Trio Brings Dedication And Professionalism To The Newtown High School (Scorer’s) Table
Game action unfolding on the court is the focus of attention, but there are many details being worked out behind the sideline — in addition to the coaching that takes place — that go into making sure everything goes smoothly at basketball games.
A big component of any game at pretty much any level, from youth on up to the professionals, is the scorer’s table, situated at center court, where individuals are busy operating the scoreboard clock, tracking statistics in scorebooks, and in the case of some schools such as Newtown High School, also providing public commentary.
Meet Jennifer Huettner, Jim Casagrande, and Jason “J” Edwards. The trio are what make it possible for fans and team members alike to know the score, players to be aware of the time remaining, on-court officials to track fouls, media and coaches to know the scoring statistics, and all in attendance to be kept abreast of who scored the last basket or is about to check into our out of the game.
Needless to say, they bring a lot to the table — literally — for Newtown basketball.
Huettner, a Latin teacher at Newtown High, operates the clock; Casagrande, a longtime on-court official, maintains the scorebook; Edwards, a social studies teacher at NHS, is the public address announcer.
They work together for all of the home varsity basketball games — girls and boys/ ten home tilts each, plus playoffs — and have done so for nearly two decades, working more than 350 games together since 2001.
“It’s like a mini family. We’ve been doing it for so long together,” Edwards said.
“It’s been a privilege and an honor to work with Jim and Jen all these years,” added Edwards, noting that Casagrande brings hall of fame coaching credentials and approach to the court, and that “Jen’s become an expert all things scoreboard and clock.”
Huettner, Casagrande, and Edwards help each other out — the extra sets of eyes enable them to collectively follow the play on the court despite occasional obstructions from players and referees, not to mention coaches, doing their thing.
“I love being a team player. I love being where the action is. There’s big teamwork here,” Huettner said. “I love being around sports. It’s the best seat in the house.”
After all, the scorer’s table is court side.
“You’ve got to depend on them,” Casagrande said of assistance he gets from Huettner and Edwards as he keeps a running score of the game before tallying everything after the final buzzer.
Edwards notes that he enjoys recognizing not only the Newtown players, but also opposing team members — beginning with starting lineups and continuing with substitutions and announcements of baskets scored or notable plays during the course of the game.
“It’s the same show whether there are six or 600 people in the stands — or more, like we’ve had lately,” said Edwards, alluding to packed gymnasiums for playoff games. “You have to recognize that any event could be that one kid’s shining moment.”
Huettner has been a clock operator since 1982, originally at Booker T High School in Tulsa, Okla., which sent multiple players into the National Basketball Association. She has been with Newtown High since 1999, also running the clock in other sports seasons during part of her time at NHS. Although Huettner makes it happen like, well, clockwork, the job requires a lot of focus with many buttons to press again and again as the points pile up, fouls accumulate, time-outs are taken, and referee whistles blow during the course of a basketball game.
Huettner and Casagrande both work the junior varsity, and Huetter also operates the clock at freshman games, which typically precede the varsity contests.
Casagrande, a retired health and physical education teacher who worked as an on-court official for 15 seasons and also umpired softball and baseball prior to taking on his current role in 2000, has continued 49 years of membership on the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials, Board Ten, serving as president during 1994-95.
“I’d love to have officiated more, but you have to be able to run,” said Casagrande, who has degenerative hip osteoarthritis but is making the most of his interest in and dedication to the game by filling out the book.
“I’m still in the game. The only thing is, you’ve got to remember you’ve got a physical education major doing the math, so that can get interesting,” Casagrande said light-heartedly.
The scorer’s table crew has witnessed a lot of excitement, runs to championships, and buzzer-beaters, and while the rules of the game have remained largely the same, the pace of play certainly has not.
“The game has gotten so much faster on all levels,” Casagrande said of basketball evolution throughout the years.
A former baseball player at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., Casagrande has quite a sports resume. He is in the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame for golf, was inducted into the Newtown Bee Sports Hall of Fame in 2004, was 1994 Connecticut Outstanding Coach of the Year for golf in 1994, and was a National Coach of the Year finalist for golf in 1997, 2000, and 2004.
“If you think of the definition of reliability it would be Jen, J, and Cas. They are three of the most professional, hardworking, and reliable people one can ask for. When those three are there, my life is easy. Everything goes smoothly, and it is truly thanks to who those three people are,” Newtown Athletic Director Matt Memoli said.
Like Memoli, Newtown’s coaches may have their own responsibilities during games, but they don’t overlook the work that unfolds between the home and away team benches.
“I love them. The three of them are so professional and smart with what they do. There are never any worries when you get here,” said Jeremy O’Connell, Newtown’s varsity girls’ basketball coach.
“The finest ‘trifecta’ in the game, and I don’t mean the 3-ball. In all seriousness, Jim and Jen — great experience, never need to worry about the book or clock, and they ask me in such a nice manner to sit myself down when I’m standing in their way. J — he could quit his day job and make a real comfortable living with his voice and flair; he adds a great feel to all home games. All three are the best I’ve ever worked with,” Tallcouch added.