A historic Devil: Drury's DiGennaro scores 1,000th career point, helps team book Western Mass. tournament spot
NORTH ADAMS — Brooke DiGennaro started her Friday morning with a buttered English muffin and a glass of milk.
She ate her breakfast on a silent car ride to school with the windows down in 28-degree weather because she wasn't feeling at her best, and also felt the pressure of how important the day was.
"When I started playing varsity for Drury in eighth grade my coach stopped me during practice," DiGennaro said. "He told me to look up at that banner. He said someday you'll be up there with them."
The Banner displayed the list of 1,000 point scores to walk Drury High School, and in the third quarter of Drury's 62-40 win over Pioneer Valley, her coach's premonition came true.
DiGennaro was fouled on a 3-point shot and knocked down all-three, but it was the second shot that granted her entrance to the 1,000 point club.
"Drury basketball means a lot to me," DiGennaro said. "I've been playing for 15 years and this means so much to me. I want to say thank you to my family because I would have never reached this milestone without them."
While DiGennaro has an 'I' in her name, there is no 'I' in team. She entered the night needing 15 points to reach the milestone, however, her focus on Friday's game was helping her team secure their 10th win of the season, which granted the Blue Devils a spot in the Western Mass. tournament.
After scoring her first basket in transition early in the first, DiGennaro focused on scanning the court to find open teammates. The selflessness lead to three assists, however Drury trailed 11-8 early half way through the first quarter.
Drury, known for its suffocating defense, halted Pioneer's attempt to bring the ball up the court and as a result, the Blue Devils, specifically DiGennaro, were off to the races.
She would score four quick points for Drury, giving her team a 12-11 lead.
The quarter may have ended at a 16-16 tie, but the Blue Devils would not trail for the remaining 24 minutes of play.
"I wasn't feeling well today but I had to push through for my team," DiGennaro said. "If we want to get to the tournament we have to do it as a team."
Olivia Row and Paige Loughman engineered offense all the offense for the Panthers in the first period by combing all 16 points. Rowe finished with a team-high 17 points and 20 rebounds and Loughman added another 15 for Pioneer Valley.
The second quarter was a much different story.
The Drury defense shut down any rhythm the Panthers found in the first quarter, holding them scoreless for the first six minutes of the second quarter.
"The one thing I stress before every game is that no matter what the outcome is I want people to say that we gave max effort," Drury coach Ian Downey said. "After the first quarter we talked about setting the tone in the second quarter. When we get our press going and girls diving on the floor we are a completely different team."
The effort paid off in the form of a 13-0 run to start the second quarter for the Blue Devils. Kayla McGrath, who ended the night with 14, drained two 3-balls in the quarter and Alison Felix canned another to help Drury to a 31-21 lead.
DiGennaro started the second half with 10 points to lead Drury, but knocked down a 3-pointer of her own to start the third quarter, extending the Blue Devil lead to 34-23.
She was scoring from beyond the arc and from inside the paint and sat just two points from 1,000.
For someone who loves to run the fast break and find open looks, DiGennaro, who ended the night with a game-high 22 points, was forced out of her comfort zone for her final two points.
Midway through the third she was fouled on a three and was sent to the line. Instead of her usual fast-paced mentality, time stopped — literally.
"Coming into the game I did not want to shoot from the foul line," DiGennaro said. "They are easy, free shots, but those are the ones where you are settled down and thinking about it."
The first one was as smooth as the butter on the English muffin she had that morning.
"I knocked down the first one," DiGennaro said. "If I hit this one it's my 1,000 point. When I saw it go up and in, I just broke down. That feeling of it's gone and over with is very relaxing for me."
After the dust cleared on the court from the celebration after DiGennaro made the second shot, the Drury girls continued their strong outing by taking a 46-32 lead at the end of the third to the finish line for a win over Pioneer.
Not only was the weight of the moment gone for Drury, but the team's goal of reaching the tournament had been accomplished.
"Today was a big day for us," Downey said. "We punched our ticket to Western Mass and Brooke hit 1,000. Hopefully that can alleviate some of the pressure we've been dealing with for the last couple of weeks. Once you punch that ticket it's validation for everything you've worked on this year. All the sprints we ran, all the time we spent going over plays, game-planning. All the hard work paid off."
Drury may start looking ahead to the tournament with three games to go in the season, but DiGennaro also sees this an opportunity to give Drury's talented young guns more opportunities on the big stage.
"My best advice is that sometimes we go against teams that [are full of players] that are [tall] and you need to go into that game thinking that you're better than them," DiGennaro said. "Going in with the confidence knowing that you can do it, if everyone has that attitude, you'll come out with a win every time. You have to be a team player. We have some really good talent in Kayla McGrath, Emily Burdick, and Mackenzie Dobbert. Just some of the good players coming up."
PIONEER VALLEY (40)
Tibbets 0-0-0, Loughman 6-1-15, Scoville 1-0-2, Rowe 8-1-17, Faille 1-0-2, Briggs 0-0-0, Flagg 0-0-0, Kahler 0-0-0, Johnson 0-1-1, Cecunjanin 1-1-3. Totals 17-4-40.
DiGennaro 9-3-22, Shook 2-2-10, Felix 1-0-3, Burdick 0-0-0, McGrath 5-2-14, Cellana 0-0-0, Thomas 2-0-4, Zoito 1-0-2, Boothe 0-0-0, Dobbert 1-0-2, Dix 2-1-5. Totals 25-6-62.
Pioneer Valley 16 5 11 8 — 49
Drury 16 15 15 16 — 62
3-point goals — PV 2 (Loughman 2), D 6 (Shook 2, McGrath 2, Felix, DiGennaro).
Jake Mendel can be reached at email@example.com, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
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