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Community support inspires stricken Loy

Prep Notebook

Vern Loy knew the feeling.

The veteran basketball official hoped the light-headedness would go away in a moment or two.

It didn't, and within a few seconds he slumped to the North Medford High gym floor on Dec. 30.

Early in the third quarter of the Abby's Holiday Classic title game, pitting South Medford vs. McNary of Keizer, Loy was on the baseline as McNary worked for a basket.

I wanted to wait until the action stopped and let it clear after 15 or 20 seconds, Loy recalls. I didn't remember that McNary made the basket. I don't remember throwing the ball in.

He blew the whistle twice just before blacking out as play started the other way.

I don't remember going on the court, falling on my knees or the McNary coaches coming to my aid or them rolling me over on my back, Loy says. I was really out of it.

Loy was taken from the gym and spent the next 24 hours at Providence Hospital. He was released at 9:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve.

That was a really good New Year's Eve present, says the 52-year-old McLoughlin Middle School teacher, who is taking this week off from work and officiating.

Loy is in his 23rd year officiating and sixth as the president of the Rogue Valley Basketball Officials Association. He's suffered his share of on-court injuries. He once injured his back, requiring a mid-game tape job by former Ashland trainer Greg Hauck during a South Medford-Ashland game in the late 1980s.

He spent a night in the hospital last February after a similar fainting spell at school.

I had spells at work, but never while I was officiating or running the Pear Blossom, Loy says. It's brought on by stress situations.

A battery of stress, EKG and blood tests revealed that Loy remains very fit.

His cardiologist noted a couple of valves in his heart are a little longer than normal and don't work as efficiently as they should. Thus, when he's put through physical or emotional stress the blood flowing into his aorta isn't properly oxygenated.

There was no medicine prescribed and it isn't close to requiring surgery, Loy says. I just need to consume a lot of electrolytes -- Gatorade and Sportade.

The first question on his lips after the diagnosis: Do I get to continue to officiate?

The answer was to make sure he kept electrolytes handy when he exercised or officiated.

And while Loy is eager to resume his normal routine, he'll be cautious.

It really spooked me, he says. It scared me and I felt bad for the people there. I know so many people here (in Medford). I would've hated to have been in the stands myself when something like that happened.

Ken Millsap, who worked the third-place game, went back to the locker room and suited up while doctors attended to Loy.

It was an emotionally difficult time for Bob Collins, Loy's officiating partner, and Millsap, as they resumed play after a 15-minute break.

It was nice to have a quality person come out of the stands and get the job done properly, Loy says.

Loy also values the show of appreciation from the community since the incident.

The overwhelming support from players, coaches and parents really got to me emotionally, Loy says.

North Medford boys basketball coach Gene Quilhaugh and his players sent their best wishes to Loy. Sunday night, South players Nick Decker and David Kime delivered a card signed by the Panthers and coach Dennis Murphy.

I'd like to thank everyone, Loy says. It's nice to get those warm responses.

He'll probably be greeted by applause -- virtually unheard of for the men in stripes -- when he next steps on the court.

Then, as all good officials hope, he'll blend into the blur of the game and go unnoticed.

NATIONAL MEETINGS-- Bruce Howell, athletic coordinator for the Medford School District, attended last month's national athletic director's convention in New Orleans.

He attended workshops on dealing with difficult people, college recruiting, eligibility residency and Title IX compliance.

We're pretty innocent here compared to what's going on around the nation, Howell says. And that's the way I like it.

It was business as usual when Howell went back to work Monday. Had Y2K fears come to fruition, tonight's Southern Oregon Conference game's would have been scrubbed.

If that would've come through like they were predicting, Howell says, the loss of one SOC game wouldn't have mattered. I'd be looking for nuclear missiles.

(Greg Stiles is a Mail Tribune sports writer. He can be reached at 776-4483 or )