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FIGHT ENDS GAME AT N.C. A&T; SEVEN INJURED

FIGHT ENDS GAME AT N.C. A&T; SEVEN INJURED

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A 15-minute brawl involving fans and players prematurely ended the N.C. A&T State University basketball game against N.C. Central University Thursday night in Greensboro and sent seven people to the hospital.

The seven were at Moses Cone Memorial Hospital's emergency room shortly before midnight being treated for minor injuries, mostly cuts and bruises.Among the injured were two city police officers, one campus police officer and four students, said Candy Colglazier, a nursing consultant at Cone Hospital.

Cassundra Morrison, a sophomore from Elkin and a member of the A&T pep band, was listed in stable condition. She had been removed from the Corbett Center basketball court on a stretcher after apparently being trampled during a skirmish.

The Greensboro officers were injured on campus in bottle-throwing incidents. Officer B.P. Rogan suffered glass cuts, and Officer J.M. Rahenkamp was hit in the head with a bottle or rock. Both were treated at the hospital and released.

The brawl occured about 8:40 p.m. before a packed audience in the 7,500-seat sports complex. With 8:04 minutes left in the second half, Central forward Derrick Leak was fouled by A&T center Jimmy Humphries under the Aggies' basket.

Taped replays showed Leak shove Humphries, and the situation quickly escalated into a fight. Players and fans from both sides immediately joined. At the height of the fracas, about 200 fans were on the court.

Security police, many of whom were in the far reaches of the gymnasium breaking up a fight that had broken out between two fans about two minutes earlier, arrived on the floor a minute or two after the first blows were landed between Leak and Humphries.

Coaches from both teams worked to restrain their players. Several chairs from the Central bench were removed and used as weapons, both by A&T fans and Central players.

A&T Athletic Director Orby Moss pleaded with the spectators on the public address system to remain in their seats. But several other fights, apparently involving fans from the two schools, continued in the stands.

The fighting continued, and Moss soon suspended the game with A&T leading 39-38.

``It was very, very scary,' said A&T coach Don Corbett. ``We could have had a full-scale riot in there. I truly didn't see what happened. I saw a push.

``My first notion when it first started to develop into something was to keep everybody on the bench,' Corbett said. ``I thought Central was going to do the same thing, keep everybody on their bench. As it turned out, we got into a melee because people left the bench, and the crowd (left the stands). If it had just been between the two teams, the officials probably could have handled it. It was a frightening situation.'

N.C. Central sports information director Wallace Dooley said: ``Even people from the A&T pep band were fighting. They were hitting people with their instruments. There was general rioting throughout the gymnasium between Central fans and A&T fans.'

Efforts to reach A&T Chancellor Edward B. Fort were unsuccessful.

After the game was suspended, many students emptied from the gym to Mitchell Drive, which runs from Benbow Road to Laurel Street.

They were joined by students from dormitories who had heard about the commotion.

Once people easily identified as Central fans left the campus, the crowd gathered outside dorms about 100 yards from Laurel Street. About 10 p.m., the crowd numbered 300 to 400.

Near the gym, at Benbow and Mitchell, about a dozen Greensboro police officers in riot gear gathered but remained on the fringe of the crowd.

Shattered glass from bottles littered Mitchell Drive.

Students hung out dorm windows shouting at the crowd below.

The crowd of students then directed their attention to members of the press.

Students said they feared the press would distort anything that happened on campus because blacks are involved.

``The minute anything goes on at a predominantly black university, you are here,' said one senior female student. ``Where were you on Monday when we had all of the celebrations for Martin Luther King? Where were you then? Go over to (University of North Carolina at Greensboro). They have problems over there, too.'

About 10:30 p.m., the crowd, which had been losing momentum and members, began a steady dispersal. By 11 p.m., most students were back in their dormitories, including some at Haley Hall who disrupted live news broadcasts.

Many A&T students dropped by a dance at the Depot in downtown Greensboro Thursday night after the game. The fight didn't carry over to the dance; no incidents were reported.

``I know what happened tonight was not good,' said A&T junior George Chunn, 22, who was at the dance. ``But don't degrade my university.'

Corbett said the two schools have enjoyed a strong rivalry, but the competition has always been friendly. Since play began in 1930, A&T holds a 66-55 series lead.

``We always play tough with Central but never anything like this,' Corbett said. ``I don't think it will help it (the future of the rivalry). (Central coach) Mike (Bernard) and I both agree we need to play, but we can't afford to risk a situation like this unless we have an awful lot more control mechanism.'

Neither team reported injuries. A&T went into the game with a 2-9 record. Central, which won the NCAA Division II championship last year, is 11-2.

``It's a hotly contested game between two rivals, and it's a shame that the game couldn't be decided tonight by the players,' Bernard said. ``It's a shame their fans didn't get the opportunity to see the whole ball game.'

Moss said he planned to review the game film before taking action.

``I want to look at the game film to see who ran onto the floor from each bench because there's a rule about that,' he said. ``People are not supposed to leave their bench.

``It's hard to control something sporadic like that. My first recollection was somebody left Central's bench without a uniform on. I saw the guy leave (Central's) bench and then everybody else got involved.'

Moss added: ``The officials have got to control the players. The coaches got to control the players. The players got to control themselves. Because that's what started the bigger mess.'

Staff writers Hayes Clement, Libby Lewis and Bernie Woodall contributed to this story.

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