During the contentious fourth quarter, Mr. Alonzo, who had been thrown out of the contest for elbowing another player, ran across the court to punch Gabe Pritz without warning. The blow to the head knocked the Peters player to the court floor, where he remained bleeding for 10 minutes. Mr. Pritz's wound received 11 stitches at the hospital.
At first Mr. Alonzo claimed he was prompted by racial taunts from the Peters team. A joint investigation by the districts produced no evidence of slurs made during the game. Although the WPIAL board of directors will review reports from both districts before deciding on any disciplinary action, the Washington County district attorney's office charged Mr. Alonzo with simple assault and harassment as a juvenile.
A week ago, Mr. Alonzo apologized to Mr. Pritz and both school districts, calling his behavior inexcusable. "Being a member of the Woodland Hills basketball team is a privilege and honor, and I failed to represent my team in an appropriate manner ... ," he said.
George Novak, Woodland Hills' athletic director and head football coach, was right that, whether Mr. Alonzo was provoked or not, the student should have maintained his composure. "No matter what happened to him during the game," he said, "Shakim's actions were unacceptable."
Despite the standout player's prior reputation, he now is tagged as the Woodland Hills student who blindsided a competitor with a vicious punch during a hard-fought game. That's not a suitable label for an honor roll student who was accepted by the University of Cincinnati on a football scholarship.
While justice must be done, Mr. Alonzo took a big step toward that with his public apology. He understands that what he did was wrong, but he shouldn't have to pay for this mistake for the rest of his life. The Pritz family has been extraordinarily gracious in its response to the assault and have included Mr. Alonzo in their prayers.
We hope the DA's office takes that into consideration and gives Mr. Alonzo a break on the serious charges leveled against him. It would be a shame to see a young man lose his chance for a college education and to excel in college sports because of a rash act taken in the heat of the moment.