High School Sports

Girls basketball: Ward hits milestone in Bald Eagle Area victory

The shot was silky smooth, tickling the bottom of the net like the thousands she had shot before Saturday in practices and games, on hardwood courts and driveways.

This one, however, was a little more special than the others.

This one came with a milestone, leaving her in select company in school history.

Marissa Ward scored 17 points, including the 1,000th point of her career, as Bald Eagle Area cruised to a 44-31 girls’ basketball victory over Central Mountain.

“It’s really awesome,” Ward said after the game, with cake icing smeared on her cheeks courtesy of her teammates. “Looking back four years ago, I never would have thought I would get 1,000 points. It’s really cool.”

Ward is the fifth Lady Eagle to score 1,000 points, joining Erin Fisher, Karen Sayers, Marilee Spear and Rachel Ebeling, who was the last to reach the mark in 1996.

“It’s kind of special to me,” said coach Troy Butterworth, in his second season as head coach after previously leading the junior varsity. “I started with this group when I started coaching. This was the group, this was my seventh-grade class in junior high when I started coaching, and I kind of followed them up through. Even when she was in elementary I could see it because she was a really great basketball player.”

With the game quite one-sided — most of the starters left after the third quarter when the Lady Eagles held a 40-19 lead — Ward did not play much after she hit the shot. She added one more basket and has 1,004 for her career.

Kaitlyn Miller added eight points, 12 rebounds and four blocks and Mary Pillot also netted eight points to go with five rebounds.

Krista Heckman’s 16 points paced the Lady Wildcats (5-10).

Ward knew hitting the mark was a possibility before the season, but she didn’t know her exact numbers, and as the season rolled on she was oblivious to the total even as Butterworth and her teammates tracked every point. They made sure she got a lot of shots and points (28) on Wednesday in a win over Bellefonte, so the odds were better she would reach the milestone at home Saturday afternoon before the team hit the road twice next week.

“She is, not only on the court but off the court, a great kid and that’s special if you get both,” Butterworth said. “Sometimes you get a good player on the court, and off the court they’re not respectful, they don’t listen to you. Maybe when I’m not right in a play or something, she still tries to do what I ask her to do.”

She got her first clues she was really close to the big moment in the last few days, when fans began wishing her good luck and noting what a special day Saturday could be.

She had 10 points just before halftime — three points from the mark — when BEA got the ball with 6.2 seconds left and Butterworth called a timeout to set up a play for her.

“I thought, ‘Wow, if we can get it at halftime, we’ve got a couple more minutes and she can really celebrate a little bit,’” Butterworth said. “I said, Let’s get her the ball. Six seconds — shoot a three.’ I didn’t want her to do a layup. I told her, ‘Shoot a three.’ She just kind of looked at me.”

Even then, Ward didn’t know her team was trying to set her up for the big bucket. She got the ball on the wing, took a quick dribble to her left and got off a shot in time, but it bounced off the rim.

“I just chucked it up there,” said Ward, who has drawn interest from a number of Division II and III programs. “There were six seconds left, it was a 3-pointer and we were going to try to score before halftime, but that was it.”

After a midrange jumper got her to 999 early in the thir quarter, the Lady Eagles got to celebrate when Lexi Josefik dribbled to the foul line and fed the ball back to Ward on the right wing for a trey just over three minutes into the quarter for a 35-12 lead.

“I was trying to get her the ball, get her the ball, get her the ball,” Josefik said. “We just wanted her to score 1,000 points. It means so much to all of us. We’ve played together since we were in sixth grade.”

Josefik, who is drawing looks from college programs like each of the five senior starters, was glad to play her role in BEA history.

“It means so much,” Josefik said. “My team means the world to me. I’d do anything for them. I don’t care about points. It’s moreso passing the ball, getting rebounds, getting offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, passing the ball, steals, everything leads to more points for other people and helps us win. That’s important to me.”

Ward had not used the 3-pointer much in her previous three campaigns with the Lady Eagles — her 23 this season beats the 18 netted in her previous three seasons combined — but she has hit at least one in all but one game this season while averaging just over 20 points per game.

It has helped BEA get off to another strong start to the season, and they hope to keep the momentum rolling through the rest of the regular season and into the district playoffs.

“We haven’t buckled yet,” Ward said. “We keep winning and we’re rolling with it. We’re doing good as a team.”