A referee was allegedly punched in the face by a player at a high school boys basketball night Wednesday night in Cohasset, Massachusetts, ending the game and launching an investigation into the incident, according to police.
The 17-year-old player from Excel High School in Boston is facing charges after the incident at a game at Cohasset High School. Police were called there at around 6:45 p.m. Wednesday for a report of an assault.
"I watched the guy physically bash this poor unsuspecting official right in the head," said Dan Leahy, a Cohasset Public Schools photographer who was at the game. "This particular player kept punching him and kneeing him."
Police in Cohasset said they were seeking simple assault and battery charges against the teen in Quincy Juvenile Court.
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"He just wouldn't stop," said Leahy. "He kept going after the ref."
The game was canceled following the ordeal, and the gym was cleared out. The referee didn't need medical attention.
There was no further altercation, police added, saying that no players from Cohasset were involved.
"I thought I'd seen it all," said Leahy. "I've never seen a player act out like this."
Leahy said the incident happened toward the end of the first half, when Cohasset had a big lead.
The student had been called for a foul a few minutes before the incident.
“There is no place for violence of any kind in a school and we are thankful that the victim in this incident was not seriously injured,” Cohasset Police Chief William Quigley wrote in the news release. “We have identified the student-athlete allegedly involved in this incident and the matter remains under investigation.”
Boston Public Schools released a statement regarding the situation Thursday morning.
"Boston Public Schools is committed to fostering a safe and welcoming environment off and on school grounds and does not condone violence of any kind," a spokesperson for the district wrote. "As a standard, members of BPS Athletics strive to be respectful of other teams, demonstrate good sportsmanship, and show respect to the communities we visit, players, rules, and officials."
In a letter to the school community, Head of Excel High School Jerleen John wrote that the "involved student could face disciplinary action in accordance with the BPS Code of Conduct."
Superintendent of Cohasset Public Schools Dr. Patrick Sullivan sent a message to his school community about the situation as well.
"Cohasset Public Schools does not condone violence of any type, and we advocate for good sportsmanship during all games and contests," Dr. Sullivan wrote. "Cohasset Public Schools will continue to cooperate with Cohasset Police, as they investigate this unfortunate incident."
Dave Engelson, president of the Massachusetts State Basketball Board, called for change in a statement, saying members "are angered, frustrated and saddened – but, unfortunately, not shocked."
"The shortage of officials, both in our state and nationwide, has been well documented. And while there may be a myriad of reasons for the crisis, the abhorrent treatment of officials by fans, coaches and players is at the top of the list," Engelson said. "And while the majority of stakeholders in high school sports do not fall into that category, the sad reality is that incidents like this continue to occur."
He pushed for Boston Public Schools and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association "to take swift action that includes appropriate punishment for anyone sharing in the responsibility for this dangerous attack."