Updated at 9:27 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018 with more information.relatedarticlethumb
The boys' high school basketball game between East Tennessee powers Austin-East and host Brainerd was stopped by officials Saturday with 2:20 left in the first half because of a major on-court brawl that included people coming down from the stands and getting involved.
One student did sustain injuries and was transported to a local hospital, according to a release from the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, which noted that an investigation is underway and charges may ensue. The extent of injury is not known.
The Knoxville school and Brainerd are longtime rivals on the court. Adding to the magnitude of the game, Austin-East is the No. 2-ranked Class AA team in the Associated Press state poll, while Brainerd is ranked No. 5.
Brainerd was leading 36-32 when the game was stopped, although ultimately that doesn't matter because the TSSAA is ruling it a no-contest.
The teams almost made it through the first quarter before things began to get heated. An Austin-East player was assessed a technical foul with 57.1 seconds remaining in the first eight minutes. Roadrunners coach Marcus Stanton was called for a technical foul 29 seconds later.
At the end of the period, yet another technical foul was given to an Austin-East player, with the official who made the call emphasizing at the scorer's table that it was for "unsportsmanlike conduct."
On the play that became the game-stopper, the Panthers were on defense and deflected the ball away. A player from each team was running stride for stride, chasing after it as it rolled along the sideline and into the backcourt. The players dived for the ball right in front of the visitors' bench, and the official in the area ruled that the ball went out of bounds off the Austin-East player.
"What the officials told me was the player the ball went off of got up and threw the ball up and hit my player in the face," Brainerd coach Levar Brown said. "Then he said my player got up on him and started running off at the mouth. It just ensued from there. There was a bunch of pushing. Then people started coming down from behind their bench."
Several punches were thrown, many from those coming down from the stands. But the court became so flooded with people so quickly, it was difficult to see everything that went on. The law enforcement that was on site, plus coaches, game administrators and others tried to break up the melee, which ended up lasting probably around a minute.
"The officials are required to submit a report," TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said in a telephone interview. "When we get that, we'll act accordingly before we make any decisions. We'll contact the administrators at the school and go from there."
Brown said he instructs his videographers to stop recording when an official blows a whistle, so as to take out some dead time to make reviewing a game faster. He said he was told the video was stopped at the time of the call in this case, and the videographer did not resume recording when the brawl broke out.
Childress said the TSSAA would take into consideration viewing any recording of an incident that may require disciplinary action, even something shot from a cell phone in the stands.
"If there is no video evidence, the only thing we'll have to go by is what the officials tell us," Childress said. "Then we'll make any decision based on that. The schools have been told to keep the video rolling when there is an unsportsmanlike incident. That helps us with making our decisions."
The Brainerd girls' program was involved in a fighting incident immediately after defeating Howard in the game for third place in the District 6 tournament at East Hamilton in 2011. Both schools ended up being fined and the teams were placed on restrictive probation, preventing them from moving on to the region tournament that season and also banning them from competing in the 2012 postseason.
Childress said there was no video evidence in that circumstance.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter @KelleySmiddie.