January 16, 2003

 Game Highlights
Ruling Angers Bellport Players

By Jason Molinet

Jason Trent sat next to boys basketball coach Jim McGowan on the Bellport bench yesterday against Suffolk League IV rival Copiague, an
unusual place for a standout senior point guard to take in such a big game. But the sideline is where Trent has been relegated after learning
Monday that he would be ineligible for the remainder of the season for disciplinary reasons.

Even without the 6-2 Trent in the lineup, Bellport turned in a scrappy effort. It was clear, however, that the Clippers missed Trent's ballhandling
skills. Copiague, which won, 76-69, received strong performances from seniors Wayne Coward, who had 24 points and 12 rebounds, and
LeMichael Allen, who had 20 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists, and appears to be a contender for the Suffolk Class A crown.

The loss was the first for Bellport (8-1, 3-1) in what was possibly its final game. The players are threatening to walk out unless Trent is

According to a letter by superintendent Michael LeFever, the ruling on Trent's eligibility was made, in part, because Trent had consistently left
an afternoon class early. What has upset his teammates and his coach is that Trent made arrangements to leave class so he could make
basketball practice each day.

"I didn't do anything wrong," said Trent, who averages 12 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. "They told me at the beginning of the season I
could leave early. I shouldn't be sitting out. But in the biggest game of the season, I'm sitting out."

Trent, a three-year starter, has admittedly struggled in the classroom and with attendance in the past. He said he became serious about his
direction in life this fall and he has maintained a 2.5 grade-point average. He also enrolled in an afternoon GED curriculum, the class he has been
leaving early. The GED session runs from 3:15 to 5 p.m. each day. Since practice begins at 5 p.m., Trent would typically leave one half hour

"The kid has been trying. He's not perfect. But he's showing up. He's a good kid," McGowan said.

Bellport athletic director Mike Brown did not return calls last night seeking comment.

The game at Copiague (6-1, 3-0) started nearly one hour late and almost wasn't played because Bellport considered not taking the floor.
Ultimately, Trent convinced his teammates to play. "We didn't want to play the game without him," senior guard Alvin Dennis said. "We played
hard, but you could tell the guys' hearts weren't there. If we can't get him back this year - he's been my friend longer than I've played basketball -
I'd rather not play."

The coaches have spoken to the superintendent and the school board about the suspension. The players hope to address the issue at a
student council meeting today. The parents of Bellport players will discuss the issue tonight. If no action is taken, it is possible the players will
opt to cancel the season. Bellport's next game is at home tomorrow at 6:45 p.m. against Half Hollow Hills West.

If Bellport fails to play out the remainder of its schedule, it may be ineligible to field a varsity program next season, according to guidelines in
place by Section XI, Suffolk's athletic association. But Section XI executive director Cathy Gallagher said the rule is flexible. McGowan wants to
finish the season, but will accept whatever decision the players make.

"We're hopeful the adults will make the right decision," McGowan said. "Jason Trent is the heart and soul of this team. The fact the kids are
willing to forfeit the season is an incredible statement."

Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.

Team  1st Quarter 2nd Quarter 3rdQuarter  4thQuarter Final Score
Bellport 17 17 19 16 69
Copiague 19 23 17 17 76

Scoring Summary
B: Flippen 3-4-12, Dennis 6-8-22, Russell 4-0-8, Garrison 6-0-13, Mitchell 1-0-2, Street
5-0-12. Totals: 25-12-69. C: Allen 6-7-20, Coward 9-5-24, Lipski 6-0-12, St. Robert
6-2-14, Jackson 1-1-4, Smith 1-0-2. Totals: 29-15-76. Three-pointers: B 7 (Dennis 2,
Flippen 2, Street 2, Garrison); C 3 (Allen, Coward, Jackson).


  Team 2003 Index