Tempers flared and the game got out of hand when the Warren County High School boys basketball team took the court Friday night in Van Buren County.
In a hard-fought overtime slugfest, the Pioneers walked off the court and forfeited the game behind coach Malcolm Montgomery after two controversial calls and an alleged racial slur from the stands.
With just over two minutes left in OT and Van Buren County leading 59-56, the Pioneer bench was assessed a technical foul for protesting a call.
Following the two free throws, both made, coach Montgomery went to midcourt to talk with an official about why a technical was called. Coach Montgomery drew the ire of most of the home crowd and was eventually asked to sit down for the remainder of the game, which is TSSAA protocol after a coach has received a technical foul.
On the ensuing possession, some physical play at midcourt during an inbound pass led to another technical foul. Senior Mitchell McCorkle was tangled with a Van Buren County player and during some pushing and shoving, the Van Buren County player fell to the floor.
The referee nearest the action called McCorkle for a technical foul. The play drew huge boos from the Warren County fans who thought the Van Buren County player exaggerated the contact.
After the second technical foul, a fan sitting near the Warren County bench allegedly shouted a racial slur at the Pioneer coach.
Coach Montgomery, who had his 8-year-old daughter nearby, then stormed off the court and waved for his players to follow him to the locker room.
Before all Warren County players could reach the locker room, the benches and stands emptied onto the court and coach Montgomery had to be restrained by his assistants after an altercation with a Van Buren County fan. Bedlam ensued.
On Saturday, coach Montgomery and Warren County athletic director Todd Willmore declined to comment other than to report that a meeting has been scheduled for Monday between the coaching staff, Willmore and the Warren County School Board. Another meeting between school and TSSAA officials is also expected Monday.
Fines and possible suspensions could be handed down after Warren County school officials, Montgomery, and Willmore meet with TSSAA officials.
While coach Montgomery wouldn’t verify the slur was shouted, many players were overheard commenting about the derogatory remark coming from the stands.
The game officials will have to file a report since the game was stopped with 2:08 to play with Van Buren County leading 61-56. The ruling will be a Warren County forfeit, but some discussion has indicated the officials’ statement could include an incident between coach Montgomery and a Van Buren County player.
Allegedly, coach Montgomery was seen pushing a Van Buren County player out of the way while heading toward the locker room. The shove wasn’t confirmed by Van Buren County administrators, but the incident will be looked into further.
Van Buren County principal Chris Binkley, who has reviewed the tape from Friday night, acknowledged the investigation has moved to the state level.
“The incident will be looked into further,” said Binkley. “The TSSAA has been contacted and will review the tape.”
Van Buren County coach Dustin Sullivan said Saturday he was upset how the ending overshadowed a well-played game.
“I’m disappointed the game ended the way it did,” said Sullivan. “The story should be about how hard two teams competed and we should be talking about how great a game it was.”
Tennessee supervisor of officials Ken Melton has received the officials’ report. Melton said yesterday he couldn’t share the details of the report.
“I’ve spoken to the officials and have received their report,” said Melton. “At this point, I’m not at liberty to discuss the details because of an impending investigation.”
The Pioneers are scheduled to play host to Van Buren County on the final day of the regular season. The Monday, Feb. 13 game is also the Lady Pioneers Pink-Out Night to promote breast cancer awareness, but the status of the game is uncertain as both school administrations will review the situation and determine if the game will be played.