Blue Knight basketball team recognized for sportsmanship

A representative from the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials (IAABO), right, gathered with school officials and Blue Knight varsity athletes to present Blue Knight basketball coach John Cessario, center, with the IAABO sportsmanship award for his team’s efforts on the court. (Submitted)

By BRIAN JENNINGS

STAFF WRITER

Andrew Lohneiss drew a foul on a dibble drive to the basket during a regular season game, and his opponent fell hard to the floor, landing awkwardly on his back. Before Lohneiss turned to the foul throw line, he stopped to lend his hand to his fallen foe.

Last winter was an exciting one for the Knights, as the first quarterfinal appearance in years. But what made it most memorable was not so much the deep run into the postseason. It was the way they did it; with class.

Whether a Southington player was helping an opponent up off the floor or handing an official a basketball at the end of a scramble, the Knights earned a reputation for being sportsmen. On Thursday, April 19, game officials from Central CT Board 6 presented the Southington High School boys basketball team with the 2018 International Association of Approved Basketball Officials (IAABO) Boys Sportsmanship Award. The award takes into consideration sportsmanship and behavior of the team’s players and coaches, treatment of officials by the athletic administration, and teamwork between the athletic department and officials.

“Between 70 and 80 teams are serviced by this board, so they got to see it from many different team’s perspectives,” said Southington coach John Cessario. “We’re humbled and honored to get something like this from a prestigious group that is very respected throughout the state for their officiating abilities.”

Cessario said that he and his coaching staff wanted to work together with the officials. He said that they wanted to look them in the eye when they were meeting them at half court prior to the game to know that they were giving them the respect that they deserved for handling the game.

“We want to give them every opportunity to make the right call by playing the game the right way,” said Cessario. “As soon as they walked into our gym, we wanted them to feel comfortable and feel like it was a basketball environment.”

Cessario said that his team played the game very hard this past season, but they played it with humility the right way in tandem with the officials.

“We’ve always respected the officials, whether we agreed with a call or not,” said Cessario. “We never want to show up an official or use words that are derogatory, and I feel like we never did that.”

Ferry said that the sportsmanship of the boys basketball program starts with the athletic department’s daily protocols. One of those protocols is the way they check in to make sure that the officials are signed in for the game.

“It starts there with those interactions,” said Ferry. “When we have any changes, it’s how we speak on the phone to these people, go out of our way to make them feel comfortable and let them know where they’re going to be reporting to for our boys basketball games.”

Ferry said that the athletic department does a good job of taking care of treating people well.

“That’s what I’m most proud of,” said Ferry. “People like coming to our gym, they know that they’re going to be treated well, and they know that we have a very competent and friendly staff.”

Assistant athletic directors Lee McLean-Houle and Cindy Davey are just as much a part of this award as the boys basketball team is. Ferry said that McLean-Houle does a great job of checking sports events for the week, especially on Monday, making sure that officials are aware and that the athletic department has everything appropriately covered for the events that are coming for that week.

McLean-Houle has been working as an assistant athletic director for over a decade now.

“She’s developed very good relationships with athletic directors, especially in the Central Connecticut Conference,” said Ferry. “She does a great job with the day-to-day logistics in the office and behind the scenes. She works extremely hard day in and day out to make sure things are running smoothly.”

Whenever he is not present at sporting events, Ferry said that Davey is the one who greets the officials when they first arrive to the high school and escorts them to their locker rooms. He said that he also feels at peace when he’s working with Davey to cover multiple events in different locations.

“It’s just her depth and breath of knowledge through the years, and the relationships she’s cultivated,” said Ferry. “She’s a very special person, and I really appreciate the time and effort that she puts in to make sure things run smoothly.”

Aside from winning the sportsmanship award, the boys basketball team was also honored in another way. Lohneiss received first team all-state honors for this past winter season and was recognized at the Aqua Turf Club.

To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at bjennings@southingtonobserver.com.

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