Women's Paradise Jam championship game called off

Updated: November 25, 2006, 6:51 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands -- The championship game of the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam was canceled Saturday after the 15-year-old brother of Arizona State senior forward Aubree Johnson died while in St. Thomas to watch her play.

The Sun Devils (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today, No. 13 AP) were supposed to play No. 18 Rutgers on Saturday night, but Arizona State said the game was called off hours before the scheduled tipoff because of the death in the morning.

Virgin Islands Police Department spokeswoman Shawna Richards confirmed that Johnson's brother, Jordan, died in his sleep but didn't provide other details or a cause of death. "The ASU basketball family extends well beyond the players and coaches listed on the roster," coach Charli Turner Thorne said in a statement released by the school. "It includes the families and loved ones of every player, coach and support staff member in the program.

"When one of them encounters a loss, it is a loss that is shared by every member of the 'family.' With that in mind, the team decided that it would be best to not go forward with playing Rutgers in tonight's championship game."

Because of the NCAA's "catastrophic event" rule, neither team will be given a loss for the missed game. Rutgers could've forced Arizona State to forfeit by taking the floor at game time, but the Scarlet Knights stayed away from the arena on Saturday, according to Craig Jonas, a spokesman for the tournament organizer.

"The Rutgers basketball program is deeply saddened by the tragic passing suffered by the Arizona State basketball family," coach C. Vivian Stringer said in a statement. "Tragedies such as this have a way of helping all of us put life in perspective, how precious it truly is and to appreciate the special moments in life.

"This young person was a well-skilled, accomplished athlete who was with his family, enjoying the holiday and watching his sister play basketball."

A moment of silence was held before the start of the tournament's first game Saturday, a 95-86 win by Auburn over Western Michigan.

Johnson, a power forward from Post Falls, Idaho, started all but one game last season. She was third on the team in rebound average and fifth in total assists. She earned Pac-10 All-Academic second-team honors the past two years.

Arizona State (5-1) advanced to the Paradise Jam title game with a 67-63 victory over Western Kentucky on Friday night. The Sun Devils are scheduled to play Boston University at home Friday.

Rutgers (2-2), which defeated Penn State in the Paradise Jam semifinals, will take on No. 5 Duke on Dec. 4 as part of the Jimmy V Classic in the Scarlet Knights' first home game of the season


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press