A high school basketball game between Camden and Camden Eastside in New Jersey was halted Thursday after a mass on-court brawl broke out.
Camden, the top seed, was leading 30-17 with 4:24 remaining in the second quarter of the Camden County Tournament in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, when the game had to be stopped with county police forced to intervene.
The melee was initiated when one of the members of Eastside’s roster, Titus Bacon, set up a screen that a Camden player, Cornelius Robinson, took exception to, according to the Courier Post.
Robinson then punched the Tigers player, who immediately reciprocated as the referee blew his whistle.
Chaos broke loose as fans, players and coaches flooded the court with some players having to be held back from joining the fight.
A high school basketball game in New Jersey was halted Thursday after a mass on-court brawl
Camden County police were able to calm down the situation but Camden County School District officials decided to suspend play. The gym was cleared and a police presence was reportedly set up outside the school.
With the New Jersey state tournament set to begin on Monday, the incident could have serious consequences for both teams.
In The Garden State, teams can be disqualified from participating for players leaving the bench.
Camden, who has star player D.J. Wagner, who ESPN ranks as the top prospect in the Class of 2023, is the defending Group 2 state champion; Camden Eastside in Group 3.
But according to NJSIAA regulations, even teams who are already seeded into the tournament could still be disqualified from the state championship.
The NJSIAA rule books states: ‘Any varsity team accumulating three (3) or more player or coach disqualifications prior to the start of the tournament will not be permitted to participate in the state tournament. Seeded teams will forfeit their right to compete if a disqualification limit is reached prior to the start of the tournament for the team.’
The Woodbury girls program was disqualified from the playoffs for a similar incident last month.
In the clip of the incident, it appears that Camden’s bench emptied on to the court but it’s not clear if the Tigers reacted in a similar fashion.
But both Eastside’s athletic director Mark Phillips and coach Kenny Avent insisted their players hadn’t left the bench.
‘The video shows our team didn’t leave the bench,’ Camden Eastside athletic director Mark Phillips said. ‘Everything else, we’ll see how it turns out.’
‘None of my kids left the bench,’ Avent added. ‘We should be fine. None of my kids left the bench. I don’t know what happened with their team, I just wanted to get my kids to the locker room.’
Camden’s Cornelius Robinson punched Tigers’ Titus Bacon, who immediately reciprocated
DailyMail.com has contacted Camden athletic director Willie Hickson and Superintendent Katrina McCombs for comment.
The district released a statement, via NJ Advance Media, that read: ‘We are disappointed to learn that this evening’s Camden County Championship basketball game between Camden High School and Eastside High School has been suspended following an on-the-court altercation during the game.
‘Our top priority is the safety and well-being of our students and fans. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured.
‘This incident is not an indication of who we are. … And, we expect our student-athletes to compete with sportsmanship. The District will take all the necessary steps for appropriate disciplinary action.’
This was the first year for the county tournament and Avent said he was not aware of any tension between the teams heading into the game.
‘Both teams are competitive, kids are competitive,’ Avent said. ‘They were competing and it’s just an unfortunate incident.’
Officials at the game must file a written report to their assigner, who will then forward it to the NJSIAA.
Jeff Cohen, assignor for IAABO 34, said via NJ Advance Media that a report will be filed and sent to the NJSIAA as soon as possible. He was waiting for information from the three game officials assigned to the final.
Camden entered last night’s game with a record of 23-2, led by two of the top five recruits in the country according to ESPN.
The Panthers were the heavy favorites to win another title were the No. 2 seed in the South Jersey Group 2 playoffs and is slated to open the tournament Tuesday at home against No. 15 Lindenwold.
Eastside, which won its first championship since 1985 last year, entered the week ranked fifth in South Jersey. The Tigers are the No. 2 seed in South 3 and is scheduled to take on No. 15 Clearview Monday.