Later in the month before a traditional trip to Giant Center for the District 3 championships, the referee for 38 years informed his friend and colleague, Gordon Kauffman, he felt ill. By March 31, Swartz died.
Kauffman, an area basketball official like Swartz, wanted his friend to be remembered. So, he set out to start a basketball showcase that could benefit the scholarship fund Swartz originated in honor of his deceased wife. That showcase will take place Saturday as the inaugural Donnie Swartz Memorial Classic at York College's Charles Wolf Gymnasium.
The boys' and girls' basketball doubleheader begins at 6 p.m., starting with the Eastern York and Central York girls. West York and York Suburban, Swartz's alma mater, will follow with the boys' game.
"I think the first year we wanted to keep everything in the league, but the goal is to get it to marquee matchups," said Kauffman, a co-chairman for the classic's committee. "We're going to be leery of who we chose. We want to be cognizant of sportsmanship with the games."
After all, proceeds from Saturday's event will benefit the Gretchen Wolf Swartz Scholarship Fund. Tickets will cost $5 for adults and $2 for students and children.
Swartz began the fund in 2001, and each year it has awarded scholarships to a boy and girl associated with YAIAA basketball programs. Last year, each scholarship was $3,500. They increase to $5,000 this year, and Kauffman said the goal is to increase the yearly number of scholarships given to four.
The process of awarding scholarships starts with the York County chapter of basketball officials, who monitor basketball programs from seventh grade through the varsity level. They select one boys' and girls' program. Anyone associated with those two teams, whether it's a player, cheerleader or team manager, can then apply for a scholarship.
Kauffman said all 24 past winners have been invited to attend Saturday's event. At least two have been confirmed to speak. Also planned is a tribute written by one of Swartz's long-time friends and the playing of the song "If You Can Only Imagine" while basketball officials circle the court.
Both games already were scheduled to take place before the classic. York Suburban, for example, loses a home game for the event -- but Trojans coach Dustin Boeckel does not seem to mind.
"Just from an environment perspective, playing at York College, I know they're looking forward to playing on a bigger stage," he said. "There should be a good crowd with a pretty good girls' game before us."
Trojans break through? Speaking of Swartz's alma mater, York Suburban, the Trojans' big week started as positive as Boeckel could have hoped. With his team slumping to a 3-6 start and facing a must-win game Tuesday at Eastern York, the Trojans rallied for a 72-69 overtime win.
The win not only moved an inexperience squad with a first-year coach into second place in Division III but also came with Suburban overcoming one of its bugaboos: sluggish starts.
Tuesday was no different. Suburban trailed by eight and used a momentum-grabbing third quarter, plus two late 3s from P.J. McClain, to force overtime. The question is, can this young team -- which returned one starter in Evan Eberhardinger from a 23-win team -- keep building?
"I definitely think our team has potential to be a good team," Boeckel said. "We preach in practice, 'Why not us?'"
A telling night: Friday could prove to be the most important night of the season in YAIAA play for girls' basketball. Not only does York Catholic (8-1, 4-0 Division IV) play host to Delone Catholic (10-2, 5-0), but all four divisions have key games.
Red Lion (8-1, 5-1) visits West York (9-1, 4-1) in Division I, Bermudian Springs (5-4, 3-1) is at Eastern York (7-3, 3-2) in Division III, and Susquehannock (9-2, 4-1) challenges undefeated Dover in Division II.
Past Gretchen Wolf Swartz Scholarship Winners
2012: Karli McFatridge, York Catholic | Dylan Keller, York Suburban
2011: Shayla Lupian, Biglerville | Bree Wallen, Bermudian Springs (cheerleader)
2010: Meghan Mahon, Spring Grove | Jordan Epler, Bermudian Springs
2009: Kara Snyder, Spring Grove | Allison Bobb, Biglerville
2008: Chelsea Homes, Susquehannock | Dashaun Davis, William Penn
2007: Samantha Crowder, Biglerville | Matthew Warner, Bermudian Springs
2006: Katy Isennock, Susquehannock | Ben Lerew, Bermudian Springs
2005: Kaitlin Brody, Susquehannock | Ryan Lehr, Bermudian Springs
2004: Sadie Mummert, Littlestown | Greg Vojcsik, Susquehannock
2003: Lauren Beck, Susquehannock | Patrick Lannon, Susquehannock
2002: Andrea Fry, Littlestown | Matt Riddle, Susquehannock
2001: Audrey Bare, Susquehannock | Andrew Kern, South Western