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Gunn basketball senior night ends in altercation after overtime win

Gunn+basketball+senior+night+ends+in+altercation+after+overtime+win

On Feb. 13, an altercation between adult spectators began after Gunn’s senior-night varsity boys basketball game against Wilcox High School.

According to the Palo Alto Police Department, the initial incident occurred between Gunn students and the Wilcox basketball team. Several Gunn parents and school staff intervened, which caused an altercation among parents. One Wilcox parent was arrested.

Tuesday’s game — held in Titan Gym beginning at 7 p.m. — was close, with Gunn clinching an 82-81 victory in overtime. According to several student spectators, tensions had been running high prior to the end of the match, although there were no physical confrontations.

A little after 9 p.m., however, a Gunn student descending from the bleachers and a Wilcox player on the court approached one another, with the Wilcox player’s teammates assembling behind him. Spectators, along with Assistant Athletic Director Kevin Johnson, pushed the two parties apart, with Athletic Director Curt Johansen escorting the Gunn student off of the court to avoid further escalation.

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A few minutes afterward, a Wilcox parent shoved Gunn boys basketball head coach Brandynn Williams and a Gunn parent. Video footage shows a different Wilcox parent trying to end the altercation while repeatedly yelling “calm down” before pushing a Gunn parent — who had been filming the fight on the court — to the ground.

As things became physical, the athletic directors called 911. According to boys varsity basketball team member Dylan Lu, Gunn players were told to go to the locker room, where they remained until the police arrived.

“I was really scared,” he said. “We were all locked in the locker room — we locked the doors. The coach was like, ‘No one go out, no one walk home, just stay here until the police come.’”

As spectators began to exit, the fight moved to the Titan Gym lobby. Video recordings show the Wilcox parent who had shoved Williams throwing air punches before grabbing Johnson. The crowd dispersed after the police’s arrival.

Courtesy of Amber Fu

According to PAPD, one Wilcox parent was later arrested for battery and subsequently released on a criminal citation. Officers are sending a report to the District Attorney’s office to review charges for another adult.

The following morning, on Feb. 14, Principal Dr. Wendy Stratton notified parents and students that the Gunn administration was working with the Wilcox High School administration, as well as Santa Clara Valley Athletic League officials and local law enforcement, to investigate the incident. She added that there are no confirmed reports of physical altercations between students.

While such events may be anomalous at Gunn, Stratton notes that they’re part of a larger pattern of post-pandemic spectator misbehavior. In August 2023, two Bay Area high school games ended because of fan violence. The year before, in September 2022, administrators canceled a Gunn vs. Paly football game due to student spectator misconduct.

Given this trend, Stratton hopes to partner more consistently with administrators from opposing teams to curb concerning behavior, as well as hire additional security for athletic events that may draw bigger crowds.

“Proactive preventative action will include increasing our vigilance when monitoring spectators — in order to redirect unacceptable fan behavior early and often,” she wrote in an email.

In light of the violence during the players’ senior night, Stratton will be holding a luncheon with the boys varsity basketball team next Wednesday to celebrate their accomplishments.

“That was their senior night, and it should have been — the whole evening should have been — nothing but fun and a great memory,” she said.

Additional reporting by Chris Lee.

This story was originally published on The Oracle on February 15, 2024.