The YMCA-like gym that MC&S has called home for the last four seasons is big enough to seat, maybe, 300 spectators. That number was exceeded well before the opening tip. There are bleachers only on one side, opposite the team benches and scorer's table.
It was sometime during the first quarter, MC&S athletic director and assistant coach Lonnie Diggs thought, that officials at the front door stopped admitting people.
Some refused to be denied. In the corner closest to the Vaux bench, the hinges of a red double door, after repeated attempts by determined outsiders, came flying off. About 10 to 15 teenagers scurried in, most finding spots behind the same-end basket.
Diggs said MC&S, which is in the "blue-print stages" of having its own gym at Broad and Buttonwood, had "about nine of our security officers there, and we hired two more people." No police officers were there when the game started.
The number of officers seemed fewer. Whatever it was, it was not enough to keep the outsiders at bay. Or keep several in the standing-room-only crowd from overstepping their bounds.
"Before big games, we let police at the 22d District know what's going on," Diggs said. "They said they would have some cars in the area. But I really didn't see any."
In the past, Diggs said, the school moved some home games to bigger gyms, including Imhotep Charter and Ben Franklin.
Thursday, fans clamored to see Jordan, an explosive senior guard for Vaux who is considering Temple, St. John's, and UCLA. Also in the equation was the proximity of Vaux, located nearby at 23d and Master.
It was late in the second quarter, after Jordan's three-pointer cut the Mighty Elephants' lead to 29-24, that two police officers came to examine the broken double door.
Midway through the third period, after more police had arrived - mostly stationed outside - the contest was halted briefly. Public League boys' basketball commissioner Ben Dubin, on hand for the game, was part of a discussion that took place in front of the MC&S bench and included talk of possibly clearing the gym of spectators.
"One of the people from the building said that fans who couldn't get in were doing damage to the outside of the building," Dubin said. "He wanted to clear the gym out."
After a 10-minute delay, the game continued with fans.
Dubin said he didn't think clearing the gym "was going to make it safer for the outside of the building. But I'm certainly not an expert. If the police had felt it was the right thing to do, I would have gone along with it."
From there, Dubin said, only one police officer remained in the gym, near the entrance.
"It's a private building," he said. "The police are on the clock to protect the streets in that neighborhood."
Things nearly boiled over with 51/2 minutes left in regulation and the score tied at 52. A pro-Vaux contingent, some stepping over the baseline and onto the court, heckled MC&S players. Jordan tried to calm the group and keep a fight from breaking out. Dubin did the same.
"I just felt my presence there would help," said Dubin, the dean of students at Frankford High. "I don't think they knew what my position was, but I think they knew I was some form of authority."
Why were no fans, many of whom were obvious agitators, ever ejected?
"Early on, maybe that should have happened," Dubin said. "But I think, at a certain point, it's tough to do. If you do that, you could raise the adrenaline of some of the other fans and things could worsen."
Fortunately, after the near-fight between MC&S players and Vaux fans, there was no more craziness.
In a game that took nearly 21/2 hours to complete, the two veteran referees, Randy Pritzker and Russell McCullough, did a commendable of keeping on-court peace. While not the norm in the regular season, a three-man crew would have helped.
Dubin said he could not have mandated that MC&S take on Jordan and company at a more spacious locale.
"It's not my call," he said. "I can't force a team to leave its home court. Obviously, there's some advantage there."
He added, "In the future, I think more security for high-profile games at that gym would make sense."
Amen to that.
Contact Rick O'Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org, or @ozoneinq on Twitter.