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Supervisor responds to complaint about 'out of control' referee at HMS game

A middle school basketball referee's behavior after a hotly contested girls game last week resulted in a fan's complaint and a response by the referee's supervisor.

The behavior in question came after Waynesville Middle School's girls defeated Hendersonville Middle School 39-30 in a second-round playoff game on Wednesday. A fan at the game complained in an email to state high school athletics officials about the referee, who he said "was completely out of control" when a student approached him after the game.

""The teams, coaches and fans conducted themselves very well," said the email from C.P. Massey. "However one referee stepped out of line and made three flagrant ethics violations. After the girls game he was approached by a young man who asked if he needed water. The referee screamed at the young man, 'You touched me! Get out of the gym right now!' The young man stepped back with his hands up and repeated, 'Sir would you like some water?' The referee then spoke to the uniformed Waynesville police officer, 'He touched me! Get him out!'"

HMS principal Luke Manuel said the young man who approached the game official is a Hendersonville High School student who volunteers at the middle school games and helps with scorekeeping and the scoreboard and in the concession stand.

"The officials were leaving the court and he came over and tapped the official and then says, 'Would you like some water?'" Manuel said. The official may have thought the tap was from an angry hometown fan after a heated game. "I think the official turned around and thought somebody was trying to maybe harm him," Manuel said. Manuel said he did not see the incident but spoke to the game official about it. He told the official the HHS student would not have done anything confrontational. No one escorted the student out and he was not asked to leave the game, Manuel said.

Massey perceived the episode as more serious.

"This referee was completely out of control," he said. "He needs to be immediately reprimanded and reminded that, 'I will shape my character and conduct so as to be a worthy example to the boys and girls who play under my jurisdiction." Massey cited several examples from an ethics manual officials are supposed to adhere to and demanded that the referee be punished.

"He needs to be immediately reprimanded and the young man involved deserves nothing less than a face to face apology," he said.

Responding to Massey's complaint, Rick Smart, the supervisor of middle school referees in the area, said he had acted immediately to look into the situation.

"On Jan 26, I received your email at 11:52 p.m. in reference to the verbal assault allegations," Smart wrote to Massey. (Emails were shared with other athletics officials and the press. "After reading your email I contacted the administration at Henderson Middle School at approximately 2:44pm on January 26th and had a detailed conversation with Mr. Manuel. At 3:28pm on January 26th I contacted the official who was involved in this incident. From the time I received your email and the time I contacted the official was less than 4 hours. Administrative action was taken at the time of my conversation with the official which Mr Manuel and I both feel is more than adequate. ... My position as the supervisor of the middle school officials is to always up hold the officials code of ethics as demonstrated in the NCHSAA Handbook. Rest assured this matter has been addressed."

Manuel said he assumed Smart had followed through.

"As far as i know it has been," he said. "I know he said he was going to take care of it. I trust that he addressed it and it's going to be taken care of."

Efforts to get a further explanation from Smart and Massey were unsuccessful.