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Don Mahler: A Chance to Whoop It Up and Hoop It Up for Ed Kehoe

Let’s be honest — no group has a more directly intense and adversarial relationship than basketball coaches and referees. Almost by definition, it is an us-versus-them scenario every night.

Except for this Friday. That’s when, in the Mascoma Valley Regional High School gymnasium, we’ll all be on the same team, united in the same cause. On that night, New Hampshire basketball officials from this side of the state will be putting on a night of basketball to help raise money for Hartford High girls basketball coach Ed Kehoe.

The night, known as “Hoop It Up for Kehoe,” was the brainchild of New Hampshire IAABO District Board 128 refs Gary Bean and Chris Matte.

“You don’t usually hear about officials and coaches working together,” laughed Bean. “I told Ed we’ve had to stand there and listen to him for years. Now he’s going to have to sit there and listen to us.”

Kehoe has spent the past 19 winters coaching girls basketball — 15 of them at Mascoma, three years at Sunapee and last year at Hartford, where he had the chance to coach his daughter, Kelsey, to the Vermont Division II semifinals.

He was all set to return to Hartford again this season, but sometimes life gets in the way of sports.

Earlier this fall, Kehoe underwent surgery for a brain tumor. To allow him the time and strength to continue treatment, Kehoe decided he needed to take a year away from the stress of coaching. At the same time, his younger brother, Tim, the Lebanon High girls coach, stepped down from his position to help in his brother’s convalescence.

The news of Kehoe’s illness and decision passed around the state hoop circles quicker than a three-man weave.

“We wanted to do something to help out,” said Bean. “There’s such a tremendous financial obligation, we thought maybe we could do something.”

Contacting coaches and officials around the state, a night of basketball was created.

Five girls teams from in and around the Upper Valley will be on hand for a total of six games.

Teams from Lebanon, Sunapee, Mascoma, Newport and Hopkinton will play 16-minute stop-time contests starting at 5 p.m., with Hopkinton taking on Newport. The evening games will conclude with a 7:30 matchup between Sunapee and Lebanon.

Tickets cost $4 for adults, $2 for kids under 12 and $10 for a family. There will also be T-shirts for sale for $10, plus a 50-50 raffle and concessions.

There will also be special raffles. One will be offering two tickets to the Dec. 29 New England Patriots game with Buffalo.

There will also be a basketball-themed raffle, offering up a Matt Bonner-autographed San Antonio Spurs jersey.

But this evening goes deeper than just the games and prizes. There is an overwhelming outpouring of support from the officials. Board 128 includes 48 officials who work the dozen high schools from Lebanon south to Keene.

For the Hoop It Up night, six teams of three officials each will give their time and whistles to the project. A ball autographed by all the working officials will be presented to Kehoe, along with a check for $500.

Also, Board 128 and Concord’s Board 118 — the largest in the state, covering Concord up through the North Country — have voted to donate all the proceeds from the statewide Cancer Awareness game night to Kehoe. At $82 per official, that donation could come in well over $10,000.

If you can’t make Friday’s event but would like to make a contribution, contact Chris Matte at 15 Moss Road, Lebanon, NH 03766.

That thump, thump, thump sound you hear in the Mascoma gym lets you know it is time for basketball season. That thump, thump, thump feeling in your chest lets you know that the heart of the Upper Valley’s basketball community is beating strong. Coaches, players and, yes, even the referees, have all come together to stand behind Ed Kehoe to give their unfettered support for his recovery.

You’ll never find a better way to spend a basketball evening … or a better reason.

Don Mahler can be reached at dmahler@vnews.com or 603-727-3225 .