Southern advances, but skirmish may net Brunson a suspension
WAYNE BRUNSON is going to play football in college, and he likes that sport better than basketball, he said, "because of the physicality."
Coincidentally, due to that one noun, Brunson's basketball career likely ended Thursday.
"Ah, man, I haven't heard that from my coaches or anybody," Brunson said via cell phone a shade after 7:30. "That's gonna be it? I mean, I'm still glad that we won, but what you're saying is very disappointing."
With Brunson, a 5-11, 170-pound senior wing guard, contributing 11 points, five rebounds, two assists and four steals, visiting Southern muffled George Washington, 65-55, in the first round of the Public League playoffs.
The game, which was also a Class AAAA quarterfinal, was halted with 23.2 seconds remaining after Brunson became involved in a dustup with Washington's star player, Kendale Truitt, and some students/adults came rushing onto the court.
Ben Dubin, the Pub hoops chairman, said the referees reported to him that Brunson and Truitt had been ejected. That's an automatic one-game sitdown under PIAA rules.
Also, Dubin said, he was told by multiple people that each player threw punches. Under a new Pub rule authored by Dubin, the definitive throwing of a punch results in a three-game suspension.
"If video shows [Brunson] did not throw a punch, the suspension would go back to one game," Dubin said.
Amauro Austin, a Daily News statistician, said Truitt definitely began the skirmish.
"I've been playing against Truittt for a while," Brunson said. "We go at each other hard. There was some bumping. Some talking. No cursing . . . Yeah, I guess you'd call it friendly trash-talking. I never thought it would escalate to that point.
"He hit me after I stole the ball. I guess he was frustrated because they were losing. I did push him back, then my teammate, Ralik Wise, grabbed me away. It happened right near Washington's bench. Really, lots of people - like the coaches and refs, our principal, and others - deserve credit because it got broken up pretty fast."
Brunson's best stretch included a free throw to make it 55-52, a one-motion, steal/pass to Yusef Ross for a layup, and another free throw to expand the lead to 58-52.
"My main thing is to give us defensive hustle," Brunson said. "Though sometimes I'll score and rebound. Whatever's needed. Today I was even playing defense on their power forward."
Brunson last fall rushed 150 times for 1,207 and 14 touchdowns while becoming the first Southern player to earn first team Daily News All-City honors since linebacker Chris D'Amico in 1981.
He's talking with Shippensburg, Indiana (Pa.) and Cheyney.
"A lot of people tell me I won't play running back in college because I'm too small," he said. "If I keep working hard, I'll be fine. I feel like I can really do something with football."
Ross scored 16 points while Wise claimed 12 rebounds. Jamir Lomax mixed 16 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Truitt posted 24 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and three steals. His brother, Devante, notched 22 points. They combined for all but one of the Eagles' second-half markers. Wanya Ferguson claimed 18 rebounds.
In Tuesday's round of 16, the Rams will be heavy underdogs when they visit the top AAAA seed, Martin Luther King.
"Not being able to play, that's hard to accept," Brunson said. "I want to be out there with my team."