Denver Anderson and Mt. Zion head coach Steve Marvel pose with the game ball Anderson received after the game ball scoring her 1000th career point in a 51-36 win against Tolono-Unity.
By BLAKE FAITH
The Mt. Zion girls basketball team finished their week winning two of its three games, but also one of its members completed a milestone. Denver Anderson became the 13th player in the Mt. Zion girls basketball program to reach 1,000 career points.
Going into the week, Anderson was 56 points away from the milestone. Her and the Braves faced adversity as a game against Maroa-Forsyth was postponed, suffered a tough loss against Lincoln and then narrowly won against Mattoon on the road.
Tolono-Unity was 9-2 going into its game against the Braves and Anderson needed 20 points to reach the 1,000 point milestone.
The Braves focused on the game first using their inside post-players of Jocelyn Turner and Bracie Barnes to their advantage. Both of those two players scored on their first two possessions with Turner catching the ball in the paint and making the layup and Barnes nailing a mid-range jumper to give the Braves a 4-0 lead.
The Braves’ defense began to pressure the Rockets. Barnes and Anderson blocked two shots on the same possession and then Barnes found Anderson who buried the right-wing three-pointer. The Braves ended the first half ahead 24-12 with Anderson scoring only seven points.
Anderson knew in her head that it was going to be the day and willed herself to a quick start in the third quarter. Anderson got herself started scoring a layup off a pass from Maddie Kendall and then on the next possession got a pass from Turner.
Anderson used a spin-move to create space and make the finish to give the Braves a 30-16 lead.
“I knew that I didn’t want to wait till a later game to get it,” Anderson said. “I knew if I thought about it too much, I’d be worrying about it too much during the game. I was just kind of getting into the focus of the game and trying not to think about it too much. But, then when it came down to it, I knew that I had to go, because I only had seven at the half, so I said, all right, I have to score 13. I’m not postponing this any later.”
Anderson after her 11th point asked for a quick breather. Within the minute, Anderson stepped back into the court, grabbed an offensive board and made the putback. With 2:30 left in the second quarter, the Rockets called a timeout with the Braves owning a 36-16 lead.
Anderson scored once again off an offensive putback and a couple possessions later after getting a pass from Turner and stepped into her shot and nailed the right-wing three pointer to give the Braves a 41-18 lead with 37.7 second left into the third quarter with Anderson two points away from the milestone.
The Braves continued to find Anderson and shortly into the fourth quarter Anderson finished the milestone. Anderson got the ball right in the middle of the paint and was double-teamed. Anderson took it to the middle of the paint and put up the highly contested shot as it went through the net.
“The thought running through my mind was mostly please go in,” Anderson said. “I was so nervous that the ball was going to roll out. It was a feeling of Thank God and I was so happy. It was the feeling of finally, and I was really excited. Now I don’t have to worry about it for the next few games.”
The game was paused as Anderson received a standing ovation from everyone in attendance, the game ball from the Rockets’ athletic director and a high-five and hug from Coach Marvel as she exited the game
“I wasn’t worried about her only having seven in the first half,” Head coach Steve Marvel said. “I knew we’d get her 20 if we had to. We don’t want to get away from what we’re doing, but we also want to make sure we’re getting a milestone like that taken care of and getting accomplished. She has really stepped up across the board this year on both ends of the court. So, I wanted to reward that and really, when we went to that new offense, our overload offense, it just really utilizes some of her strengths.
Even with the box-in-one they were doing, she still is able to get the ball inside and use her strength and athleticism to score inside and do some things.”
The Braves went on to win 51-36. The Braves improved to 8-5 overall and 3-2 in Apollo conference play. The Braves will compete in the ALAH holiday tournament where the Braves finished runner-ups last year and had two wins going into last year’s tournament. This year the Braves will face Shelbyville to start.
“I just think we’re way better than we were across the board in what we’re doing,” Coach Marvel said. “We understand things and I think what helps us the most is we have depth that we did not have last year. I can go 8-10 players deep and we’re ok. It also helps that I have the post players I have in Jocelyn Turner and Bracie Barnes with the fact that they can guard down-low and on the perimeter. That was a fear of mine coming into the season was can I play them together. They have proven to me that they have been able to do that. We have a good chance going in next week to win our pool and get to the championship game, but we’re going to have to keep our defensive intensity up and we’re going to have to stay healthy, make sure we avoid the sickness going around and hopefully it’ll avoids us and doesn’t hit us any harder than it has and we stay healthy from other standpoints with no injuries or anything like that.”