NEW YORK — Bonita Spence, a longtime women’s basketball official who worked two Final Four tournaments and refereed for 10 years in the WNBA, died on Sunday at 51.
Ms. Spence worked every NCAA women’s tournament since 2000, including the Final Four in 2001 and 2005. She officiated for 27 years, handling games in the Big East, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, and Southeastern Conference. Ms. Spence refereed in the WNBA from 1999 to 2009.
‘‘I had personally known Bonita since high school and had always admired her integrity and spirit,’’ Anucha Browne Sanders, the NCAA’s vice president for women’s basketball, said in a statement. ‘‘Her longtime officiating career, numerous NCAA championships, and her mentoring of many young officials will help carry her legacy forward in the game.’’
Ms. Spence played at Monmouth and was the point guard on the school’s first Division I team in 1982. She set the school’s assist record that season, a mark that was matched a year later and still stands.
‘‘Lost a good official,’’ Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma tweeted Monday night. ‘‘Lost an even better person.’’
Ms. Spence also worked as a principal investigator in the New Jersey office of the public defender in Newark for more than 20 years.