BBL officials are set to launch an investigation after a brawl that marred the end of Friday’s clash between Durham Wildcats and Cheshire Phoenix at Newton Aycliffe.

It centred on a punch thrown by Nix centre Paul Sturgess at Panos Mayindombe amid an on-court melee with seconds remaining – forcing officials to eject the pair plus Wildcats duo Fran Urli and Joel Madourie – with some reports suggesting other Durham players may have been given post-game disqualifying fouls.

Sturgess, who scored four points in Cheshire’s 99-76 victory, took to social media to offer a swift mea culpa for his actions, claiming it was sparked by taunts from the home supporters.

“I would like to apologise to the whole Durham organisation for what happened,” the former Harlem Globetrotter said. “Emotions boiled over and I retaliated when confronted by the whole team. Mostly, I apologise to the fans for how I acted. This isn’t how I normally act and was a heat of the moment when goaded by certain fans. I am ashamed of my gestures because I know young kids were watching, and for that I can only apologise.”

Durham also issued a statement condemning the incident which is likely to see a number of players hit with suspensions, a blow for two teams with little depth.

“As a family orientated club and a representative of the British Basketball League we would like to apologise to all spectators and officials who witnessed the incident at Newton Aycliffe Leisure Centre,” it read.

“Both the Durham Wildcats and the Cheshire Phoenix deliver significant community programmes designed to engage young people within the sport as participants, volunteers and spectators. The incident that took place on Friday February 27th is in direct conflict with this principle. Over the past four years the Durham Wildcats have enjoyed a positive working relationship with Cheshire Basketball Club and both clubs are committed to ensuring that this strong working relationship remains intact.

“Both clubs will work alongside BBL officials to ensure appropriate disciplinary action is taken.”

Elsewhere, Newcastle Eagles all but booked their spot in next month’s BBL Trophy final at the Emirates Arena by routing Plymouth Raiders 126-79 in the first leg of their semi-final.

Media reports in Devon had claimed Raiders coach Jay Marriott would be sacked – and replaced by a player-coach – if his side lost the tie although the plan was denied by club owner Bob Widdicombe in an address to the squad.

Meanwhile Manchester Giants have re-signed Rob Marsden in the only significant move on BBL deadline day after the forward was released by French side Cognac.

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