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LELAND—North Brunswick beat Whiteville 67-58 in a boys’ basketball game Friday, but no spectators were in the gym for the final few minutes.
North Brunswick athletics director Randy Fennell, who was at the game, explained what happened.
“We had a packed house. There wasn’t a seat available in the house. It was an intense game,” he said.
“Some fans in our corner were getting a little rowdy. There was a foul called on one of the players and our fans went a little crazy over there. There were a couple of (plastic) bottles thrown on the floor. One of those bottles hit a Whiteville player.
“At that point, we got all the players settled down. The head coaches of both teams did a wonderful job of containing all that.
“We cleared that section of bleachers from where those bottles came from—made all those people leave from out the back.”
But it soon became clear the game would be unable to continue unless everyone left the gym.
“There were verbal comments coming from this side, verbal comments coming from that side,” Fennell said. “We got together with the coaches and law enforcement and we all agreed it probably would be best if we cleared the bleachers, one at a time.”
Even Fennell was stunned that it had come to that.
“I had never seen that happen,” he said.
With no spectators in the gym, the game resumed.
“There were six minutes or so left in the game,” Fennell said, “and we finished the last six minutes—it was like practice. It was the strangest thing. There was no cheering when there was a score. The cheerleaders (had left), too, not that the cheerleaders had anything to do with it. We cleared everybody out.”
Fennell said extra law enforcement officers arrived before spectators left the gym.
“We felt that was where we were going to have issues, in the parking lot,” Fennell said. “So once they got ready, we cleared one side. And everybody seemed to disperse easily.”
Fennell said any description of what happened as a “melee,” as one radio station Saturday morning described the scene, is incorrect.
“There were no fights,” he said.
“Not even close,” he said when asked whether punches were thrown.
“No arrests, no disqualifications, no ejections. Nothing like that.”
As for future games at North, Fennell said, appropriate actions are being taken to assure spectators and players are in a safe environment.
“We have identified who we think were the main people involved,” Fennell said. “There are going to be some actions taken against those people. As a matter of fact, if we can video (identify) specific people we think might be involved, they’re not going to be allowed to come back.
“It was just a couple of people who got a bunch of people riled up.”