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No charges after North Iredell-East Rowan fight investigation

By Donna Swicegood

Statesville Record & Landmark

STATESVILLE — Iredell-Statesville Schools Superintendent Brady Johnson says there will not be any charges stemming from a recent fight at a high school boys basketball game. That does not mean, however, that the students involved will not be held accountable.

The incident started as a shoving match between two players at the Feb. 15 North Iredell-East Rowan boys basketball game, as it was coming to an end.

One of North Iredell’s players suffered an orbital fracture, a broken nose and a chipped tooth in the fight, said Iredell-Statesville Schools Athletic Director Richard Armstrong.

Iredell Sheriff Darren Campbell previously told the Record & Landmark that his detectives were reviewing video in an attempt to determine exactly what happened.

The game was suspended with 2:29 remaining. It was the final regular season game for both teams.

Armstrong said tension was building from the second quarter of the game but referees kept tempers in check until the waning minutes of the game. He said a North Iredell player shoved an East Rowan player and the benches cleared.

Campbell said the shoving match spilled over onto one of the benches and players from both sides, as well as fans, got involved in the fight.

The sheriff’s office says it reviewed all known videos and witness statements gathered during the investigation. After discussing the evidence, the sheriff’s office says that the individuals involved have decided not to pursue criminal charges.

Johnson issued a statement on the incident on Thursday morning, saying the school system appreciated the “thorough investigation conducted by the Iredell Sheriff’s office regarding the fight.”

His statement continued:

“While there have been no charges brought against individuals involved in the fight, please know that the school district will follow the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) policy regarding student play. Students involved in the fight are being held accountable for their actions. Based on the ruling from the NCHSAA, the season ended for the North Iredell High School men’s basketball on Friday night. The team, along with the East Rowan team, was ejected from play.

Armstrong said both boys teams were disqualified from the North Piedmont Conference Tournament, forcing a reshuffling of the bracket with the elimination of two of the six teams in the NPC out of postseason action. He said neither team will be able to participate in the upcoming state tournament, which gets underway next week. The NPC Tournament concludes Friday night, with South Iredell playing Statesville.

Armstrong said he attended a meeting this week with the commissioner and officials from the NCHSAA, which was a scheduled meeting prior to this incident. He said he learned fighting between players and sometimes fans, seems to be growing trend.

This season alone, Armstrong said, across the state, six boys teams and three girls teams were disqualified because of fights.

“I don’t have an answer,” he said. “We are steadily seeing a deteriorating sportsmanship,” he said.

Dr. Art Paschal, athletic director for Rowan-Salisbury Schools, echoed Armstrong’s remarks.

“I hate someone got hurt,” Paschal said, on Thursday night. “I hate when I see things like this. There’s just nothing good going to come from spectators running out on the court. There was a good number of them on the court last Friday night.”

“It seems that we have more and more of these situations, not just in Rowan and Iredell, but in general,” continued Paschal. “I just wish everyone would just sit in their seats and let the officials and coaches sort things out.”

Since all of the players from both schools were ejected, any of them who play a spring sport would have to appeal to the NCHSAA in order to avoid a mandatory four-contest suspension. The suspensions do not carry over to the 2019-20 school year, according to Paschal.

Paschal added that there is actually a 48-hour window in which to appeal to the NCHSAA, but another video has surfaced. He said that the first two videos he viewed from the incident did not have enough clarity to help with an appeal.

“Right now, we’re trying to decide if there will be an appeal,” said Paschal. “A decision hasn’t been made yet and ultimately, the decision to appeal comes from the school. We need to see this last video, but I don’t want to give any false hopes that something is going to happen. There are several things that have to take place before the association would even accept an appeal. Hopefully, a decision can be made in the next day or so.”

Salisbury Post sports editor Dennis Davidson contributed to this article.

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