HOUSTON — For the past two months, Southern and Texas Southern have been battling for the Southwestern Athletic Conference women’s basketball title.
On Saturday at HP&E Arena, the teams came to blows.
An ugly brawl beneath Southern’s basket involving players, cheerleaders and fans yielded multiple punches thrown and security storming the field.
The officials ruled a double-forfeit, but since Southern was winning 51-49 at the time, the Jaguars were awarded the victory and a share of the SWAC championship. Southern will open the SWAC tournament against Grambling at noon Wednesday in Houston.
“I’ve been involved with basketball for 30-plus years, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Southern coach Sandy Pugh said. “It’s an embarrassment.”
It all started when TSU’s Miracle Davis took a charge beneath the TSU basket.
“I just saw two kids standing up looking at each other and someone else push and yell,” Pugh said. “My first reaction is to tell everyone to stay on the bench. But I look up and TSU has two kids running in.
“One of their kids throws the first punch, and one of our kids was on the ground and someone was just pounding her. Next thing I know, it was a melee.”
TSU’s Alexus Johnson and Diamonisha Sophus threw punches, and security had to hold Johnson back minutes later from storming into the Southern locker room.
“It was very undisciplined by both teams and fans on the sideline,” TSU coach Johnetta Hayes-Perry said. “I thought after the charge both players were trying to get up, but another player pushed them and that is all I could see.”
Southern Athletic Director William Broussard was in the arena and saw the brawl from his seat.
“I saw our coaches on the bench try to form a human chain to hold our players back, but when you see so much going on and there was a perception that other individuals were rushing the court, then everyone got involved,” he said. “It’s an ugly, unfortunate situation, especially considering it was shaping up to be a great finish.”
Saturday night was not the first benches-clearing incident Southern has been involved in this season. Southern and Alabama A&M had a scuffle at Southern on Feb. 21.
SU’s Briana Green and Alabama A&M’s Alganese Gatson dived to the floor competing for a loose ball and had to be separated as they went after one another as they got up. Jadea Brundidge, Shaquandria Litmon and Keonia Parrish rushed to the scene from the Southern bench, which is an automatic ejection. No one was suspended because no punches were thrown.
That may not be the case this time.
“They will get film over to the conference office and get word from the officials,” Broussard said. “That will all be pending until they review the film.”
As for the game, Cortnei Purnell led Southern (18-10, 16-2) with 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting, while Kendra Coleman added 13 and Jasmine Jefferson 11.
Texas Southern (19-10, 16-2) was led by Johnson’s 14 points.
Southern led by as many as 14 in the first half, but Texas Southern came storming back to tie the game at 49.
Purnell’s jumper gave Southern a 51-49 lead just seconds before the brawl.
Earlier in the game, there were two flagrant fouls called on two separate incidents on TSU’s Johnson and SU’s Yasmine Nelson.
Southern players were escorted out the back door by security and were not available for comment.
“It was a very intense game in terms of stakes, but that’s not who we are,” Pugh said. “We compete hard. We battle hard. I’m disappointed in my kids that they would allow themselves to take part in something like this.”
The teams could meet again next week in the conference title game at Houston’s Toyota Center.
“I’m not sure where this is going to go from here,” Pugh said. “I’m a basketball coach. I’m not the wrestling coach. I’m not the boxing coach. I’m not the physiologist.
“I’m just so incredibly embarrassed and disappointing. This is a stain on women’s basketball. I want to apologize to the Southern Jaguar nation because that is not who we are.”