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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)
The boys' high school basketball seasons at Brainerd and Austin-East have been suspended by the TSSAA.
The decision was made Monday after TSSAA officials reviewed evidence related to the brawl that broke out shortly before halftime of Saturday's game at Brainerd. The incident also remains under criminal investigation by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department.
The state athletics governing body provided copies of the letters sent to the principals at both schools notifying them of the suspensions. The letter, which was signed by executive director Bernard Childress, reads the TSSAA received information from administrators, coaches, officials and video recordings.
In a telephone interview, Childress said he received a total of six videos. He said a few were shot by onlookers on cell phones but noted that the most telling evidence came from the footage captured by the gymnasium's security cameras.
"The main thing we had was what was on the security cameras," Childress said. "Brainerd sent us that early this morning. We watched video from that all day from different angles. We were just looking for information so we could get some idea of what happened.
"We saw everything we didn't want to see."
The letters also included the report submitted by the game officials. Jeff Wilkinson, Mike Lowman and Ken Adams called the game with Wilkinson being the lead official who stopped play 2:20 before halftime with the host Panthers leading 36-32. Officially the TSSAA has ruled it a no-contest.
The officials' summary identified Austin-East's Derion Battle and Brainerd's Jalen Wofford as the players who were chasing a loose ball and became involved in an altercation that led to bigger things. After the ball was ruled to have gone out of bounds off Battle in front of his team's bench, the officials' report indicates that Battle hit Wofford with the ball. In return, Wofford punched back while they were still on the floor in front of the Roadrunners' bench, according to Adams. Then the all-out melee that included fans rushing the court and throwing punches ensued.
Childress said he did not want to compare what happened Saturday to anything that happened previously, but did add: "We've had fights in athletics before. This one was pretty serious."
The TSSAA has asked administration at both schools to deal with the situation internally and to report what plan of action it intends to take to avert future episodes like this. Childress and his staff will then decide if what the schools submit is satisfactory or if the TSSAA needs to take additional action.
"We want to make sure everyone understands we allow them to play athletic opportunities for a lot bigger purpose than points on a scoreboard," Childress said.
Brainerd boys' coach Levar Brown was contacted about this story but said he was told by school officials not to make any comments on the record at this time.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter @KelleySmiddie.
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