that our students are not playing on Sunday,” Lolli said at a district press conference. “And we take exception to the fact that we were ruled in the way that we were.”
4. One-time coach in the middle. The athletic director of the Dayton Public Schools is Mark Baker, who coached the boys basketball team for three seasons at Middletown High School. Baker has come under scrutiny during this incident and Lolli hasn’t said whether Baker will face any disciplinary action.
5. Formerly Dayton coaches. Although not connected with this incident, the former head coach at Thurgood Marshall (Darnell Hoskins) and Dunbar (Pete Pullen) now are the head and assistant coaches, respectively, of the Middletown boys basketball team.