At the ongoing South-South Zonal Elimination in Asaba, violence broke out in the basketball game between Team Delta and Rivers and play discontinued by the game officials for security reasons on Thursday.
The South-South Zonal Elimination which started on Tuesday is for team events: Basketball, Abula, Para-soccer, Hockey, Volleyball and Handball.
A spectator who spoke to ACLSports.com on the condition of anonymity explained the incident that happened on Thursday morning.
“It was a tough game for the two sides considering both had won their first two games. I think Team Rivers underrated Team Delta and they had to do a chasing game because they were down by 4 points with 1:40 left on the clock, ” he began.
“They later rallied to tie the game 31-31 and took it to overtime. But before the end of 4th quarter, one of the Delta players Benedict Onovughakpo who was fouled and was awarded two free throws, fell on the floor. His body language showed he didn’t want to take the free throws himself. The referee didn’t like it and saw that he was acting up and insisted he took them, but he refused. The Team Delta medical team came on the court, checked him and declared he was unfit to continue the game. Another player later shot the free throw.”
Onovughakpo who played in Rivers Hoopers Basketball Club in the 2016 season has a low free throw conversion rate. Little wonder he wanted somebody else to step up to the line. According to the rules of the game, if a player is injured upon being fouled and cannot shoot free throws, another player is designated to shoot in place of the injured player who doesn’t return to the game.
“Play continued in over time and somehow, Benedict found his way back to the bench, took a sub and entered the game and even made a basket before the referees noticed his face. The referees had no choice but to give him a technical foul and it was at that point the drama started. An official from Delta got to the centre of the court with a chair and sat down declaring that the game won’t continue expressing his anger on why their player was given a technical foul. This happened after Rivers had converted their free throws as a result of the technical foul.”
Contrary to early reports that the two referees were beaten, our anonymous speaker said just one was attacked.
“The referees were threatened, just one was hit and both referees had no choice than to stop the game for fear of their lives while the Team Rivers camera men covering the event were attacked with injuries inflicted on their head. Though their cameras were not damaged. The team doctor who was covering the event with his phone was also attacked but I later saw that the team dragged him close to their bench for safety,”he said
Play was halted about 1 minute remaining on the clock tied at 36-36 in overtime and Referees were escorted out of the venue by concerned individuals as there were no security men to keep the situation under control.
Team Rivers female basketball team had earlier qualified to represent South-South at the 2018 National Sports Festival from December 6-16 in Abuja.
A decision is yet to be taken on the men’s event as a result of the violence with both teams scheduled to play their last game on Thursday evening.