Fifteen minutes before game time Saturday, Gena Restiano took her spot in the Gordon College gymnasium in Wenham. Attired in the classy, new women’s college basketball refereeing uniform, Restiano was set to officiate the fourth game in her burgeoning new career.
As the tapoff approached, Restiano joined head referee Kerri Lang and umpire Michael Medeiros in a meeting with the team captains and exchanging greetings with the Gordon College and Roger Williams University coaches.
Two hours later, everyone agreed that it was well-officiated basketball game, with 19 fouls whistled on each team, and Roger Williams prevailing by a 70-54 score. For Gena Restiano, it was another positive step forward in a career that she hopes will lead her toward professional basketball.
“It’s been great, I’ve been really enjoying it,” said Restiano. “I love meeting the other referees, who are seasoned, and they’ve been really helpful and very encouraging. It’s definitely been a learning experience, but I’ve enjoyed it all. It was great to referee with Kerri Lang, who is a big, Division 1 official.”
Restiano, who played college basketball at Babson College and Suffolk University, has officiated games at Tufts, Regis, UMass/Boston, and Framingham State. She has a 20-game refereeing schedule this season.
“The Tufts-UNE game (in Medford) was the game I liked the best so far,” said Restiano. “Tufts was ranked No. 5 and they were playing UNE, and it was a great game (Tufts won, 69-55). Tufts has put the new bleachers in, so there are no longer wooden benches. I remember playing at Tufts when I was at Babson. We ended their long, home winning streak.”
Restiano said the coaches have been very supportive.
“I think the coaches are surprised to see a young female referee,” said Restiano. “The first question they ask me is, ‘Where did you play college basketball?’’’
She will be attending two college refereeing camps this summer.
“I’m going to try out for refereeing Division 2 women’s basketball, and then I’m going to attend the Division 1 camp in Washington, D.C. and tryout for the Patriot League, the Northeast Conference, and some of those other Division 1 leagues,” said Restiano.
A former Revere 1,000-point scorer and one of the few players who could dribble behind her back at full speed, Restiano has not yet had to whistle a technical foul in her officiating career.
“I’m not a technical kind of person,” said Restiano. “I haven’t had a coach or a player give me any sort of issue, so I’ve not come close to it yet. It can be a little intimidating, especially being a first-year ref, but the second I get on the court and I get in the flow of the game down, it’s almost like second nature.”
Restiano is a physical education teacher at Chelsea High School. She just received her master’s degree in Secondary Physical Education from Salem State University.
Gena’s parents, Larry and Debra Restiano, who were always at her games during her basketball career, continue to make their presence felt.
“My parents have been super supportive,” said Restiano. “They’ve been awesome with the traveling to games and streaming them online. They watch me the same way as if I were still playing on the court.”