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Clarion High Grad, North Clarion Teacher Bobbi (Simpson) Freeman Relished Having Opportunity to Play, Officiate in PIAA Title Games

Bobbi Freeman (center) with fellow D9 officials Rob Hanzley (left) and Chris Taylor (right) at the PIAA Class 1A girls' championship game March 22, 2024. Photo by Paul Burdick

HERSHEY, Pa. – When Bobbi (Simpson) Freeman stepped into the pregame meeting with officials, players, and coaches prior to the PIAA Class 1A championship game last month at the Giant Center in Hershey she knew exactly what was going through the players’ minds.

That’s because Freeman, who was officiating her first PIAA championship game, had been one of those players 32 years ago leading Clarion to a second-place PIAA Class 1A finish.

“When we got together, I looked at the players and told them I knew exactly how they were feeling because I had been in their shoes,” Freeman said. “They just kind of looked at me.”

Bobbi Simpson (now Freeman) being introduced prior to the 1992 PIAA Class 1A title game. Simpson played for Clarion High School. Photo courtesy of Bobbi Freeman

While the exact number of people who have played in a PIAA state championship game and officiated in one isn’t known, it is safe to assume it is a rather select group.


“It’s very exciting,” Freeman, a teacher at North Clarion High School, said. “It’s honoring to be selected by PIAA to officiate one. That’s the highest honor, I believe, you can get as an official. And, of course, to play in a state championship game with my team back in 1992, was really surreal. We had a heck of a ride. It (playing and/or officiating in a state championship game) is an amazing experience. It is literally a bucket-list life checkmark.”

Watch Freeman throw up the opening tip at the PIAA Class 1A championship game

Freeman said between the two she found officiating a state title game to be much for relaxing.

“I kept telling everybody from PIAA and other officials, they asked me if I was nervous, and I said, no, I was nervous playing 30 years ago. But, to officiate one, absolutely not. It was just pure joy of being there for the kids.”


Nervous or not, Freeman said both experiences created unbelievable memories.

“Playing in it was just about being with my team,” Freeman said. “We were very, very, very close as a team. We were a very competitive group. We all rooted for each other. Back in the day, there was no it’s all about me how it seems like it is today in basketball, in sports. My best memory is just being with my team, having the coaches and the staff we had, making that journey together, and being there for each other through the ups and downs. Nothing is better than that. Thirty years later, I am still close and have great friendships with my teammates.”

Bobbi Simpson (now Freeman) during the 1992 PIAA title game. Simpson playe for Clarion High. Photo courtresy of Bobbi Freeman

Understandably, Freeman’s memories of officiating in the state title game revolved more about finding out about the honor as opposed to the actual game itself.

“My biggest memory was getting the phone call (the) Wednesday (before the Friday title game) at 9:30 in the morning from Jackie Rocco from PIAA (the PIAA Official’s Administrator),” Freeman said. “And, immediately, I started crying. I lost my mom four years ago to cancer, and I just wish she was here that I could share it with. But that phone call was the most exciting thing.”

Watch Freeman (at the start of the video) officiating with Chris Taylor during the PIAA Class 1A title game

Freeman was also excited to be able to share the honor with her fellow District 9 officials, Chris Taylor and Rob Hanzley.

“The most exciting thing about being in Hershey was being able to be back to officiate and being on the court,” Freeman said. “And, of course, working with Rob and Chris, my two other crewmates. They are awesome guys. It is a great experience.”

Comparing playing in the title game at the old Hershey Park Arena vs. officiating in the game at the newer Giant Center, Freeman said it was different, yet the same.


“Hershey Park Arena is cool because that is where it kind of all started,” Freeman said. “Times have really changed, though, in 30 years. They didn’t have all the hoopla and the lights and all the fanciness of the Giant Center. But, in the end, basketball is basketball. Just to make it to the state championship game is the ultimate goal.”


Freeman’s journey from a championship game player to a championship game official lies with longtime District 9 official Kevin Doverspike.

“I was actually coaching junior high basketball when I was working at Clarion-Limestone Elementary,” Freeman, who doubles as the girls’ volleyball coach at North Clarion, said. “Kevin Doverspike was really talking me into doing officiating. I really looked into it after that. He is the one who really encouraged me to become an official. This is my ninth year of officiating.”

Following Doverspike’s lead, Freeman is now encouraging current and former athletes to get involved in officiating,.

“I try to create a relationship with the athletes I am officiating,” Freeman said. “I am pretty familiar with most of the girls. Most of the girls or athletes from other schools will call me by my first name or come and talk to me if they see me on the street.

“I do encourage them to try to get their junior officiating (certificate) or to think about going into coaching. Probably more so the officiating side rather than coaching because they are still quite young to take on the whole coaching. But, I really encourage that.”

Freeman said one of the things she encourages athletes about when she talks to them about going into officiating is that they can continue to do something and be involved in something they love.

“If you really have a passion and love the game, which I know most of our athletes do,” Freeman said. “I encourage them to bring that passion and to let them know that passion for the game doesn’t have to end after high school.”


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