Brawl at LakePoint makes national headlines

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The inaugural Battle for Georgia took place Sunday at LakePoint's Champions Center, but it was for a much different reason that the Emerson-based sporting community made national headlines over the weekend.

Hours before the LakePoint-affiliated, all-Georgia tournament tipped off, video made the rounds on social media of a brawl that took place at the Champions Center between two teams in a different basketball event.

According to reports from multiple media outlets, including ESPN, Yahoo! Sports and others, the fight broke out late in the fourth quarter of a semifinal between Chicago-based R.A.W. Athletics and the Houston Raptors in The Association tournament.

The first video to go viral from the incident — posted by Doug Jones, a "recruiting analyst" according to his Twitter bio — starts with several R.A.W. Athletics players surrounding a referee who is on the ground.

Seconds later, an official from an adjacent court comes running over. The referee who had been initially attacked tries to fight back, even taking off his shirt at one point, before being restrained.

Order appeared to be restored, momentarily, until one of the other officials attacked a person dressed in sweatpants and a hoodie. That altercation led to a full-on fistfight.

Another video posted later by Jones shows multiple players punching the shirtless ref before another official tackles one of them into a set of bleachers. Several more punches are thrown before the team starts to leave the court.

None of the videos tweeted by Jones, each of which have been viewed over half a million times as of Monday night, show what led to the melee. Coaches of the involved teams have predictably recounted different versions of what happened prior to the brawl.

In an article by ESPN.com's Myron Medcalf, R.A.W. Athletics coach Howard Martin said, "At the end of the game, one of my players was complaining about a call. He made a comment to the referee. The ref didn't like it. So the other team inbounded the ball, walked it up, the ref said to my player, 'Say it again.' Then he T'd him up and kicked him out of the game. And he walked behind him, still having words.

"Then the ref pushed my player, and they squared up right by my bench. When they squared up, another one of my players jumped off the bench and took [the ref] down. We separated them."

Raptors coach Bobby Benjamin rejected the notion that the officials instigated the ordeal, according to Medcalf.

"The referee definitely didn't attack the kids," Benjamin was quoted as saying. "Absolutely not. Once things got going, and he was attacked ... he got assaulted. They were too outnumbered to even try to defend themselves."

Medcalf also spoke with tournament director Josh Miley, who said the referees were supplied by LakePoint.

In a news release, LakePoint condemned the actions, while pointing out that the event was not affiliated with the sporting community.

“We were very disappointed about the incident that occurred Sunday at the end of a basketball game organized by a third party tournament operator," the release said in part. "This behavior is not tolerated at LakePoint. The Emerson Police Department is investigating the incident and we are cooperating with them. We will continue to work closely with our tournament operators to ensure that good sportsmanship is expected and any inappropriate behavior is sanctioned. The safety and security of our athletes, families and staff is paramount.”

Kyle Teems, Emerson police chief, confirmed his department was aware of the incident, but he added that no arrests have been made.

"At this time, no individual has come forward to file a report on the incident," Teems said. "We were notified of it by LakePoint security, and we are looking into the incident to see if we can try to determine what occurred."

Teems said his department is in the process of attempting to obtain security footage of the entire incident. He added that no contact had been made with the tournament organizers.

The aforementioned videos also alerted Teems and his officers to the incident.

"We're just looking into it on our own, because no one at this point in this case has come forward and filed any type of report," he said. "It's just something we've seen through social media, and we're taking the initiative to look into it and see if we can determine what happened."

— The Daily Tribune News' James Swift contributed to this report.