CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Two fans were escorted out of the gym Wednesday afternoon at the Nike Tournament of Champions after one of the men confronted a rival coach and pushed him in the chest.
The incident became the talk of the tournament and overshadowed the play on the court.
Things started to overheat in the third quarter of the John Anderson Invitational Division matchup between Long Beach Poly (Calif.) and Villa Maria (Erie, Pa.). Villa Maria senior Zhane Brooks put the brakes on while running up the court, and Poly senior Destiny King collided with her, sending both crashing to the floor while going after a pass. In a game that was physical in the first half and with fans and coaches already chippy, the collision sent emotions even higher.
Then with 2:03 remaining in the third quarter and Poly leading 38-33, Villa Maria junior Karlee McBride got tangled up with Poly sophomore Kamara Smith and was whistled for an intentional foul. According to Villa Maria head coach Doug Chuzie, a few of the Poly fans were screaming at McBride about the foul, and the coach took offense.
"Yes there was a verbal altercation between myself and a group of [Poly] fans," Chuzie said late Wednesday evening. "However, that altercation was because I was protecting one of my players from their continual verbal abuse and aggressive taunting."
"He never should have gone at it with a fan," Poly head coach Carl Buggs said. "People ask me all the time if I hear things being said from the crowd. I tell them no because I have a game to coach and players to protect. I'm intense during a game, but you can't let those things get to you."
Chuzie said he was getting an explanation from the officials on the foul when two men ran onto the court, one of whom grabbed Chuzie in his chest area and forced him backward. A Poly assistant separated Chuzie and the fan, and Buggs prevented the second fan from getting further involved. Security then escorted the two men out of the building.
The game resumed and Poly won 68-45.
"It was an unfortunate situation that overshadowed a good high school basketball game," Chuzie said. "The one individual does not represent [Poly]. Coach Buggs is a wonderful person and he truly runs a first-class program. [Poly] is an excellent team and I wish them well and am sure they will have a very successful year."
Glenn Nelson and Keil Moore contributed to this report.
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Chris Hansen is the national director of prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. He is a member of the McDonald's All-American team selection committee. Hansen can be reached at email@example.com.