The boys' basketball programs at East Tennessee high schools Brainerd and Austin-East have been trying to repair their images and get their 2018-19 postseason privileges restored in the aftermath of an all-out brawl that caused the stoppage of a game between the longtime rivals last season.
A fourth and final installment of the joint reclamation project took place Saturday.
Brainerd coach Levar Brown and Austin-East coach Marcus Stanton, along with the Chattanooga Elite Basketball organization, hosted a sportsmanship clinic at Brainerd High. Brown said it was attended by 117 elementary and middle school students.
In addition, prompted by the recent death of Tyner athlete Javon Craddock, a CPR and AED clinic was held on site for adults. Brown said 22 coaches and six others received certifications.
"I think we got what we wanted," Brown said. "We were very pleased with the turnout. We were very pleased with the community support."
The Roadrunners and Panthers both were ranked in the top five in the Associated Press state poll when they played Jan. 27 at Brainerd. Officials put an end to the game with 2:20 to go in the second quarter, when a confrontation between opposing players took place in front of the A-E bench and led to a fight on the court involving fans coming down from the stands.
The TSSAA reviewed video evidence of the altercation and ultimately placed both programs on restrictive probation, which included a $3,500 fine for each school and postseason bans for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. The state organization relayed to both programs that their postseasons for the upcoming school year possibly could be restored if they convince board members later this summer that they've met requirements from a sportsmanship educational standpoint.
"Everything we've tried to do is to help educate our communities so we can move on from that day and hopefully grow from it," said Brown, who was videoing portions of Saturday's event for evidence. "We want to show (the board members) that we didn't just come together to play basketball. We came together to educate."
Saturday's clinic featured talks from former Brainerd players Kentrell Evans, Dajuonta Ross, Demba Sow and Keyshun Bradley, all of whom currently play or coach at the college level. The event closed with a motivational speech from Logan Taylor, a local youth mentor and founder of Y.B. Normal.
Brown said two smaller-scale clinics were held locally earlier in the year. Austin-East, which is in Knoxville, hosted one in mid-May that had former University of Tennessee and NBA basketball player Steve Hamer as a speaker, along with some other former UT athletes.
Stanton said community service work at The Love Kitchen, Inc., a social services organization in Knoxville, is among things in which students at his school have gotten involved since the brawl. Stanton said that as odd as it may seem, several students are eager to go back.
"Neither program is glad about what happened," he said. "There's still the stress of having our future uncertain. But especially feeding the homeless people is a blessing that's come out of this. Our kids were laughing and talking with people they've never met before. You could see the love. There's no payment for that."
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