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Tenn. Girls' Basketball Teams Punished for Allegedly Trying to Throw Game

Turns out "tanking" isn't a problem limited to just the National Basketball Association.

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association removed Riverdale High School and Smyrna High School from the state's high school girls' basketball postseason Monday for intentionally trying to lose a game this past weekend..

In letters sent to Riverdale principal Tom Nolan and Smyrna principal Rick Powell (via TNdigital), Bernard Childress, the association's executive director, said both teams "made a mockery" of their game on Saturday, "with both teams initially trying to lose in order to avoid going into the region seeded third."

"There was obvious slow-play, intentional turnovers, free throws being missed on purpose, intentional lane violations, five-second inbound and ten-second line violations," Childress wrote. "It was even reported that players were being instructed to shoot in their opponent's goal."

The head referee of the game told Childress that Riverdale began the game in a 2-3 zone defense—a departure from its typical man-to-man look—and that the Smyrna coach quickly responded by subbing out all of his starters. Both teams started the second half with their respective starters on their bench, according to the head referee, and things escalated to the point where a player was about to attempt a shot at the wrong basket.

"That is when I called both coaches together and told them we are not going to make a travesty or mockery of the game," the head referee said, per Childress' letter. "WE ARE NOT GOING TO START TRYING TO SHOOT AND SCORE FOR THE OTHER TEAM." 

The association placed both schools' girls' basketball programs on restrictive probation for the rest of the school year and probation for the 2015-16 school year, according to Tom Kreager of the Daily News Journal. Each school was also fined $1,500. If any other issues arise with either program during the probation period, the association will consider further punishment.

Powell, Smyrna's principal, told the paper he asked the association to allow their respective teams to continue playing, so long as they removed the teams' head coaches, but the association declined. On Wednesday, Rutherford County Director of Schools Don Odom announced that both head coaches, Smyrna's Shawn Middleton and Riverdale's Cory Barnett, would not be permitted to coach at their respective schools or any other schools within the district in 2015-16.

"Good athletic coaches possess skills that maximize the players' skills, strategize winning game plans, instill self-discipline, and impart the value of teamwork to reach a common goal," Odom said in a statement posted on the district's website. "Players also learn skills that build integrity and character, primarily by how their coach models before them. In these last two areas, we failed last Saturday evening."

The two teams were attempting to avoid a matchup with defending state and national champion Blackman High School in the regional semifinals, according to the paper. The two regional finalists would both advance to state sectionals, but the regional semifinals is be an elimination game.

WSMV-TV, Nashville's local NBC affiliate, posted footage of the debacle online:

WSMV Channel 4

Smyrna wound up winning the contest, 55-29, after going on a game-ending 25-4 run in the final four minutes after reinserting its starters.

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