For longtime area basketball fans, seeing Mike Waisnora and John Goss together officiating high school basketball games was a perennial affair.
The duo was inseparable and two of the best at their craft. If I saw them on the court as I walked into a gym to cover a game, I knew there wouldn’t be any issues with how well the contest would be officiated.
They hadn’t been seen together on the court much of this season, and the reason was that Goss was sick, and the Merrillville resident succumbed to his illness, passing away on Monday at the age of 67.
Goss had been a basketball and football official for 40 years. He refereed nine football state championship games, six boys basketball state finals, one girls basketball state final, was the national official of the year in 2008, the IHSAA official of the year in 2007 and was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame.
“Everyone always wanted to work with him and Waisnora,” said Larry Babcock, an IHSAA official who is also the new Westville baseball coach. “He was my favorite referee when I played and was a guy I looked to for advice as an official. I worked a tournament with him at Hanover (Central) over Christmas break and he looked the best I had seen in two years.
“He was in the game for the right reasons and strived to get us young guys involved. We won’t find one better than John.”
Most local officials are wearing a patch in honor of him, simply displaying his last name under the IHSAA logo. Goss was also known for passing out Jolly Rancher candy to fans, coaches, players and the occasional media member like myself (yes, I have been the recipient of a few from him).
A memorial service for Goss will be held at Pruzin Brothers funeral home in Merrillville from 2 to 7 p.m. on Sunday.
• Hoosier Hysteria alive and well: Who says the class basketball system in Indiana isn’t good?
Don’t tell that to numerous teams who won exciting games in boys sectional play already this week.
Across the state in the first two nights of the postseason, there have been 17 overtime games — three were double OT and one went three OTs — and eight buzzer-beater finishes, including Wednesday’s second game at the Class A Kouts Sectional in which La Crosse edged Hammond Academy of Science & Tech 49-47 on a rebound and putback by Wes Brust as the horn sounded.
Hammond coach and athletic director Eric Speer was quite upset, saying the shot shouldn’t have counted. His reasoning had some merit.
“When (Jaye Mitzner’s 3-point) shot bounced off the rim (actually, it bounced straight off the backboard into Brust’s hands), there was 0.5 seconds left,” Speer recalled after the game. “No way (Brust) could grab the rebound and lay it up.”
Well, basketball rules at all levels have 0.3 as the time it takes for a quick catch-and-shoot, so it could happen. Thing is, I wasn’t watching the clock. I was watching the action and I clearly heard the horn — which is supposed to go off simultaneously when the clock hits zero — when Brust’s putback was already on the rim. Now Speer could debate whether the Kouts clock and buzzer are in tune with each other, but that’s about it.
At the Michigan City Sectional, Chesterton was one of the state’s 17 overtime games as the Trojans erased a double-digit second-half deficit to edge Portage 73-70.
What’s next for local teams? I expect more games putting the “hysteria” in Hoosier Hysteria with some great possibilities for Saturday night. Michigan City is going for its first boys sectional title since consolidation. La Porte is going for its first title since 2014. Marquette’s going for its fourth straight title in two different classes. Westville could be trying to win its first sectional in this historic season for the Blackhawks. Stay tuned.
• Konieczny gets a ring: Former La Porte High School girls basketball player Nicole Konieczny transferred to South Bend St. Joseph before last season. After last weekend, she will now graduate as a state champion.
The Indians won the Class 3A state title, defeating North Harrison 57-49 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Konieczny contributed with nine points, two rebounds and two assists.
It is St. Joseph’s second girls state title, with the first coming in 2005 when current Michigan City coach Mike Megyese was leading the Indians on the sideline.
Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.