Rarely does a basketball referee get applause from players and fans, especially when walking into a gymnasium.
But the officials were surprised Thursday evening when they arrived for Stephens’ game against Central Bible at Silverthorne Arena.
The referees find their game assignments online, but Stephens’ game was listed at 7 p.m., one hour after the planned tip-off time. David Moss, the first referee that walked through the door, said he was shocked with the ovation.
“It’s not every day an official gets an applause at a basketball game,” Moss said. “This will be the first and the last.”
While waiting for the officials, the Spartans played a children’s free-throw game while the Stars stretched.
Stars coach Dane Pavlovich said the team was ready to play at 6 p.m., but that’s no excuse for its slow start in Stephens 71-31 victory.
“We started off playing pretty poorly,” said Pavlovich, who saw the Spartans jump ahead 4-2, “and we’ve got to be able to start a game a little bit stronger than that, no matter what time it starts.”
Stephens quickly recovered, though, and led 40-18 by the end of the first half. A full-court press and double-teaming defense helped the Stars force 25 steals and pull down 28 rebounds.
“Our number one key tonight was defense to create offense and we were able to do that a couple times in a row,” Pavlovich said.
Freshman forward Ali Roper, made the difference in the Stars’ past two meetings with the Spartans. On Nov. 7, she netted 15 points, and Thursday evening, she scored 18, including four 3-pointers.Roper also had a team-high six steals and grabbed four rebounds.
“She’s a fantastic shooter,” said Pavlovich, who noted Roper’s value against zone defenses. “We have to have her on from the outside.”
Roper, who came two points shy of her career high of 20, said that midway through the game she remembered what her father told her growing up.
“Keep shooting because they’ll eventually fall,” she said.
The Stars improved to 7-14, while the Spartans fell to 3-15. Stephens next game is Saturday, when they host Avila Eagles (16-9) at 7 p.m.