It must rank as one of any school's nightmares.
Two players get into an altercation during a game. Then before the officials and/or coaches can step in and break things up, fans charge the floor, and it turns into a full-scale brawl.
For Berrien and Cook, that nightmare became a reality last Friday at the Cook Middle School gym in Sparks.
Here's what happened:
With 1:39 left in a game and Berrien leading 63-54, Berrien's Jermale Hines caught Cook's Jeremy Brown with an elbow. Brown responded by shoving Hines, who punched back. It was a case of two teenaged boys losing their cool at the end of an intense ballgame. The officials and head coaches Warren Roberts of Berrien and Bobby Jones of Cook rushed in to break things up. At that point, it should have been broken up, the two players should have been sent to the locker room, and the game should have resumed.
That wasn't what happened because some of the fans sitting in the stands didn't do what they should have, which is stay in the stands. Instead, like a bunch of idiots, many charged onto the floor to join in the fight. That is when it got out of hand, and things escalated into mass chaos.
"We should have been able to separate the two players, and gotten on with the game," Jones said. "But by the time I was able to restrain my guy, and Warren pulled his guy away, everybody had rushed the court."
Fans have no business on the basketball court during the game. Especially when a fight breaks out. If the fans had all stayed off the court, order would have been restored quickly.
What makes it worse is that many of the initial fans that charged the court were adults, who either wanted to jump into the brawl, or just encourage it.
Come on folks, you're adults. Act like it. You want to act like a bunch of thugs, like a bunch of barbarians, go somewhere else. There's no room at a high school basketball game for that kind of crap.
Representatives from both schools have indicated that there were a handful of spectators who came to the game looking for the opportunity to cause trouble, and they apparently succeeded. They verbally harassed players and other fans all night, and all-but-encouraged them to fight. Thugs is one way you could describe them.
Hines and Brown tussled for less than 20 seconds, and the fans' free-for-all lasted an estimated five minutes. Many fans did stay inside the gym, fearing for their safety.
As it stands, the Cook County sheriff's department has been investigating the fight. If any of the fans who did rush the court to fight are positively identified, they will likely be banned from all Cook High sporting events for a long time. Berrien could take similar action. Neither school wants those type of people around their games.
Roberts accepted responsibility for his players' actions ("I'm the head coach, these are my players, and the buck's got to stop here," he said), but Cook High's videotape seems to indicate that among the players, only Hines and Brown fought. The other players were hurried off to the locker room quickly. The rest were spectators only.
Roberts also indicated there would be plenty of security when the teams meet again Jan. 28 in Nashville. Jones said he had no doubt that would be the case.
"I'm sure there will be (a lot of) police cars in the parking lot," he said.
This is not the first incident of fans fighting in this area. In March 2002 in Lakeland, during a baseball game between Lanier County and Clinch County, the stands (with primarily Lanier fans) emptied, and you had a scene much like Cook and Berrien had Friday night. During that altercation, longtime Clinch coach Cecil Barber (who was recovering from knee replacement surgery) was hit across the back with a broomstick. In other rivalries, there have been plenty of clashes between fans, too.
Both teams felt the after-effects of the fight in the next few days. The game was ruled a double forfeit, costing Berrien a probable victory. The coaches have disciplined Hines and Brown. Because the coaches sent their players to the locker rooms during the brawl, the head referee reported that players left the bench during the fight, which means an automatic ejection and two-game suspension for each one. It's a stupid ruling, yes, but that's how the rule reads in the book. And frankly, Jones and Roberts have no regrets about sending their kids off.
"I'm concerned about the safety of my players, and they didn't need to be out there," Jones said.
The teams had to forfeit their Saturday games (Cook vs. Lanier County, Berrien vs. Mitchell-Baker), and on Monday, GHSA president Dr. Ralph Swearingin ruled that the teams could play their Tuesday games, but only with players who were not dressed out Friday. Both teams' varsities were suspended. That meant both teams sent out JV players to play Tuesday's games against other schools' varsities. Predictably, both schools got routed (Cook by Thomasville, Berrien by Brooks County).
Now both schools are trying to move on with what had been promising seasons so far (each was 4-1 going into that game).
"We want to put that behind us and move on with the rest of our season," Roberts said. "We don't want this to ruin the season for us."
"It's unfortunate that all this happened, and hopefully it'll never happen again," Jones said. "This isn't the way most of the people (from Cook and Berrien County) are. Most of them are good people."
Security will likely be tighter for both schools in the near future, especially when they play each other.
Hopefully they can root out those fans aiming to cause trouble, and get them out the door. If you can't act in an orderly fashion like a mature adult or young adult at a high school basketball game, you don't deserve to watch it in the first place. This is a high school game, with teenaged kids playing. This isn't a saloon in the Old West.
Whoever those of you were who saw fit to charge onto the court and start a massive fight at a high school basketball game, you embarrassed your school, your team, and your town.
And you yourselves are an embarrassment.
React to this story:
- Lowndes man pleads guilty to federal firearms charge
- More than 300 quarantined in Lowndes County Schools
- Boat builder bringing 90 jobs to Valdosta
- SGMC reports four virus deaths Thursday
- Drug bust nets suspects from Lowndes, Lanier, Tift counties
- Update: County office temporarily closes for COVID-19 exposure
- South Georgia signs up thousands for vaccine
- City school board extends virus sick leave, tables facilities plan
- SGMC reports three virus deaths Sunday
- Lowndes COVID-19 cases surpass 6,600