Player facing criminal charge in ‘vicious attack’ on referee during basketball game in Cohasset

COHASSET, Mass. — A visiting high school player is facing a criminal charge after police say he punched a referee during a high school basketball game in Cohasset on Wednesday night.

The 16-year-old player from Excel High School in South Boston, whose name has not been made public, will be called to appear in Quincy Juvenile Court on a charge of assault and battery for a show cause hearing at a later date, Cohasset Police Chief William Quigley said.

Well-known photographer, Dan Leahy, witnessed the whole thing. He said the student allegedly “sucker punched” the referee in the face.

“Out of my peripheral I see a South Boston player coming over to the baseline, I assumed to take the ball out. In fact, he launched at an official and gave him a full nelson right to the side of the head. Which brought the ref down and he kept exercising a physical attack on this poor ref who was bent over and couldn’t defend himself,” said Leahy.

Cohasset was called for traveling and the player in question may have thought it was another foul on him.

“There’s so much anger built in to assault an authoritative figure in that manner. And it was vicious, not like he went up and bumped him or anything like that. He went at him with a full fist, it’s a shame,” Leahy added.

Cohasset police officers responded to the gym at 6:45 p.m. for the incident and the game was ended immediately. No Cohasset players were involved in the alleged assault.

“Cohasset Public Schools does not condone violence of any type, and we advocate for good sportsmanship during all games and contests,” Superintendent Patrick Sullivan said in a statement to the community.

The head of Excel High School, Jerleen John, confirmed the student in question could face disciplinary action in accordance with the Boston Public Schools code of conduct.

“Excel Boys Basketball Team member engaged in a physical altercation with a referee during a game against Cohasset,” John said in a statement. “School staff responded immediately, along with Cohasset police, to provide assistance and de-escalate the situation. The involved student could face disciplinary action.”

John noted that additional disciplinary action from law enforcement is possible.

“It’s a terrible example of sports gone bad, they were losing 32-8 at the time, Boston was sure frustration no way to justify his action,” stated Leahy

Boston 25 News reached out to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association for comment and has not heard back.

Cohasset Police Chief William Quigley said the incident remains under investigation.

The President of the Massachusetts State Basketball Officials Association (MSBOA) says they are angry and frustrated about this incident, but not shocked.

In a statement the MSBOA said, “The shortage of officials, both in our state and nationwide, has been well documented. And while there may be a myriad of reasons for the crisis, the abhorrent treatment of officials by fans, coaches and players is at the top of the list. And while the majority of stakeholders in high school sports do not fall into that category, the sad reality is that incidents like this continue to occur. We call on the local authorities, Boston Public Schools and the MIAA to take swift action that includes appropriate punishment for anyone sharing in the responsibility for this dangerous attack. It is not up to us to determine what those sanctions look like, but we are positive that they must be commensurate with the sheer and unprovoked violence of the act...Unfortunately, the displeasure and outright anger directed at officials has risen to a completely unacceptable level, which can result in an attack like the one in Cohasset. That is wrong and must be addressed.”

An investigation remains ongoing.

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