Breaking Barriers


MK McGee has been reffing basketball for 26 years. The Gothenburg native and former college basketball player at Doane has seen and heard a lot on basketball courts during that time.

But until Wednesday’s Class C-1 quarterfinal between Auburn and Pierce, they weren’t courts that boys were playing on at the state tournament. When the Bulldogs and Bluejays tipped off, McGee became the first female to officiate a Nebraska boys’ state tournament game.

And it came on her birthday — a pretty cool moment.

“I just think of the 26 years I’ve been doing this, and how hard I’ve worked,” McGee said of what it means to her. “There’s been great moments, really hard moments, a lot of in-between moments — all of that. I just think of the hard work it’s taken to get here. From that standpoint, it means a lot to me.”

Basketball was McGee’s top sport growing up. She was pretty good at it, so she played at the next level. That’s where her officiating career started.

“I went to college, played and found out I wasn’t terribly great,” McGee said with a smile. “But that’s where I got into officiating, my freshman year of college. It went from there.”

McGee has always been an athlete and enjoyed the competitive aspect of sports. And basketball officiating is exactly that. That’s why she does it.

“It’s a very competitive thing because you’re going out and reffing a game, and you need to perform,” she said. “You need to read plays. You need to manage the game. So there’s very much a competitive aspect to it that I really enjoy.”

Basketball is emotional, too. McGee and her partners know that, which makes blocking out whatever they hear from the crowd a bit more easier.

“They’re reacting because it’s an emotional game,” McGee said. “With that understanding, it’s a lot easier for me to just not listen to it.”

McGee teaches college math at Metro Community College for her day job. She enjoys reading and, as a young basketball player, looked up to Michael Jordan. She has role models in the officiating world, too.

“The first two women to ever work a girls state tournament in Nebraska, who are Rhonda Rhodes and Ann Schroeder. They were very inspirational to me,” McGee said.

Officiating is a male-dominated avocation. Because of that, there just aren’t many opportunities for females to call games — especially at the state tournament level.

“To work a boys’ state tournament when there’s never been a female, and for other females to be able to see that and be inspired by that — it’s pretty special,” McGee said.

Day 2: Boys’ State Basketball Roundup

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