A top official at the Hyde School in Bath says she told the head of the Maine Principals’ Association of racial taunts made by basketball fans against her players within days of the Western Class D championship game, but he has no recollection of her allegations.

Laura Gauld, Head of School at Hyde, said she spoke by phone with Dick Durost, executive director of the MPA, less than a week after the Feb. 21 game in Augusta in which Hyde lost to Forest Hills. She said she told Durost she was upset about the officiating and “raised a concern about racial or inappropriate comments” directed at Hyde players by some fans.

Durost, however, said he did not learn of the allegations of racial taunts at the game until last week, when the Hyde School informed him of plans to pull its boys’ basketball team from MPA competition and instead play a New England Preparatory School Athletic Council schedule. Hyde’s girls’ basketball team will continue to compete in the MPA.

“I’m not doubting her word,” Durost said Tuesday. “But I think that would have stuck with me.”

Gauld doesn’t blame the MPA for any racial issues and said that she has nothing but respect for Durost. She said the racial comments were overheard by school employees, supporters and family members in a section of the Augusta Civic Center bleachers specifically reserved for Hyde, a private boarding school that houses students from more than 30 states.

Cynthia Morgan, the school’s executive business manager, said she heard some of the racial slurs. Morgan sat with her 13-year-old granddaughter and the granddaughter’s friend, as well as other Hyde employees and an alumni parent, in the front row of the second tier of seats.

“Six to eight rows in back of us were several people, including three men,” Morgan said. “I have no idea where they were from or who they were, but I can tell you they were cheering for Forest Hills.”

Morgan said she heard the men make repeated racial slurs. “When one of our students of color would hit a basket, we would hear something like ‘(expletive racial slur). Hyde recruits the (racial slur) because they’re better athletes,’ or words to that effect. I probably heard ‘(expletive) N-word’ five or six times, and they would laugh ferociously.”

Morgan, who has worked at Hyde for 33 years, said she has heard such comments directed at Hyde players during MPA tournament games in years past. She said she was tempted to confront the men, “But I was not going to destroy Hyde’s reputation by starting a confrontation in a public place with people of ignorance. I mean, these are just kids out there. They’re playing their hearts out and these guys are just ignorant jerks.”

Malcolm Gauld, Laura’s husband and president of Hyde, said he confronted two adult fans at the game who were making comments stereotyping Hyde students as rich kids with a troubled past and telling them to go back to reform school.

Laura Gauld has declined to make Hyde basketball players or other students available for comment.

“I’m not ever going to put my kids in a situation where they are going to be perceived in any way as cannon fodder for anything,” she said. “That’s not fair to them.”

Hyde officials have cited officiating bias as a reason for pulling the boys’ team from the MPA, specifically the disparity in free-throw shooting in the Western Class D championship game. Forest Hills attempted 45 free throws while Hyde took six. Hyde lost the game, 64-50.

There are other examples of Hyde being outscored widely at the free-throw line, according to data from longtime MPA tournament basketball statistician Bob Butler. In a 2009 loss to St. Dominic (58-42), Hyde made 2 of 4 free throws while St. Dom’s made 20 of 25. In Hyde’s 1993 Class D championship loss to Jonesport-Beals (74-59), Jonesport-Beals shot 46 free throws to Hyde’s 12.

“I think this was a pattern,” Laura Gauld said.

However, Hyde took more free throws than each of its opponents in its two 2015 tournament wins before the Forest Hills game. In a 64-41 victory on Feb. 14, Hyde made 10 of 17 free throws while Searsport made 7 of 8. In a 61-47 win on Feb. 18, Hyde made 15 of 23 free throws while Valley made 3 of 8.

In a 2014 tournament game against North Haven, Hyde made 12 of 24 free throws in a 49-39 win. North Haven had no free throw attempts.

In Forest Hills’ victory over Hyde, the Tigers focused on getting the ball inside to take advantage of their size. Hyde’s offense revolved around outside shooting and star player Antoine Montgomery.

“Coach said to get (the ball) inside and get them in foul trouble,” Forest Hills’ Ryan Petrin said after scoring 32 points against Hyde in February. “In the first quarter, we got them in foul trouble pretty quick. All we wanted to do was to pound in the paint and see if we could get their starters out.”

Forest Hills made 23 of 35 free throws in the second half. Twenty-seven of those attempts came in the fourth quarter – with the bulk coming in the last few minutes when Hyde was forced to foul as Forest Hills was pulling away.

In a review of the game’s video by Portland Press Herald staff, there didn’t appear to be anything egregious about the officiating, though there were three calls by the referees against Hyde that could be called questionable.

Forest Hills also had a few instances to complain about calls or lack thereof.

Montgomery, who led Hyde with 25 points, fouled out with 1:54 left in the game. He was one of four Hyde players to foul out.

Hyde Coach Corey Begley said it wasn’t so much the fouls that were called against his team, it was the fouls that weren’t called against Forest Hills.

“We had heard from Hyde of their concerns about the officiating about 10 days after the tournament game,” said Durost, the MPA’s executive director.

“As for any implication that officials are biased, if that is the suggestion, we would certainly dispute that,” he said.

Peter Webb, the Maine Basketball commissioner who oversees the state’s referees, said the charge that officials would be biased “doesn’t even cross my mind. There are rules to the game and officials are trained to enforce those rules with no regard to the time of the game or the score.”

In an email Monday to Laura Gauld, the head of Hyde School, Webb said he offered to review the tape of the game, but that Gauld told him it wasn’t necessary,

“She told me they’re ready to move on,” Webb said.

“The last thing we want to portray is sour grapes,” Gauld said Tuesday. “Our goal is to do the right thing for our kids.”


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