TAYLORSVILLE — Playing in a church basketball game will cost a high school player a region game next season.
The decision to play in league organized by the Mormon Church almost cost the Skyline Eagles one of their top post players in the 5A State Tournament.
Junior Miquelle Askew admitted to playing in a church basketball game nearly two weeks ago during a hearing held Monday morning at Salt Lake Community College by the Region 2 Board of Managers.
The issue was reported to Taylorsville head coach Jace Hymas by residents of the Bingham High community. He immediately told his principal, who reported it to the other principals in the region.
It is a violation of Utah High School Activities Association rules to play in any other competitive league while participating in the high school season. The rule has the dual purpose of protecting recreation and church leagues from being used as unsanctioned practice leagues for varsity players, as well as protecting the high school teams from club teams that would play year round.
It was a difficult issue for the principals to decide because there was a delay between when the offense occurred (Feb. 8) and when it came to their attention.
"There was no argument that there was a violation," said UHSAA executive director Rob Cuff. "The tough thing was what the consequence was going to be."
Hymas was in the hearing and he said that Askew's honesty was commendable. He also praised Skyline head coach Deb Bennett for being willing to make her player accountable for breaking a rule.
Bennett said all of her players sign a disclosure statement informing them that they can't play games in any other leagues or tournaments.
"But we're still dealing with a kid here," said Hymas. "I think the adults involved should have protected this kid by discussing with her the fact that she was a high school player and that was against the rules."
Both the UHSAA and the Mormon Church both have rules against allowing varsity players to participate in church run leagues.
Bennett praised the way the panel handled it and was grateful for the fact that they balanced the need for punishment with appropriate mercy.
Askew was invited to the game by friends and it was a very loosely organized game.
"There weren't uniforms," said Bennett, who said they were prepared to accept whatever consequence the Board of Managers handed down. "They didn't have to check in; the moms were the officials. She saw it as more a social thing. It's about as far removed from club ball as you can get."
The issue was complicated by the fact that Askew's older sister went to Bingham High and the family still lives and attends church in the area. Some of those who went to Hymas were concerned it would cause problems in their ward if the violation was reported. The young women in the area were reportedly just trying to involve her in activities.
Cuff said that, and Askew's honesty, are reasons the board decided to make her sit out a region game next year rather than punish her with a suspension during the state tournament.
"The board just felt like timing was an issue," Cuff said. "The violation happened during the region season and the punishment is to sit out a region game."
Bennett said the fact that the issue was raised just days before the tournament was difficult for Askew and the entire team.
"We practiced Saturday with two different game plans," said Bennett of the Eagles, who lost to Viewmont Monday in the first round of the 5A tournament. "She's a good kid."