A high school basketball game in Virginia was called off with roughly five minutes remaining after fans rushed the court when a player for one team appeared to strike one of his opponents, with two charged in connection with the court invasion.
As reported by the Martinsville Bulletin and Danville River Register & Bee, the regional face off between Martinsville and Danville George Washington was halted with 4:10 remaining in the game between the two teams when fans ran onto the court to intervene in an on court fight. The massive interruption came after a George Washington player was fouled on a breakaway, then attempted to move aside the player who fouled him. The result was a minor fracas on court between the players and a much larger brouhaha when fans intervened.
George Washington led the game, 55-51, when the melee began and was awarded the victory once the game was cancelled.
Here’s how the Register & Bee described the incident as it unfolded:
According to GW head coach Ron Parson’s account, the Martinsville player stood over Beck briefly after the play. Beck attempted to move the opposing player out of the way so he could stand up, and when Beck got back to his feet the Martinsville player attempted to strike Beck.
Players from Martinsville and GW attempted to break up the scuffle, but not before fans seated below the basket ran onto the floor and got involved.
“In all my years of coaching I had never seen anything like it,” Parson said. “I have no idea why the fans rushed the floor.”
Martinsville police quickly jumped in to restore peace. Both teams were directed back to their locker rooms while fans were told to clear the gym. Moments later Parson was told that Martinsville had forfeited the contest, giving the Eagles the victory.
Two of the court invaders were later arrested and held in Danville prison in connection with their involvement. Joseph Bethel, a 28-year-old Danville resident, and 19-year-old Janae Johnson were both charged with obstruction of justice. Johnson was handed an additional charge of assaulting a police officer while Bethel received a charge of trespassing. Both Danville residents were released after posting a $1,000 bond, according to the Register Bee.
While the awarding of the game to GW closes the chapter on this incident, it doesn’t preclude further ugliness from erupting between the two teams. As noted by the Bulletin, the Virginia High School League could still issue its own punishments against players for both teams, or either program in full, sanctions which could even stretch until the next time the teams meet; both teams are competing in the Danville Toyota/Danville Register & Bee Holiday Shootout which runs from December 26-29. Even if they don’t meet there, the two will face off again on January 23 in Danville for the return leg of their home-and-home games.
“It gives the knuckleheads — I call them knuckleheads — it gives them an excuse to go out when you saw two guys fight and they said, ‘This is my chance to get away with something,’ and that ruins it for all the rest of the fans that behaved themselves and are good citizens,” Martinsville coach Jeff Adkins told the Bulletin. “It makes everybody that does the right thing look bad, too. We just have to work on that and deal with that later. We’ll work through it. We just need to calm our emotions, too.”