NAIA referee gets special birthday surprise from husband, who’s also an NAIA referee

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 5:58 PM CDT
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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - The love of the game of basketball brought two NAIA referees together.

This week, husband and wife Blake and Lauren Thomas have reffed games at both the men’s and women’s NAIA National Basketball Tournaments. The couple has had to spend the week apart, with the men playing in Kansas City, and the women playing here in Sioux City. But that wouldn’t stop them from celebrating Lauren’s birthday together.

”We met officiating,” said Lauren. “So, working men’s league basketball, that’s where it started.”

After playing and watching basketball as kids, the love of the game brought Lauren and Blake Thomas together as adults... as referees.

“I remember the first night I saw her, I, you know, had dreamed of maybe if I found somebody that did the same thing,” added Blake. “And I was like, ‘well, she’s pretty, and she’s wanting to referee? Alright, well, let’s see what I got.’ Got pretty lucky.”

After working up through high school hoops and men’s league, the Thomas’s found themselves reffing the NAIA national tournaments separately, with Blake in Kansas City and Lauren in Sioux City. Thanks to the NAIA and Sioux City media, Blake was able to surprise Lauren on Thursday, her birthday, in Sioux City.

The NAIA called a special “press conference” to have Lauren talk about her experience as a ref for an NAIA championship tournament. Then came a surprise walking through the door. Lauren tried to keep her composure, but once Blake came around the table, it was game over.

“What turned into a small, private surprise when the NAIA and y’all heard about it, kind of what we had going on, it just kept developing and developing,” said Blake. “And the funniest thing was that then everyone was in on it and everybody knew except her.”

“And that’s usually the complete opposite,” added Lauren. “I can sniff out a secret like anybody.”

Despite her ability both to spoil surprises, and even throw a few.

“She’s usually always the one getting me,” said Blake. “And really good at surprises, because I can be pretty oblivious.”

Lauren was caught completely off guard.

“I had absolutely zero idea,” she said. “I’m like, he’s in Kansas City living his best life.”

A perfect way to celebrate both Lauren’s birthday, and the craziest time of the year in college basketball.

“This is my one shining moment for March Madness,” said Blake.

So far, during their times reffing the NAIA tournaments, the Thomas’ have gotten to see our Siouxland teams on the hardwood. Blake officiated the Morningside men’s game in Kansas City, and Lauren called the Briar Cliff women’s game right here at the Tyson.