Mike Epps was in Indianapolis to talk basketball, but this wasn’t what he had in mind.
The actor and comedian planned to come to Indianapolis to catch an NBA game and meet with some of the Pacers players, but then he heard about a certain high school girls basketball team that made national headlines.
"Popped up on the scoreboard last night on the news and I'm like, 'Wow, that's right here at Arlington,’" Epps said.
The image that “popped up” on the news, is the same one that went viral Tuesday night. A spectator at the game between Arlington and Bloomington South tweeted a photo of the final score, which showed a 107-2 victory for South.
After seeing the score and the ensuing media coverage nationwide, Epps and promoter Amp Harris decided to arrange a surprise visit with the team, in order to boost morale.
"We just wanted to encourage the kids and make sure that they understand that somebody still cares for them out there,” Epps said. “We all take losses and it's about getting up and coming back."
Epps says he knew Arlington has been through a lot of changes in the past few years. The school was recently taken over by the state and lost many students and athletes in the process.
The visit by Epps capped a day in which that single scoreboard photo triggered a social media storm and national debate, in which even the IHSAA weighed in.
Chris Kaufman, Assistant Commissioner of the IHSAA, says the score will likely trigger new efforts to enact a mercy rule for basketball games, which could trigger a running clock or other measures if a score gets too lopsided.
"Obviously with us not having a mercy rule we didn't have a mechanism in place to assist the coaches, or in this case the officials either, to help the situation,” Kaufman said. “The end result is something more than we would like to see."
It was also more than Arlington's coach Ebony Jackson wanted to see.
In an interview Wednesday morning, she told Fox59 News, "It was a mismatch. They just kept after it all game not letting up. I was not liking the outcome but told my players I was proud of them for playing and not giving up."
On the other side, Bloomington South Principal Mark Fletcher released a statement to the Bloomington Herald Times saying, “We understand the media perception of last night’s game. The girls on both teams played hard and continued to compete the entire game. To do anything less by either team would have been demeaning."
"I don't think it made the other team look real good either," Epps said.
During his visit with Arlington, Epps said he didn’t spend much time talking about the game itself.
"I really didn't want to get in detail with them about it,” Epps said. “You know, some of them took it good and some of them didn't. We just wanted to keep it on the basis of coming back and being strong and winning another game and just staying down for this basketball thing."
And he made his point in the way he knows best.
"As soon as I walked in the door they wanted to hear some jokes so I gave them a couple jokes, you know, I told them, 'You're not a real boss until you take a loss.'"
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