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9 punished after women's hoops brawl

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NORFOLK, Va. (AP)

Nine players were suspended Thursday by the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference following a Feb. 14 fight between the women's basketball teams of Maryland-Eastern Shore and Bethune-Cookman.

The suspensions came after an internal investigation that included a review of the game's video footage, statements from the game's officials and a neutral observer.

''We have made a thorough review of the altercation and have concluded that nine of the student-athletes involved in the incident were in violation of conference and NCAA rules,'' said MEAC Commissioner Dennis Thomas.

The conference is working with both institutions to reschedule the game.

Five players from UMES and three from Bethune-Cookman were suspended from their team's next regular-season game. One inactive Bethune-Cookman player will serve a two-game penalty upon her return.

Bethune-Cookman also imposed additional sanctions on the program, which include suspension of all team members for one conference game. That means Bethune-Cookman will forfeit its game at Hampton University this Saturday.

''Actions like these come at a cost,'' athletic director Lynn W. Thompson said. ''In this instance the high price of forfeiture of a game and the loss of an opportunity to compete will send a strong message that the privilege of being a Division I student-athlete at Bethune-Cookman University comes with the responsibility of sportsmanship, integrity and fair play at all times.''

UMES athletic director Keith Davidson said two players will receive an extra game suspension from the university.

''We apologize for our part in this incident,'' UMES coach Fred Batchelor said. ''We take responsibility for our actions and accept the conference's ruling.''

Each player will miss the next game, at Coppin State this Saturday. The two other players will also miss the Morgan State contest on Monday.

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