Malden locals aid basketball referee during health scare

MALDEN — Fast-acting Malden High School athletic staff and Revere Deputy Fire Chief Paul Cheever, who was off-duty, and his wife, a nurse, are credited with resuscitating a basketball referee who collapsed and struck his head on the floor of the school gymnasium during a game on Monday night.

Malden was hosting Revere in a Northeastern Conference girls basketball game.

Malden High athletic trainer Jen Sturtevant, who was first to the fallen referee and who also happened to be a former Malden assistant football coach,  said it was the first time in 17 years she had faced a situation so unexpected.

“We aren’t sure why it happened, but (the referee) blacked out and was on the ground and unconscious,” Sturtevant said. “We got to him right away and were able to revive him, but it was a scary situation.”

The referee, identified as Tony Abbatessa, was rushed to Melrose-Wakefield Hospital about 15 minutes after he was stricken and was hospitalized overnight. His medical condition was unavailable on Tuesday morning, but it is believed his injuries were not life-threatening.

Malden High School Athletic Director Charlie Conefrey said the game, which had about two minutes left to play in the first half, was called off shortly after the incident.

“It’s a traumatic sight for teenaged players to see that, for anyone to see that,” Conefrey said. “We thought it best to end the game there due to the situation.”

Golden Tornadoes head coach Scott Marino said the scene following the medical episode was poignant.

“We had two teams of girls all with the arms locked hoping for the best. When the referee was being wheeled out in the stretcher they all started cheering and he got a standing ovation.

“That’s what high school sports are all about,” Marino added.

“Our thoughts are with Tony for a speedy recovery,” Conefrey said.

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