Ellwood City basketball coach Steve Antuono suspended 2 games after chaotic playoff loss

Friday, February 25, 2022 | 4:28 PM

Game officials imposed a two-game suspension on Ellwood City boys basketball coach Steve Antuono for unsportsmanlike actions during a chaotic ending to Thursday night’s playoff loss.

Antuono confronted officials and others and was assessed a “supplemental disqualification” after the top-seeded Wolverines were upset by No. 8 Avonworth, 66-55, in a WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinal. Ellwood City athletic director Curt Agostinelli said the school received notice of Antuono’s disqualification Friday.

The game ended with an Avonworth player attempting a buzzer-beating dunk in a 11-point win. The Ellwood City team didn’t like the dunk and felt it incited the visiting Avonworth student section to rush the floor. What followed was a chaotic scene with players, fans and coaches on the court together.

“It was just a bad, sour ending for everyone involved,” Antuono said. “If you could rewind, I think everyone would.”

Both Antuono and Agostinelli made clear Ellwood City wasn’t blaming the loss on the officials.

“Our coach was upset with the referees for lack of control at the end,” Agostinelli said. “He wasn’t blaming them for the game. He was blaming them because, when that happened, there were a few Ellwood kids stuck in the onslaught.”

Ellwood City was the defending WPIAL champion and No. 1 seed, which in part explained the excitment of Avonworth’s students. Agostinelli said he tried without success to tell the students not to rush the court.

“I think we’re all fortunate that it didn’t get absolutely crazy in there, to be honest with you,” said Antuono, who’s in his sixth season as Ellwood City’s coach. “There were kids running everywhere and it just got ugly. I was told my suspension was from me jawing at the officials and following them to the locker room.”

The WPIAL asked each school to investigate the situation.

Avonworth athletic director Andrea Patton said school administrators met with students and made clear they are not to rush the court in the future. The school’s student section also ran onto the court Wednesday after the girls basketball team won at home over Mohawk.

“We take sportsmanship seriously, so we’ve already addressed our student body,” said Patton, calling this a learning opportunity for students and administrators. “We have a couple of games coming up, so we had some really good conversations with our kids about leadership and representation.”

Patton said the school didn’t believe any additional discipline was warranted for its students after reviewing postgame video.

“We don’t want to have to tell kids they can’t be there,” she said. “Nothing that we saw on film led us to believe anything escalated to the point it required taking it further than addressing students and assuring our expectations are very clear.”

The Avonworth girls advance to play Freedom in a semifinal Saturday at North Hills. The boys will play South Allegheny in a semifinal Monday at Robert Morris.

Under the WPIAL’s follow-the-winner format, Ellwood City would qualify for the state playoffs if the Avonworth boys reach the WPIAL finals or South Allegheny wins the WPIAL title. The WPIAL sends seven boys teams from Class 3A to the state playoffs.

Antuono would miss the first two state playoff games, if the Wolverines qualify. If they don’t have two state playoff games, the suspension carries over to next season. Antuono said he intended to speak with his players about the way Thursday’s game ended.

“Even if we don’t move on, when we meet again next week, we’ll definitely discuss what occurred, what was wrong about it, what we could have done, what I could have done and what they could have done,” Antuono said. “But to be honest, I’m sticking up for my guys. I think they handled it well.”

The PIAA adopted the “supplemental disqualification” rule in 2020, giving officials the ability to impose a two-game suspension rather than the typical one game given for an ejection. The rule applies whenever a coach or player is ejected “for confronting a coach, contestant or official using foul or vulgar language, ethnic or racially insensitive comments or physical contact.”

The PIAA gives officials the ability to assess disqualifications for actions before, during or after a game.

Antuono said he’d received a technical foul earlier in the game for a player substitution error and was surprised to receive the suspension for his actions afterward.

“In a moment like that, especially with the way the game went down … just let it go,” Antuono said. “Emotions get the best of us.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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