THOMASVILLE — Investigations by law enforcement and Thomas County and Thomasville school systems are underway into violence that erupted Saturday night during a high school basketball game.
Law enforcement officers will watch a video of the incident in an effort to identify spectators who went onto the basketball court after violence began among players.
With less than 25 seconds remaining in the girls game between Thomas County Central and Thomasville high schools, players from both teams got into a "shoving match," said Lt. Tim Watkins, Thomas County Sheriff's Department chief investigator.
"One of the female players from Thomasville hit one of the female Central players with a ball in the face," Watkins said.
Players from both girls teams seated on benches courtside went onto the court, and shoving ensued.
"In the meantime, some of the people in the stands came down on the court," Watkins said.
If officers can identify people who went from the stands onto the court, the individuals can be trespassed from Central and not allowed to return to school grounds, the investigator said.
Charges, such as simple assault, also could result after watching the school-generated video.
Players were not arrested. In the aftermath of the incident, the boys game was not played.
"We take the safety of our students and spectators very seriously," said TCCHS Principal Trista Jones. "In situations where disruptive behavior occurs during an athletic event, we adhere to the rules and regulations of the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) and our school policies. All participants will be subject to these guidelines."
Central students who participated in the conflict or left the bench have been sanctioned, Jones said, adding that she cannot be specific about the student discipline.
"We are following GHSA rules and continuing our investigation to see if further disciplinary action should be administered," Jones added.
Thomasville City School System officials also are investigating the incident.
"We are disappointed that emotions got out of hand during the basketball game with Thomas County," said city school Superintendent Ben Wiggins. "We have tremendous respect for Thomas County, and we are committed to work together on this situation to make sure this does not occur in future athletic events. We are investigating the incident and will address appropriately."
Said Thomas County Superintendent Dr. Lisa Williams, "The type of behavior that took place during Saturday night’s game will not be tolerated and is being addressed by both school system. We deeply value the support that we receive from our community, and it is our goal for both school districts to work together to help prevent disruptions like this in the future and to help ensure this does not happen again."
Williams expressed gratitude to school resource officers and other law enforcement officers, Central administration, coaches and other staff members who helped to quickly defuse the incident.
"Our system promotes and expects good sportsmanship at all of our school events," Williams said.