One of the most storied rivalries in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference added an ugly chapter Thursday night.
Howard College defeated Midland College, 74-65, in a men's basketball matchup at Garrett Coliseum, but all anyone will remember about the game is a bench-clearing brawl that marred its final moments and resulted in several player ejections, at least two suspensions and MC having to finish the game with only four players on the court.
The game had already become foul-plagued when it went to an entirely new level with 1:13 remaining. Midland's Melvin Tabb was fouled by Howard's Zech Smith while attempting a shot, several players became tangled up and the next thing anyone realized, Smith and Midland's Mike Taylor began exchanging punches.
The scrum quickly expanded to include all 10 players on the court, Midland players who left the bench to join the fray and referees and other officials who struggled to put a stopper on the outburst. Howard College reserve players attempted to join the brawl, but were restrained by coaches on their half of the court.
When order was finally restored, Smith and Taylor were ejected for violent behavior, Midland's reserves were also ejected for leaving the bench to join the fight, Tabb was assessed a technical foul and the Chaparrals were forced to finish the game with only four players.
The brouhaha was quickly condemned by both head coaches.
“Personally, it's embarrassing,” Howard Coach Mark Adams said. “I'm very disappointed in our team and the particular players who were involved in the altercation. I promise we will take the appropriate action and move forward.”
“I didn't see how it started,” Midland Coach Chris Craig said. “Up until then, I saw two teams playing very hard. But things got too emotional, and you can't have that.”
The ejections of Smith and Taylor were for violent behavior, actions which carry automatic two-game suspensions. Adams, however, hinted Smith may miss even more time, saying that the 6-foot-11 sophomore from McLoud, Okla. was suspended “indefinitely.”
The incident will be reviewed by the National Junior College Athletic Association, which will determine final punishment for the players.
Lost in the fisticuffs was a highly competitive game between historic rivals that saw the Hawks claim a 13-point lead early in the second half before Midland began chipping away at the lead, cutting the deficit to five points before Smith and Taylor began exchanging punches.
The Hawks spotted Midland an early 10-4 lead, but stormed back behind a familiar barrage of three-pointers from its perimeter players. The teams then exchanged the lead for several minutes before Howard launched a 13-1 run that gave them a 33-23 lead with 4:24 remaining in the first half.
Howard's advantage remained in double digits until the midpoint of the second half, when Tabb — who led all scorers with 22 points — and the Chaps began gradually rallying, eventually cutting the lead to 67-62 by the time of the altercation.
“I thought we played very well on defense … but were inconsistent on offense” Adams said. “I thought we were kind of playing not to lose in the second half, but give Midland a lot of credit — they played with a lot of heart.”
The Hawks received balanced scoring from its lineup — five players tallied in double figures, led by Calvin Godfrey's 14 points.
Howard, which improved to 19-5 overall and 8-2 in WJCAC play, returns to action Monday at Odessa College. Game time is 7:45 p.m.
MIDLAND (65) — Jarekious Bradley 1 0-0 2; Willis Nicholson 5 3-3 15; Tre Bowman 1 1-2 3; Mike Taylor 0 2-2 2; Kelvin Agee 4 2-2 11; Majok Majok 1 1-2 3; Anthony Norris 2 2-2 7; Brandon Lucas 2 0-0 4; Melvin Tabb 7 8-15 22; totals 21 19-28 65.
HOWARD (74) — Jerry Dixon 3 6-6 12; Leon Cooper 1 0-0 2; Rico Richardson 3 5-6 12; Jacob Thomas 3 6-7 13; Calvin Godfrey 6 2-6 14; Shavon Coleman 2 1-2 6; Zec Smith 0 0-1 0; Phillip Miller 5 0-1 12; Damion McGee 1 0-0 3; totals 24 20-29 74.
HALFTIME — Howard 41, Midland 29; Three-point goals — Midland 4 (Nicholson 2, Agee, Norris), Howard 6 (Richardson, Thomas, Miller 2, Coleman, McGee); Total fouls — Midland 25, Howard 23; Fouled out — Majok, Norris, Smith; Technicals — Tabb; Ejections — Taylor, Smith.