At my high school (and I’m assuming at many others), there were no banners hanging in the gym for 100-goal scorers. Nor was there one for most strikeouts or home runs. There wasn’t even one for most touchdowns or total yards.
But there were some select names that hung beside all of the championship banners (I’m exaggerating for effect…trust me, there weren’t too many championships to celebrate).
The 1,000-point club.
This week, there have already been three new additions to the millennial club in the area: Paris Wilkey at Classical, Valentina Pepic at Revere and Olivia Nazaire at St. Mary’s. On the same night Nazaire notched her milestone, Spartans alum Sharell Sanders scored her 1,000th point at Caldwell University in New Jersey. There’s another one on the horizon, as Winthrop’s Devin Pulsifer looks to join the club tonight. Pulsifer needs 10 points to crack the milestone and the Vikings host Danvers tonight at 7.
The 1,000-point is a milestone that’s unlike any other in high school. There are more impressive feats, certainly rarer occurrences, but few individual performances are recognized with the same celebration.
Prior to Tuesday, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 1,000th point scored in person. By the end of the week I probably will have seen three and written about two more. But back when I wasn’t a bona fide expert on the subject, my colleague asked me what happens when the point is scored. Do they stop and celebrate right then and there? Do they hold a ceremony at the end of the game?
Probably at the end of the game, I replied. I wasn’t sure, but I now know I was wrong!
The energy at Classical Tuesday night was electric. It helped that Wilkey was only five points away from the big bucket, and everyone knew that unless Beverly had signed Avery Bradley to guard her, she’d probably hit her target.
The bleachers were filled, and as Wilkey approached the free throw line needing two points for the big one, the student section stood with phones out and recording, ready to celebrate. She sunk both the shots, which is fitting, since strong free throw shooting is part of what makes Wilkey such a reliable scorer. Teammates and fans mobbed the Rams senior at center court.
I don’t remember being at many (or possibly, any) other games where the action just comes to a dead stop, in this case in the middle of the second quarter, for a celebration. The jarring interruption in the briskly-paced back-and-forth game makes for a great moment. You could not speak the language or know a thing about basketball, but you’d still know that something rare and difficult to do was accomplished.
It was similar for Nazaire Wednesday; after she put back her own rebound in another fitting way to notch the milestone, it was a good few minutes before the revelry died down.
And then there’s the banner. Your name goes up in the gym that you practiced in, played in, spent countless hours in throughout four years of school. You’ve given blood, sweat and tears (mostly sweat, though) on that court. And now your name will be there for every gym class and pep rally and game for years to come. You leave a small physical lasting legacy behind. Being in the record books is great. But having that record book hanging where everyone can see it? Well that’s even better.
Hitting that target takes a lot of luck on your side. Nazaire, Pepic and Wilkey were all fortunate to have stayed healthy enough to reach that goal and to be part of programs with coaches that fostered that success. I was reminded of that fact Wednesday, as Nazaire got her 1,000th point during a win over Cardinal Spellman. The Cardinals had their own star going for the big number, center Caroline Stover. But Stover broke her wrist in a game earlier this week, and so she’ll finish her high school career within shouting distance of 1,000. While many may have the talent to accomplish the feat, it also takes luck, opportunities, dedication and hard work to make it happen.
And on a personal note, it’s pretty cool to start off the new year with three female high school athletes being the biggest local sports story. We all know it’s a fact that sometimes, girls sports can get overshadowed. There are almost always bigger crowds for boys basketball games than girls games at every school. The boys games are generally higher-scoring and more uptempo with dunks and plays you just don’t see in girls games. And that’s fine. But this week, it’s the girls’ time to shine, and they are putting on a show.