Six players on the Boothbay Region High School boys’ basketball team, the defending Western Maine Class C champion, have been suspended from the team just days before this year’s playoffs for violating the school’s athletic pledge.

“The pledge they broke was that they were at a place where alcohol was being consumed,” said the team’s coach, I.J. Pinkham. The incident happened Saturday.

Three of the six players were starters on the team, which was given a good chance of defending its title but will enter the playoffs with just five varsity players and six whom Pinkham has called up from the junior varsity team.

“We’re following the rules and trying to put it behind us,” he said.

The suspended players will not return, no matter how far the team goes in the playoffs.

Superintendent Eileen King released a statement by email saying administrators “are investigating violations of the athletic pledge by Boothbay Region High School students, following an incident which occurred Saturday, February 8.”

She said 12 students who play on various teams at the school reportedly violated the athletic pledge “and have been suspended from all activities associated with the programs. The length of suspension will vary in some cases if there were prior offenses. Some player suspensions have been issued while other cases are awaiting more information.”

Last fall, about 30 Westbrook High School students were suspended from athletic events after an underage drinking party, but the suspensions were overturned just hours before a football playoff game.

The reversal allowed six football players to play in the game and, according to a report released last week, caused “an outcry from city officials, community members and staff, some in support and (others) against the decision.”

John Alfano, the Biddeford-based labor mediator who investigated the incident and issued the report, did not accuse school officials of wrongdoing but cited pushy parents, an unenforceable alcohol policy and administrators who lacked experience and support as factors in the decision to lift the suspensions.

The Boothbay Region basketball team is ranked second in the Western Maine Class C tournament, with a 16-2 record, and was at least a co-favorite to win the tournament, along with top-seeded Dirigo. The Seahawks open tournament play with a quarterfinal round game Monday at the Augusta Civic Center.

Boothbay won the regional title last season, then lost to Penquis Valley in the state final.

Pinkham, who has coached for 37 years at Boothbay Region and 43 seasons overall, said, “I’m not upset, but I am disappointed. Kids make mistakes.”

He said most of the suspended players have apologized to him. He said none of his players could comment on the suspensions.

Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at:

tchard@pressherald.com

Twitter: TomChardPPH