NMAA bans Estancia fans from attending boys state game

Estancia fans at a game earlier this season. Photo by G. Demarest.

The New Mexico Activities Association lowered the boom on Estancia High School last week by barring fans from the Bears’ first-round game in the upcoming Class 2A boys state basketball tournament.

On holding the school accountable for spectators’ behavior, NMAA’s associate director Dusty Young said, “The sanctions were imposed as a result of another incident.”

Young emphasized that the school had been warned for spectator behavior “and another incident occurred.” He was referring to a letter the NMAA issued to Estancia Feb. 1 warning the school to either control the behavior of its fans or face serious consequences.

The letter followed two separate incidents in January that involved spectator ejections.

The latest occurred Feb. 28 on the Bears’ home court during their district tournament semifinal and resulted in the ejection of three spectators, Young said.

The Bears lost the game 67-66 to the Menaul Panthers in triple overtime.

Stewart Burnett, Estancia High’s athletic director, said the incident occurred during the final minute of regulation with the score tied 47-47.

“It started with, we had a fan ejected for stomping their feet on the benches and then it escalated from there,” Burnett said. “People got upset about that and got involved and also got ejected.”

Burnett said the initial ejection for stomping feet on the wooden bleachers surprised him, because the fan wasn’t yelling or screaming.

“But [the officials] didn’t like it,” Burnett said.

When asked what the officials had reported to the NMAA regarding the incident, or if foot-stomping is considered disorderly, Young would not comment. But he noted that the NMAA emphasized before the season began that it would take steps to correct any unruly behavior from coaches, players, or fans.

“We are simply following through with our point of emphasis of cleaning up the negative behavior that’s been occurring statewide,” Young said.

“Bottom line, [the NMAA] drew a line in the sand and regardless of the circumstances, the line got crossed,” Burnett said.

The NMAA’s punishment would have also denied the Bears the advantage of hosting the first-round game had they received a higher seed.

But the Bears, who finished the regular season with a 21-6 overall record, received the No. 9 seed in the state tournament and will play at the No. 8 Magdalena Steers (24-4) March 9 in the first round. No Estancia fans will be permitted entry to the game.

Young said the punishment is just for the boys’ first round of the tournament and Estancia fans will be allowed to attend other rounds should the Bears advance, and the punishment does not affect the girls’ home game March 8.