HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- A fight at a Holyoke High School basketball game Thursday night is raising tensions.
The Holyoke J.V. boys team was facing off against Springfield’s Central High School when a fight broke out.
We’re told by witnesses this fight broke out towards the end of the J.V. game in the third quarter.
However, once people started rushing from the stands, the rest of the game was canceled, and so was the varsity game between the two schools scheduled for later in the night.
Last night’s J.V. basketball game between Holyoke High and Springfield Central evolved into a different kind of face-off.
Witnesses at the game said these exclusive videos show a brawl breaking out at the end of the third quarter after a foul was called.
With spectators rushing in to join the commotion, Holyoke school officials cancelled the J.V. game, as well as the varsity game that was set to take place afterward.
Holyoke High School Executive Principal Dr. Stephen Mahoney said in a letter to families and staff, in part: "...the behavior of those student-athletes involved in the on-court altercation, and of the fans and families who violated our expectations for sportsmanship and respect, was incredibly discouraging..."
"It’s kind of deep-rooted. It’s like a history, I guess. Coaches, they tell us things," said Holyoke High graduate Brendon Castro.
Castro told Western Mass News that the rivalry between the schools teams goes beyond the players.
"It’s definitely the community, I don’t know. It’s kind of weird they get really involved with the kids," Castro added.
A witness who was at the game agreed that fans were participating in the unsportsmanlike behavior too.
"It was the fans and the families. It was the people in the stands who totally drove this whole melee," said that witnesses, who did not want to be identified, who added, "They need to restrict access to the floor. Before for the refs could even get to these two kids, this deluge of people came out of the stands and, you know, attacked the kids."
Mahoney added that they plan to reevaluate fan seating at upcoming games. He said they also plan to use video to identify fans who participated in the brawl and possibly ban them from future matchups.
They did not say whether or not they plan to cancel future games, but those who witnessed the fight said something needs to change to keep high school sports games from turning into crime scenes.
We also reached out to Springfield Public Schools for comment. We have not yet heard back.
The full text letter from Mahoney appears below:
"Dear students, families, and friends,
Last night we were forced to cancel the varsity boys basketball game against Central High School because of an on-court fight between players during the junior varsity game that ultimately involved spectators. As a result of the quick actions of school staff, coaches and the Holyoke Police Department, the incident was ended with no serious injury. Nonetheless, the behavior of those student-athletes involved in the on-court altercation, and of the fans and families who violated our expectations for sportsmanship and respect, was incredibly discouraging for both schools and both communities. Because our commitment to safety is more important than anything else, we made the decision to cancel the varsity game, a clear and undeserved disappointment for the players and coaches who have worked hard to be their best and to represent our school with class, dignity, and honor.
In response to this incident, we are taking a series of follow-up steps.
- Event management and logistics will be reviewed and revised, especially, but not exclusively, fan seating.
- Those individuals identified in the video as participating in the incident will lose the privilege of attending future HHS events, be they current students, recent graduates, or family members.
- HHS students identified as violating school rules regarding fighting and/or disruptive behavior will face consequences per our student handbook.
Last night’s events were not a reflection of our values as a school community. It is our mission to build self-confidence, self-esteem, pride, and respect for self and others through participation in an athletics community that celebrates each student as an individual.
We expect our students and our families to commit to promoting sportsmanship, hard work, fair play, fun, the development of team concepts, winning as well as losing with dignity, and other valuable lifelong lessons.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions or concerns.
Dr. Stephen Mahoney"