Brawl mars conclusion of Kingston-NFA girls basketball game (updated: Jan. 13, 5:20 p.m.)

There has been some raw video posted on YouTube that shows exactly what happened prior to the altercation. The link is below.

Folks on Kingston’s side are claiming that the Newburgh player threw the first punch. Kingston head coach Steve Garner said the officials calling the game believe that the first punch thrown came from a Newburgh player.

NFA, however, counters that a Kingston player had the first swing. Everything starts to happen around the 0:08 mark in the video.

Take a look for yourself and let me know what you think happened.

Note: I spoke with Steve Garner at 11:30 p.m. This post has been edited to reflect new information.

Wednesday’s OCIAA Division I girls basketball game between Kingston and Newburgh Free Academy was stopped with 1:12 remaining in the fourth quarter after two players began to fight and fans spilled onto NFA’s court.

Kingston was leading at the time, 49-34, and was awarded a victory by that score by the officials.

According to Newburgh Free Academy head coach Rich Desiderio, a Kingston player threw a punch at NFA’s Tashalee Lawrence, who retaliated in turn. The officials tried to break up the fight at that point, but fans and parents from the bleachers joined in the scrum.

Kingston head coach Steve Garner says officials were adamant that a Kingston player did not start the fight.

“I did talk to the refs after the game,” Garner said. “They said No. 3 (Lawrence) was ejected and I asked if any Kingston players escalated or precipitated anything and they said no.”

NFA's new head coach, Rich Desiderio, during a recent practice at the school. (Michelle Haskell photo/Times Herald-Record).

Lawrence will be suspended for Friday’s game against Middletown for being ejected. Desiderio said an internal and police review of game film from the Kingston and NFA sidelines may result in more suspensions.

“I’m embarrassed,” Desiderio said. “I’m disappointed in our adults. Kids are kids, but I’m disappointed in our adults not setting a better example. I think both communities are embarrassed.”

Kingston head coach Steve Garner did not recall a specific player instigating the altercation, but admitted he had yet to look at the tape.

He said a jump ball immediately proceeding the brawl may have been a factor.

“I have total respect for the Newburgh coach,” Garner said. “I know it’s a shock to him and it’s a shock to me, too.”

NFA junior guard Heavenly Rayford played last season for Kingston after coming up through the NFA system. She transferred back to NFA just prior to this season. Desiderio said he was aware that there might be bad blood between the players because of Rayford’s history, but that did not appear to be an escalating factor in the fight that caused the game to stop.

“I’m not sure if they’re not at home now on Facebook and Twitter,” Desiderio said. “I don’t know if this media revolution is so great. They might be fanning the flames right now. I don’t know.”

“This was about adults behaving like children and setting a horrific example,” Garner said. “It’s poor role modeling that you consistently see all over. It ends up being the parents and the adults who want to be part of the game. They can’t just sit there and watch.”

According to Desiderio, the Kingston players were verbally aggressive early in the game. By the fourth quarter, the big deficit may have combined with the verbal back-and-fourth and frustrations bubbled over.

NFA junior guard Heavenly Rayford (right) during a recent practice at the school. (Michelle Haskell photo/Times Herald-Record).

“Kingston came in with a game plan of getting in our heads,” Desiderio said. “They succeeded in that, but we also played a pretty awful basketball game. We were awful. They completely took us out of the game and got in our heads.”

Kingston is set to host NFA on Tues., Feb. 7 at 7:00 p.m.

Last season, there was a similar incident between the Kingston and NFA boys’ basketball teams. In a game played at Kingston’s Kate Walton Field House on Jan. 11, 2011, the game was stopped with 14.2 seconds remaining after a hard foul led to an altercation between players and fans from both sides streamed onto the court.

Desiderio said that bleachers on both sides of the gym were pulled out for Wednesday’s game to accommodate the large number of fans. Typically, only half the available seating is used for girls games.

“I tell them every time I go down there for games, I feel like they run the show very well,” Garner said. “Actually, I enjoy going down there. This is about adults behaving poorly is what this is about. And a player making a mistake.”

In less than one month, the teams will meet again. So far, there have not been any decisions made on security for that game, but playing in front of parents only or an empty gym may be an option.

“I spoke to their coach (Steve Garner) after the game,” Desiderio said. “If we need to play in an empty gym the next time, that’s what we have to do.”

“It might be like Fort Knox,” Garner said. “There might not be any fans there. We’ll just have to play. You have to remember that fan is short for fanatic and that’s what we saw tonight.”

For updates throughout the season, follow me on Twitter: (@THR_Montgomery).

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