Veteran women's college basketball ref Rachelle Jones diesFile-In this March 31, 2017, file photo, official Rachelle Jones, left, talks with another official during a practice session for the women's NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament in Dallas. The veteran womens basketball official died June 18, 2018, in a hospital after battling cancer off and on for the past seven years. The 51-year-old Jones had been one of the top referees for the past few years and was rewarded with her first Final Four in 2017. Jones served as an alternate official in Dallas and handled off-court duties, such as assisting with instant replay reviews. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- Veteran women's college basketball official Rachelle Jones has died after a seven-year fight with cancer.
Jones died June 18 in a hospital in the New York area.
The 51-year-old had been one of the top referees for the past few years and was rewarded with her first Final Four in 2017. Jones served as an alternate official in Dallas and handled off-court duties, such as assisting with instant replay reviews.
''It was so special, unbelievable,'' she recalled in an interview with the AP in March of her trip to Dallas. ''The Final Four atmosphere is just amazing. They put a lot into that tournament. The way they treat the officials is just great. I wish everyone could experience it.''
She hoped to make it back to the Final Four this year before the cancer returned just before the regular season started. The cancer went into remission and she was back officiating after Christmas.
Jones worked for about a month before deciding to take the rest of this season off to fully recover because of the heavy grind officiating can take with a few games each week in different cities.
She was at the Final Four in Columbus in April, conducting a one-day WEFO - Women Empowering Female Officials - clinic in conjunction with a pro hoops combine event. Helping younger officials had become a passion of hers over the past few years and WEFO provided her a chance to help referees on a larger scale.
''This is a heartbreaking loss not only for her family and friends, but for our officiating family as a whole,'' said Debbie Williamson, the officials' coordinator for most of the major Division 1 college conferences in the Northeast. ''Rachelle loved her family and loved her work in the game of basketball and gave both her very best. She had a heart for raising up the next generation of officials and took every opportunity to use her experiences to help others.''
Jones worked games in the Big East, ACC, American, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and Atlantic 10, among others.
''Rachelle was one of the most respected, hard working and genuine referees in our game,'' St. John's coach Joe Tartamella said. ''Getting to know her over 15 years in the Big East was a true pleasure. She impacted young coaches, players and referees during her career and she will be greatly missed.''
She is survived by a son and daughter. Daughter Niya is just getting started in officiating herself and her mom would spend time in the gym watching and supporting her.
Services for Jones will be on Tuesday in White Plains.
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