Jenny Harnish/The Register-Herald

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice talks to the Greenbrier East girls basketball team during Tuesday’s game against Woodrow Wilson at Greenbrier East High School on Tuesday. The game was suspended in the fourth quarter after an incident involving Woodrow Wilson assistant coach Gene Nabors and a fan. Later, Justice called Woodrow “a bunch of thugs.”

fairlea — What has been one of the best rivalries in the area took an ugly turn Tuesday night.

During a timeout with Greenbrier East leading Woodrow Wilson minutes into the fourth quarter, Woodrow assistant coach Gene Nabors and a fan got into a scuffle behind the Woodrow bench, escalating an already physical and chippy game.

The incident led to Woodrow head coach Brian Nabors taking his team off the court. After a lengthy delay, the game was suspended.

Greenbrier East head coach and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice campaigned for the game to be called a forfeit.

After the game he didn’t mince words when asked to assess the situation.

“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.”

The word “thug” is regarded as a derogatory racial term. Woodrow Wilson High School is one of the more racially diverse schools in the state, and the two girls coaches at Woodrow are black men.

Justice, in a telephone interview with The Register-Herald, said there was nothing racial in his use of the term “thugs.”

“That wouldn’t never even enter my mind,” Justice said. “I teach my kids the right stuff.

“Listen, my team wasn’t even involved in any of this,” Justice said. “My team was at the other end of the court when all of this was going on. They were the ones doing all of this stuff.”

Greenbrier East was leading 56-50 with 5:45 left in the fourth quarter when the game was called.

“We elected to suspend the game for safety reasons,” referee John Mills said.

As most games between the rivals have been in the past, this installation was physical from the get-go, with two Woodrow players collecting two fouls in the first quarter.

An incident between Woodrow Wilson’s Jamara Walton and Greenbrier East’s Haley McClure in which Walton was elbowed in the face and then confronted McClure led the officiating crew to pull Brian Nabors and Justice to the scorer’s table to warn them the behavior would not be tolerated.

When the game resumed, East took a 25-20 lead into the intermission before Woodrow trimmed the deficit to a point at the end of the third.

After McClure converted a three-point play to put the Lady Spartans up six, Brian Nabors called a timeout, which is when the assistant coach and fan got into it.

Brian Nabors elected not to comment on the situation.

“We only came here to play basketball,” Brian Nabors said.

The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission expects to review the situation Wednesday, with a decision on how to handle the situation coming soon after.

When asked about the future of the contest and future matchups between the two programs — with the two teams likely to meet in the Class AAA Region 3, Section 2 championship — Justice continued to comment on the behavior of the Flying Eagles.

“It’s ridiculous,”Justice said. “It’s ridiculous that high school kids and high school coaches — my God, even the coach was in a fight,” Justice said. “The coach was in the fight. I mean, are you kidding me? What’s he supposed to be doing other than setting an example for the kids, ya know? I mean, you saw how they behaved over at Woodrow. You see how they behaved here. I mean Jiminy Christmas, we don’t do that stuff.”

Email: tjackson@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @TjackRH

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