By Dan Hardenbrook

A dominant night and another big win for the Lady Indians was overshadowed by a nasty physical altercation in the second half of last Wednesday’s Girls Varsity Basketball game in Newberry.

With Newberry well on its way to a 66-23 conference win, things turned ugly when a Rudyard player halted the game in the third quarter by swinging at Lady Indians senior guard Trenidy Depew. Depew was struck multiple times in the head and face and immediately had to leave the floor and go to the locker room. Both players were assessed offsetting fouls for the altercation, with the Lady Bulldogs player ejected from the game but allowed to remain on the bench for the remainder of the game.

The incident was all anyone would talk about after the game, which was Newberry’s fifth win of the season. With the victory, the Lady Indians improved to 5-2 overall, and kept themselves near the top of the EUP Conference standings and also counted towards their record in the soon to be disbanded Straits Area Conference. Allie Whalen led all scorers with 29 points, her latest big-scoring game. Whalen has gone over the 20-point mark in every Lady Indians win this season. Lucie Rabochova added 16 for Newberry, which also got solid contributions from their depth, which made the difference. Gracie Taylor and Alazayah Depew each scored six, while Sophia Johnson had five on the night.

It was the latest disappointment for a Rudyard team that is clearly frustrated. The loss dropped the Bulldogs to 0-6 on the season, with their closest loss being an 18-point deficit. Rudyard was 1-19 last season, their only win being the last time they visited Newberry early last season. Their current losing streak is 24 games long, and it’s taking a toll.

In a statement to The Newberry News, Rudyard Superintendent Tom McKee (formerly Superintendent of Whitefish Twp School in Paradise) addressed the situation.

“The MHSAA has been made aware and we will await their input on a suspension,” he said. “The player will also have a separate suspension from the school for athletics, but we are waiting for MHSAA to inform us.”

McKee added that the player wrote an unprompted apology to the coach and feels awful about the incident.

“There were a few things that she said occurred including the student section calling her names and girls on the court pulling her hair and pinching, but she is not using that as an excuse for her actions,” McKee said.

In a separate statement, McKee stated that “Rudyard Area Schools appreciates athletics as an integral component of the education process of our students and does not condone actions that take away from the sports atmosphere. Emotions run high in sports, and we will be using what we learn from this situation to help address these behaviors from our student-athletes moving forward. All student-athletes sign an athletic handbook stating that they will adhere to many rules set forth by the board of education, which begins with sportsmanship.”

The altercation is the latest chapter in what has become a heated and often physical rivalry between the two schools, especially in girls basketball. Meetings in recent years have seen high foul totals called against both sides, and Newberry even once finished a game shorthanded because so many players fouled out.

Tensions have been high in a series where multiple technicals have been assessed and teams have been separated on more than one occasion.

McKee is already working on a plan for the Newberry-Rudyard rematch later this season in Rudyard to ensure nothing more occurs. That game will take place on February 13. To put a wager on that, fans can select sites such as W88 link.

“When the next contest between Newberry and Rudyard girls basketball occurs, I can assure you, the parents, fans, and student athletes, that sportsmanship will be modeled by the Rudyard student-athletes or they will not be wearing a Rudyard jersey,” McKee said. “Our mission and gift in our profession is to help the next generation grow into productive adults and while that may be challenging at times, some of the best lessons ever learned are from difficult situations. We will do better. My apologies on behalf of Rudyard Area Schools. These are not actions that Bulldogs take part in.”