SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) – A team's last loss is always the hardest, never more so than when it wasn't one.
"It's heartless to say, no, you can't play a championship,'' said Felicia Johnson, whose son, Jordan, plays on the First Presbyterian Christian basketball team. "No, they earned that.''
Not getting the opportunity to play in the Georgia Independent Schools Association semifinals has not gotten any easier for FPCA parents and players a day after the Highlanders were removed from the tournament bracket because they were found to have an ineligible player on their roster.
One of the team's players turned 19 six weeks prior to the cut-off date to participate this season, so the team was forced to forfeit a quarterfinal game it won by 17 points.
"They're devastated because they're wondering what they did wrong,'' said Marcey Felder, whose son, D.J., is also on the team. "We're not blaming anyone, but we want a reasonable explanation of why our boys have come so far and then you take this from them.''
"The thing I have a problem with is the timing of it,'' said Johnson. "They're right at the gate of a state championship and it was taken from them. I mean, everyone makes mistakes and a mistake was made.''
So, two steps shy of a fourth consecutive state championship, the Highlanders have had their feet taken out from under them.
In the release it sent out Wednesday, the GISA stated that the school was not guilty of any dishonesty in this matter, but that the player was indeed ineligible. As a result, the association felt it had not other recourse than the one it took.
Felder and Johnson, whose sons are both seniors, don't agree.
"The kids feel like, you're going to do this to us over one player?'' said Felder. "You're going to penalize all the rest of us for something we did nothing wrong? We did nothing wrong.''
"Had it been known earlier in the year, it wouldn't have been so upsetting,'' added Johnson. "But right now, two games away? It's devastating for all of us, the parents, the children, the school, all of us.''