BELPRE - The clock's winding down, the game's on the line...and there's a whistle from somebody in stripes.
Traveling...and the gym erupts in a chorus of cheers and jeers.
Such is the life of a basketball referee, where half the gym loves the call and half the gym hates the call, but for Belpre High School senior Regina Leftwich that's just part of the fun.
"I enjoy having people boo at me," Leftwich laughed, joking how one side cheers and the other boos on tough calls.
Leftwich serves double duty on the basketball court, not only hitting the court as a member of the Belpre Lady Eagles, but also as a basketball official.
"Being a player and an official I feel like it just gives you an all around view of the game," Leftwich said.
Under guidance from her dad, Leftwich picked up officiating when she was 15 and is now going through her fourth season as a referee.
Ohio High School Athletic Association guidelines stipulate that officials must referee one grade level below them, meaning Leftwich can officiate anything up to a junior varsity contest and she's been doing plenty of that this winter.
Junior varsity games for Fort Frye, Marietta, Warren, Wood County Christian and Waterford have all seen Leftwich on the court as an official, and she's rapidly gaining recognition not only for the quality of work she does on the court, but for the quality of person she is.
"She's a quality individual. She's got the respect of the people she works with in the officiating field and she has the respect of her teammates," said Belpre girls' basketball coach Scott Miller.
For Leftwich's officiating career to continue this fall on the junior varsity level as well as what she does at the elementary level, she had to make her officiating schedule work with her basketball schedule.
That required some compromise on both sides, as Leftwich came to Miller at the start of the year and told him what she wanted to do and why. With her officiating schedule set so that she could still make practices, Miller saw no reason to deny Leftwich the opportunity to continue.
"To me it's a bigger picture. She's doing something she may be able to do for the rest of her life," Miller said.
And officiating is definitely something Leftwich plans to keep doing.
She's already been talking with prospective colleges, where she plans to play softball, to make certain there's no problem with her continuing her work on the basketball court in stripes.
"I'm not perfect, but I definitely think I have a career ahead of me," Leftwich said.
A passionate sports fan, Leftwich said she enjoys the way that officiating has taught her so much more about playing the game of basketball. And she also enjoys the way playing the game has taught her so much more about being an official.
"Officiating has just given me a perspective of the game and what it takes to be an official," Leftwich said.
That perspective is evident in the way Leftwich conducts herself on the court.
Now, instead of being one of the players on the official's case about a call she's over with her teammates explaining why the ruling on the court is right. If she's over on the bench, she's explaining what the rule is that's behind the calls that are made.
And if she does feel the need to trade some banter with the guys in stripes, it's all in good nature.
"I don't say anything anymore, rarely. If I do, it's just for fun," Leftwich laughed.
The ability to pass knowledge of the game on to her teammates as well as the other players on the court is one of the appeals in being an official for Leftwich.
There's so much more to the game that can be learned, and even when it's at the lowest elementary school levels basketball remains a passion to be shared.
"I just like the game, and I like the fact I can contribute to the game of basketball," Leftwich said.
While she's thoroughly enjoyed her four years as an official, there are certainly challenges.
One of the biggest is keeping up with all the rule changes, which are often unknown by spectators and even some of the players. For instance, the over and back rule now stipulates that all three points of the player's body, both feet and the ball, have to cross the line.
It's those little intricacies that can make officiating a game tough, especially since at some point a call is going to be made and the catcalls will come forth, so a thick skin's a necessity for officials.
It's also those little intricacies, that can make officiating so worthwhile for a girl in high school still competitively playing the game.
"It is really cool to be able to have that perspective that a lot of people don't have, especially people my age," Leftwich said.
Add in the time commitment, which has had Leftwich spending six to seven days a week on the basketball court and it could be a stressful job.
But it's not.
Instead, it's the coolest job she could ever have, and provides a feeling of independence as she can contribute to her family's groceries if necessary and buy her own books for school.
Of course, officiating is only half of Leftwich's time constraints for basketball. She also has practice with the Lady Eagles Monday to Friday and 20 games to play in over the course of the regular season.
As a leader on the team, Leftwich has been a big part of the Lady Eagles turn around into a No. 4 seed in the upcoming sectional tournament as Belpre holds a winning record this year, being 11-8 after last Thursday's game at Waterford.
So all in all, her double duty this season has been a tremendous experience for a high school senior.
"It's been an interesting process. I've just loved every minute of it," Leftwich said. "It's been a very great thing for me."