Friday Feature: There is a new referee in town and her name is Sarah Royals.
TORRINGTON: She has the same court presence that allowed her to become the all-time leading scorer in Torrington girls’ basketball history when she graduated five years ago.
Except now she helps keep the action on the hardwood she so dominated back then running smooth by a different means, with a whistle.
Her name is Sarah Royals, a Raiders alum who made her teams and her school proud during her days at THS and then later at the University of Albany where she helped take a school that had never made the NCAA Tournament into one that made it all four years she attended.
She scored 1605 points in her career that saw her carry herself with a confidence that served her well at the next level with the Great Danes and is already getting her noticed on the court as a referee.
Royals follows her father Ray onto the court, starting at freshman and junior varsity level with hopes of joining dad at the varsity level.
On Tuesday night, Royals was working the Northwestern/Wamogo girl’s junior varsity game and before the game, Highlanders coach Stacy Zematis liked what she saw.
“We have seen her once before,” Zematis said, “She’ going to be very good.”
Why would we expect anything less from a young lady who possesses the drive and determination that comes from a family filled with it?
The youngest of three girls (Jen and Michelle came out of THS first), Sarah has always been the kind of player that had what you would call “It”
That special ability to take everything she does, figure it out and take it to the next level.
Think of this challenge.
You go from making the plays on the court to calling the plays on the same hardwood with folks that may not always like what you have to say.
One never hears the roar of the crowd when the ref make a call unless it is in less than a friendly tone, or booing or yelling or worse.
Thick skin is required for this job, no question.
Aaron Lefkowski, who’s the President of the board Royals has joined, is happy to get new faces on the court.
“We always love when young people sign up,” Lefkowski said, “I have not seen her in action yet but look forward to it.”
Royals added an assistant coaching position to her resume this year when she signed up with the Post University girls’ basketball team.
Her prowess at Albany brings great credibility to her new gig.
Royals finished as the Great Danes all-time leader in assists with 462 and also holds the single-season record with 159.
Albany took home the America East Championship each of the four years she stepped on the court and from her freshman year on, she was one of head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson (Coach Abe) most productive players.
She was the first player recruited by coach Abe who loved her intensity and how much she despised losing.
The Great Danes record books are dotting with reminders of the point guard who ruled the hardwood in the Connie Donahue and fearlessly drove the lane her entire career.
Come on, we can never forget the four-point play for Torrington against rival Holy Cross where her half-court shot with four seconds left on the clock found the bottom of the net, as did the ensuing free throw for the win m moments later.
Royals scored 1006 points for Albany with ranks twelve in school history, is now fourth all-time with 3.55 assists per game while her 185 career steals ranks thirteenth in Danes history.
Post is struggling to this point in the season with a 2-20 mark.
Albany struggled before Royals got there. Sense a pattern?
Getting back onto the hardwood in this current role may be a surprise to some but not to the one doing it.
“I had always had an interest in becoming a referee,” Royals said, “I watched my dad do it for years and I am really enjoying it.”
The toughest part?
“I can’t watch the play anymore and say, ‘hey, that was a nice play’,” Royals said, “I have to watch the entire court.”
So if the next time you are in a local gym and see a familiar face that reminds you of a kid from Torrington who used to entertain us each winter on the hardwood, say hi but understand she has a new job to do and like everything else, she’s going to do it well.