- April 25, 2018
Last week, twelve boys’ and twelve girls’ high school basketball teams converged on Hershey’s Giant Center with the same goal in mind — capturing a PIAA State Basketball Championship. It mattered little that Mother Nature’s snowy wrath had postponed the yearly hoop festival for several days causing the event to be played Monday-Wednesday, rather than on the scheduled weekend time frame. To the teenaged athletes, all that mattered was the quest for the gold. It was a dream many had held since they first began dribbling a ball.
Twelve other teams also made a similar trip with a lot less public fanfare. They also longed for a state championship appearance. For them, it was truly a ‘bucket list’ moment. Like the teams they would share the court with, the three-person officiating crews had reached the summit of high school basketball. For South Williamsport’s Keith Cremer, the dream had come true.
“I’ve been officiating for eighteen years, and during that same time frame have been coming to Hershey to watch the state championship games. It was definitely a dream of mine to someday have the opportunity to be on the court refereeing one of these games. Thankfully, this year that dream came true,” Cremer related.
“About eleven years ago, I got my first district playoff game. Since then, I just slowly worked my way up through the district being involved with various partners. Once you have worked enough district semi-finals and championship games, you hope to move on to the next level of the state playoffs. Once you have done that, the state crews may be shuffled, and you work with a different combination of officials. These crews are graded by the state evaluator. Once those crews are identified as ones that would be expected to do a great job at the state championship level, assignments are made. Thankfully, we found that combination this year and were selected.
“Last year, my partners and I got to the state semi-finals, which competition-wise was the highest level game we ever officiated. Nothing is ever certain, and selection is often based upon health and availability, but we had a good idea that once we got to that level, we had as good a chance as any to take the next step on the ladder,” Cremer explained.
Joining Cremer for the prestigious assignment officiating the Girls’ AAA Title game were crew members Kyle Daugherty, from Hughesville, and Towanda’s Colleen Sullivan.
The trio first worked together this season in the District Four Mt. Carmel/Loyalsock semi-final. They then worked the District Championship game two days later. Following that, the trio was assigned the first two rounds of states together, which they took as a good sign as several other crews around the states were shuffled for the state playoffs leading up to Hershey. Finally, they got the call for the state championship game on the Tuesday prior to what proved to be the rescheduled tournament.
“My knees went a bit weak at that point,” confessed Cremer.
“We were told the day we officiated would go by faster than you would really want it to, and it actually did. The slow time that it took us from the time we got the call until we stepped onto the floor seemed like about a week. But once the ball went up in the air, it was over in like a blink of an eye. Once the game started, it felt to us just like a game we would be calling in District Four. It all became natural and second-nature.”
Cremer attributed his selection as the crew chief to his seniority.
“I’ve been doing this eighteen years. Kyle has been doing it eleven years. Colleen’s been at it eight or ten years. We had a good enough comradery and work ethic. We jelled and worked well together. Our system worked well, and I think the decision-makers reasoned that the way we had it was just too good to mess with and they didn’t shuffle the roles we had been employing.
“We always look to get better, so I’m not going to say we did a great job or had a ‘perfect game.’ There is always something to improve upon. Just like a coach whose team has a blowout 50-point win can always find little things they need to improve upon. It is similar to what referees do. We look at the game tape and find out what calls we should or should not have made. Just so we know if we are in that situation again what we might do differently. This championship game was no exception. There were some calls we wish we would have made differently.”
After achieving his dream, Cremer reflected upon the conception that officiating a state championship game is a ‘one & done’ experience.
“I’ve heard that it is. But, we talked to the officials that had the first two games before ours. One official from each of those crews had indicated that this was their second state championship game. So there is always hope. So my fingers are crossed. Hopefully, if my body holds up, I can continue to officiate another twenty years. So my goal is to try and get back here again sometime down the road. It is the ultimate goal in high school basketball to work on the big stage, and if I can work again with a good crew like Kyle and Colleen, perhaps I can get back here again someday.”