calls for apology

Gene Nabors, asst. Woodrow Wilson girls basketball coach, left, watches Woodrow’s athletic director, J.T. Payne, holds back Steven Damon, parent of Greenbrier East player, during the fouth quater of Thursday night game at Greenbrier East High High School.Submitted photo by, Heather Belcher

As far as games go, the Greenbrier East and Woodrow Wilson girls matchups are arguably the most physical. 

Emotions are typically high.

When the two teams met in January at Woodrow, an incident in the first half between players from each team resulted in the officials momentarily stopping play to address the situation. 

In the second half, Woodrow guard Cloey Frantz was called for a technical foul after she fell, got up and charged at East’s Emma Dotson before being restrained. Video surfaced later that evening showing that Dotson appeared to hip check Frantz before sticking her leg out in front to trip her.

Frantz, who missed most of her freshman season with a major knee injury, was enraged.

Fast forward to Tuesday and an altercation between Woodrow’s Jamara Walton and Greenbrier East’s Haley McClure foreshadowed what was to come. With both players fighting for the ball, McClure, in what appeared void of malicious intent, elbowed Walton in the face. Walton, after momentarily walking away, turned around to confront McClure.

The officials, in an attempt to get a handle on the game, momentarily stopped play, bringing both Woodrow head coach Brian Nabors and Greenbrier East head coach Jim Justice to the scorer’s table to address the situation.

While it served as a warning, it also aded fuel to the fire.

Walton wandered over to the coaches’ huddle during the exchange, prompting Justice to tell her to go away twice. Nabors, admitting Walton shouldn’t have been there, addressed Justice head on, telling him not to talk to his player like that. 

The game resumed, with the contest unfolding the way it was expected. 

It was physical, but the players were on their best behavior.

The two teams traded the lead through the middle two quarters in a back and forth affair, with East squeezing ahead 56-50 with under six minutes left.

That’s when the game would be secondary to the events that followed.

With 5:45 left in the contest, a timeout was called and Woodrow assistant coach Gene Nabors, Brian’s younger brother, approached Woodrow administrators Rocky Powell (principal) and J.T. Payne (athletic director) to address the issue of a fan who had been antagonizing him. The fan was later identified as Steven Damon, a parent of a Greenbrier East player. It’s unclear what Nabors said to Damon, if anything, but photo evidence supports the fact Nabors did his best to diffuse the situation, as confirmed by a surveillance video obtained by the WVSSAC.

“We have reviewed the video during our investigation and it does indicate that Nabors approached his administration about the problem,” Bernie Dolan, Executive Director of the WVSSAC said Wednesday evening. “Our investigation is still ongoing, but we do expect to have a decision by Thursday.”

With the full video in hand, Dolan declined to discuss what happened next, but the next domino was Nabors falling back behind the bench after law enforcement got involved. A video of the event has since surfaced on social media, showing Nabors face down on the ground being put in handcuffs.

On Wednesday, The West Virginia State Police issued a statement on the matter.

“On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, the West Virginia State Police responded to an incident at Greenbrier East High School, which resulted in Mr. Eugene Nabors of Beckley, West Virginia, Being cited for obstructing an officer. This investigation is on-going.”

As Nabors was handcuffed, Woodrow Wilson assistant Kevin “Radar” Henry, decided to help move the team to another corner of the gym and just outside the door to avoid the scene of Nabors being detained. Justice applauded as Woodrow left the floor, but did a good job of making sure his players and staff stayed on their side of the gym and out of the altercation.

This was the next domino to fall as when the players returned and the officials, coaches and administration huddled to decide what to do, Justice campaigned for the game to be called a forfeit, repeatedly noting the Woodrow team had left the floor. After nearly 10 minutes of discussion, officials elected to suspend the game, notifying the WVSSAC.

When asked if there was a similar comparable incident in recent memory, Dolan cited the 2010 Class AAA football playoffs.

“We had an incident between South Charleston and Hurricane a few years back,” Dolan said. “It resulted in the championship game for Class AAA being pushed back a week.”

Near the end of South Charleston’s quarterfinal win against Hurricane, a fight broke out resulting in multiple suspensions for South Charleston. The players that were suspended played the following week in a win over Brooke, but a ruling disqualified the Black Eagles with Brooke being declared the winner.

After a 15 minute interruption in play at Tuesday night’s game, when the official ruling was given to The Register-Herald by the referees, Justice was approached and asked to assess the situation.

He referred to the Lady Flying Eagles as thugs, chiding the example set by the Gene Nabors.

“I hate to say it any other way, but honest to God’s truth is the same thing happened over at Woodrow two different times out of the Woodrow players,” Justice said. “They’re a bunch of thugs. The whole team left the bench, the coach is in a fight, they walked off the floor, they called the game.

“The game was over when they walked off the floor — it’s just as simple as that. They don’t know how to behave and at the end of the day, you got what you got.”

In the aftermath, Gene Nabors was back at practice Wednesday, sporting a sling on his left arm. Both Nabors brothers have been advised by an attorney to not talk about the incident while it is being investigated.

Brian Nabors did, however, express his eagerness to finish the game.

And understandably so. 

A win would likely lock the Flying Eagles into home court advantage throughout the sectionals.

“We want to continue it, even if it’s over there at their place,” Nabors said. “We just want to play and receive what we set out to accomplish, winning the game.”

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