STATELINE - The game was close and rough. Players from each team had been ejected from the recreational league playoff game at Kingsbury Middle School when another player fouled out .
That's when it got ugly.
With too few players to continue, Eddie Doughty's team was disqualified with less than 30 seconds left in the tied Feb. 28 game. Enraged, Doughty confronted referee James Koenig, pushing him and spitting in his face.
Koenig contacted the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, which issued a warrant for Doughty's arrest. Five days later, on March 3, the 25-year-old South Lake Tahoe man turned himself in to sheriff's deputies, becoming a symbol of the violence plaguing South Shore recreational basketball leagues.
"I hate to see something like this happen in any sport," said Traci Dill, recreation coordinator for the Douglas County Parks and Recreation Department.
"As soon as I did it, I was like 'you bozo,'" Doughty said. "It was a dumb decision on my part. I just lost my head."
Doughty said it does not excuse his actions but claimed that Koenig and other referees are antagonistic and consistently make poor calls.
"It went both ways," he said. "(Koenig) was in my face. He called me names."
"It is a rec league and it is supposed to be fun," said John Collins, a supervisor for the South Lake Tahoe Recreational Department. "I tell all my players each year that the officials do the best they can."
"We are human just like the basketball players," said Koenig. "If I make a mistake, I will stand up and say 'Let's fix this.'"
Collins blamed much of the problem on younger players, such as Doughty, who are increasingly more competitive and more physical.
"It used to be really friendly," said Robert Cosmi, who has played in recreational leagues in California and Nevada for several years. "Now, the next thing you know it has gotten totally out of hand."
In the last two years leagues in Douglas County and in South Lake Tahoe have adopted stricter rules regarding taunting and sportsmanship, but James "Cuz" Cullen said things have still gotten worse.
"It is just a few bad apples," Cullen said. "But it has been very sad seeing how serious these people get during games."
Doughty previously was suspended for a year from the South Lake Tahoe city league.
Cullen, who coaches children at Sierra House Elementary School, said the violence is nothing new - he saw a player punch a referee after a game 15 years ago - but that it is more pervasive now.
"It is time to stop this," Koenig agreed. "We have had fistfights and blood on the floor."
Koenig said the players should set an example "for the youth of our community, but that is not happening."
"This was an excessive display of emotion for a recreational league," said Douglas County sheriff's detective Rory Planeta.
Doughty has been charged with battery, and Planeta said the sheriff's department is taking this case seriously.
"It has been totally blown out of proportion," Doughty said. "I have to try and make sense of what happened and not be a jerk."
Players agreed that they can be competitive without being violent.
"It used to be fun," Cosmi said. "This is basketball and gentlemen don't need to get in each other's faces."