A prominent player absent from a regular-season matchup, played in front of a sparse crowd, rarely merits attention. But a sectional semifinal or final, contested at a neutral site in front of a sellout crowd? No escaping the attention, or scrutiny.
The North Andover High boys’ basketball team squared off against Brighton in the Division 2 North final Saturday afternoon at Tsongas Center in Lowell.
The Scarlet Knights (18-4) were playing their third straight tournament game minus starter Brendan Miller, a junior guard who faces three charges, including drunk driving, following a car accident on March 1.
Miller, 17, is charged with operating under the influence of liquor, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and minor in possession of alcohol, North Andover police Lieutenant Charles Gray said.
About 10:45 p.m. on March 1, a Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by Miller went off Johnson Street in North Andover and flipped, Gray said.
There were four other individuals in the car, all juveniles, who face underage drinking charges in juvenile court, he said.
Miller and the passengers were treated at a nearby hospital, but were released.
All charges against Miller are misdemeanors. A summons was issued in Lawrence District Court this past week, Gray said.
No court date had been set as of Friday afternoon, according to an official in the court clerk’s office.
The accident, and the events before and after it occurred, are still under investigation.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association has strict guidelines when a student-athlete violates its chemical health rule, which prohibits the use, consumption, or possession of alcohol, tobacco, or any controlled substance.
The principal of the member school must investigate the situation and assess a penalty.
The MIAA’s minimum ruling for first offenders: suspension for 25 percent of the schedule, which for basketball means five games. Punishment is carried over to the next season in which the student-athlete participates if the season ends before the suspension is complete.
“The penalties we suggest to the school are a minimum, and schools may enforce a stricter penalty,” said MIAA spokesman Paul Wetzel .
At the start of each season, all schools are required to hold a mandatory meeting discussing such rules, and participating student-athletes must attend with a parent or guardian. Every student must sign a form to confirm that they attended the meeting and understand the rules.
“Essentially, what we’re trying to do is eliminate the opportunity for anyone who gets in trouble to say, ‘I didn’t know,’ ” said Wetzel.
North Andover principal Carla Scuzzarella said that her school follows the policy enforced by the MIAA, but would not elaborate on the situation. Athletic director Jon Longley and basketball coach Mike McVeigh also declined to comment at the Scarlet Knights’ North semifinal game against Wakefield Wednesday night, a 68-44 win.
North Andover also defeated Concord-Carlisle, 66-49, last Sunday.