Matt Schuckman column sig

Todd Reichert noticed the message as he and his wife were leaving a local retail store, and he immediately knew he was needed.

Why else would Scott Douglas be reaching out around 7 p.m. on a Tuesday night?

Three weeks ago, when the Moline boys basketball team made the trip south to face Quincy High School at Blue Devil Gym on a bitterly cold night, a scheduling snafu occurred. The QHS girls team wasn’t able to make the trip to Moline the same night because of bus issues and had to postpone the game.

It meant the game officials needed notified as well. That’s where the wires were crossed. The message regarding the cancellation went to the crew assigned to the boys game, not the girls game.

So as the three-person crew arrived at Moline’s Wharton Field House to find no game being played, the two teams at Blue Devil Gym and Quincy’s school officials were wondering where the referees were. A few phone calls and a few text messages revealed the problem with no easy solution.

That is until Douglas, the QHS athletic director, tracked down Reichert.

In less than an hour, Reichert cobbled together a crew of referees from the Quincy Basketball Officials Association, got to Blue Devil Gym and called the game.

It’s the kind of dedication and flexibility all officials have shown this winter, sometimes working three or four games in a day in order to allow Illinois prep basketball teams to squeeze as many games into a five-week window as possible.

They truly are the unsung heroes of this season.

Basketball officials have heard the usual amount of cattle calls and spirited complaints from the fans, even though gyms have been limited to fanbases of 50 people or fewer. They’ve been worked over by coaches as ardently as ever as well.

They’ve been thanked and applauded more than ever, too.

Coaches appreciate the break-neck pace at which officials are working these days, because without them this season wouldn’t have happened, at least not to the full extent it has. After working games in neighboring states before the Illinois season launched, some officials have called 60 or more games this winter.

For some, that’s double the workload they normally have.

Yet, night in and night out, they show up, mask up and do their job so the student-athletes have the best experience possible.

Remember that if you go to a gym this week.

Take stock of the sacrifices the officials have made to be here, there and everywhere nearly every night of the week. They’ve taken time away from their families and friends so basketball families can have some sense of normalcy, at least in the short term.

As the final week of this truncated season winds to a close, the officials deserve more cheers than jeers.

It’s the respect they’ve earned for a job well done.

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