Missouri woman makes NBA history Monday night

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Referees from left, Sean Wright, Natalie Sago and Jenna Schroeder have a discussion during a time out in the second half of an NBA basketball game between the Orlando Magic and the Charlotte Hornets, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. Natalie Sago and Jenna Schroeder made up two-thirds of the crew assigned to the Charlotte at Orlando game, the first time in NBA history that two women were assigned to work a regular-season contest together.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

ST. LOUIS, Mo– Roughly nine years after she began officiating amateur basketball games on Saturday mornings, and in her third year as a National Basketball Association referee, Natalie Sago will be part of league history Monday night.

Sago, born in St. Louis and raised in Farmington, is part of the first three-person NBA officiating crew to feature two women.

“It’s amazing,” Sago’s father Shelton, who in addition to being an Optometrist in Farmington, was also a high school basketball official for 35 years.

“It’s so cool,” Natalie Sago told the Associated Press. “All of us, we’re so happy and excited to work together. We just have a good group of females, we’re all close, we have great relationships and we share these moments.”

Sago played basketball at Farmington in High School and then softball at Jefferson College and Drury University. When her playing career ended, her officiating career began in 2012, starting with AAU games on Saturday mornings. Her father said calling women’s games at the Division I level was the initial goal, but, “she moved up quickly.”

Her father said she was spotted calling a Fontbonne University game, which led to an assignment in the NBA’s G-League, then the WNBA, and ultimately the NBA, where he said they are not looked at as female officials, but as officials.

“I’m just proud to be part of an organization that promotes people to do the job based on our abilities, not on our gender, race, ethnicity, those types of things,” Natalie Sago told the AP.

Sago’s family will plan to watch the game Monday night and then look out for her on a trio of nationally televised assignments that are scheduled over the next month.

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