The Haverhill High boys basketball team lost its season opener against Andover, but Hillie fans won respect from their athletic director for their behavior during the game.
Much was made about how the Haverhill fans would treat the Andover players after the hazing scandal which rocked their school and community, but aside from a few mild chants there were no crowd problems at Friday night's game.
"I'm very proud of the way they acted," Haverhill High Athletic Director Tom O'Brien said. "It was about the game and cheering on their classmates."
O'Brien and the Haverhill High administration took several preventative measures prior to the game to make sure there would be no inappropriate conduct during the game. O'Brien spoke to the senior class and announcements were made several times during the week leading up to the game on the school loudspeaker. The messages warned students they would face discipline if any remarks were made in reference to the hazing.
"They talked to us for a week straight," senior Zach Sindoni said. "If we said anything, we knew we would be thrown out (of the game)."
The concerns came after an incident involving Andover High basketball players at the Hoop Mountain basketball camp at Stonehill College in July. Two students were reportedly forced or coaxed into taking part in a hazing ritual. At Friday's game, the team was without seven players who had been suspended or dismissed from the team.
Administrators were also worried about a revenge factor from Haverhill students because a rivalry has emerged over the past couple years between the schools. Andover fans have aggressively taunted Haverhill players and the two football teams were involved in a brawl when they played last year.
For the most part Friday night, the Haverhill students adhered to the administration's requests. During the fourth quarter, a couple of chants referencing the hazing broke out in the student section, but the crowd was quickly quieted by O'Brien and no students were ejected.
Several Haverhill High students also did their part to try to raise awareness about hazing and to prevent something like that from ever happening at Haverhill High. Led by teacher Carol Ireland, the Violence Intervention Program, in conjunction with Andover High School, formed a paper chain which was spread around the lobby of the gym before the game. Many students, faculty and spectators signed a piece of paper which said "Haze was a phase, get back to the game."
"We wanted to use tonight as an opportunity to prevent it from happening in the future," Ireland said of the game.
Members of the VIP group also wrote a letter to Andover High School showing their support for the community and informing them of their plan to promote hazing awareness.
In the end, the game itself was the focus of the evening. Both teams came out with a lot of energy, and hustle and determination were on display throughout the game. The Hillies fell to Andover 72 to 53, but the Hillies had their chances to make a game of it. Haverhill missed many layups and open three pointers and were behind from the get-go as Andover roared out to a 19 point lead after one quarter.
"We're all about basketball," Sindoni said. "A lot has gone on between us and Andover over the years, but we'd rather just beat them on the court."