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Big brawl at 8th grade basketball game

NEW BUFFALO, Mich. -- Six different police departments got called in to break up a big brawl at St. Mary of the Lake Catholic School on Tuesday night. 

The 8th grade Lady Lakers hosted the game against the Saints of St. Stanislaus in Michigan City, but in the last few seconds, the game turned into a full out brawl.

“It did get pretty ugly out there, yea,” referee Jack Kennedy officiated the game. He said on Friday, he did not realize tensions were so high in the gym that night.

The Saints had been up the entire game, the score wasn’t even close until the last minute of the 4th quarter.   Kennedy said, “The game was basically over; it should have ended without any of this bologna.”

With just two seconds left in the game, the Lady Lakers were down by only two points but the Saints had the ball. “They had the ball coming down the floor,” but before the ball was passed in-bounds, Kennedy said the other referee, his partner called a technical foul on St. Stanislaus. The technical gave the Lady Lakers two free-throws, the ball and it could have meant the game.

 “With that, all heck broke loose,” Kennedy said it was chaos in the gym. “I’ve been doing this 35 plus years, almost 37 now and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Kennedy said.

One man ran from the visitor side over to where the New Buffalo fans were, “I saw a crowd  gather up near the top of the bleachers,” Kennedy said it looked like the man was going after another parent, but he wasn’t sure why.

“Then the next thing I know the gentleman who ran behind me was kind of rolling down the steps,” Kennedy said he wasn’t sure if that man fell, tripped, or was pushed from the top of the bleachers.

“I saw them up in the stands hollering, I tried to calm them down, but it was tough.” Then, Kennedy said another man ran into the gym from the hallway, as he charged the St. Mary’s bench full of 8th grade girls, he tore his Saints t-shirt off.

Kennedy said, “By the time he tore his shirt off it looked like he was ready to go to battle with somebody.”

That’s when 79-year-old Kennedy and the other referee took the man down. Kennedy said, “Just tackled him, came from behind and grabbed his legs.”

The two referees are used to keeping control on the court with the players, but this was much different, “We needed to do something at that point,” Kennedy said, “Do the best to get things under control so it didn’t get any worse.”

Other parents in the stands called police and Kennedy called the game. Sometime during the brawl Kennedy got injured, “I broke this finger, the little one and the left-hand and then I got cut up and down my arms.”

“It was just a very unfortunate tense situation and it went past where anybody would want it to go.” Sue Bryant, principal at St. Stanislaus said.

Bryant was not at the game but was notified of the incident later that night, she said she and the school are disappointed. “It hasn’t happened before and it’s definitely not something we want to happen again,” Bryant said.

The principal at St. Mary’s did not want to be interviewed, but did send ABC57 a written statement, Kate VanPelt wrote the school is saddened by the fight and added, “We do not condone the behavior by the adult fans.”

Administrators from both schools met Friday morning to discuss what to do next, how to make sure nothing like this happnens again.

VanPelt wrote St. Mary’s is “Developing a new Code of Ethics that will be read before every sporting event. We are confident that we will be able to move forward and learn from this incident.”

No players or students were involved in the violence, the parents in the stands started and finished the brawl.

Other people in the gym at the time of the fight sustained minor injuries, but there were several reports of assault made.

The New Buffalo Police Department has not made any arrests in this case just yet, but the investigation is not over. On Friday officers said they are still talking with witnesses, it does not look like anyone has video of the fight but they are interviewing people who were there.

“Once it has been determined who the primary suspects are, warrants will be requested for those individuals,” Chief Larry Pitchford said.

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