Sinful Saints fan, finite seating inflame rivalry

by Beacon Staff • February 20, 2008

The Lions managed an 82-79 win over the first-ranked Saints, who Emerson Coach Hank Smith said have been an ever-increasing presence in the league.,Tension in the Piano Row gymnasium rose last night as the rival Emerson and Emmanuel basketball teams faced off once again, with tides of support from both teams' cheering squads erupting as one Emmanuel fan was ejected from the arena.

The Lions managed an 82-79 win over the first-ranked Saints, who Emerson Coach Hank Smith said have been an ever-increasing presence in the league.

"We've met [Emmanuel] in the playoffs twice before, and they were both tense times," Smith said.

Both teams' supporters came out in droves last night, filling the gymnasium to capacity and forcing both Lions and Saints fans to wait at the door to be let in.

Emerson Associate Director of Athletics Kristin Parnell said in a telephone interview that Emmanuel was allotted 50 tickets in advance to be distributed as they saw fit, and extraneous turnout was out of her control.

The shortage of seats and raucous fans in the crowd made for an atmosphere crackling with pressure, upping the intensity of the cross-town rivalry now three years in the making.

The situation finally erupted when Emmanuel junior James Manning verbally confronted an Emerson supporter in the stands during the second half, Manning said in an interview.

An Emerson Police detail on the scene detained Manning and escorted him upstairs, to the hoots and hollers of both squads' fans, Manning and police confirmed.

According to Emerson police, Officer Scott Baisley smelled alcohol on Manning when he hauled him off the gym floor. Baisley told the 20-year-old Manning that he was lucky Boston Police were not involved.

"What's your Mom going to say when I tell her you got thrown out of a basketball game because you were being a drunk asshole," Baisley said to Manning.

In an interview after his release, Manning admitted to having several alcoholic drinks before the game, but that both sides were equally antagonistic toward each other.

"I was an asshole, but not to anyone in particular," Manning said. "I was singling out Emerson, not a player."

He was not charged or cited with any crime, but the incident was referred to his college's security department, Emerson police said.

Emmanuel Director of Security Jack Kelly confirmed receiving a report of the incident, and that all matters regarding student conduct off campus will be referred to the office of the dean of students.

The cross-town competition began three years ago when Emerson beat the Saints in a semi-final playoff game.

Emmanuel knocked Emerson out of the playoffs the following year in another semi-final match. Since then a back-and-forth, win-loss pattern has emerged, fueling the fire between the teams, which Emmanuel head coach Jamahl Jackson said he felt was healthy.

"It's developed into quite a rivalry, its great for our league, its great for the city and great for division three basketball," Jackson said.