Mount Everett basketball's Gwendolyn Carpenter sets Eagles school scoring record
DALTON — More than anything, what tells the story of Gwendolyn Carpenter and her basketball exploits at Mount Everett isn't the made field goals or sunk free throws, nor the countless assists or steals that she's recorded. It's the impact she's had on people off the court, that make them remember what she did on it.
In the buildup to Thursday night's 52-36 loss at Wahconah, former Mount Everett standout Jen Bennett was in the building to see if Carpenter could break her school scoring mark. Carpenter needed just 12 points entering the night — well below her typical average — so a reporter asked Bennett the hypotheticals on Carpenter reaching the scoring mark.
Bennett didn't mince her words — she was ecstatic to be in the building for a memorable night for a memorable baller.
"It couldn't be a nicer kid," Bennett said. "The family is great, she's polite, she's well-mannered, she's respectful on and off the court, and honestly, it's an honor to have her break the record."
That record fell with 5 minutes, 19 seconds remaining in the game.
With her team trailing 44-31, Carpenter drove through the lane like she has done countless times before. And like many of those previous drives, the play ended with her getting whacked for a foul. Carpenter stepped up to the line, but missed her first shot — what turned out to be the third straight miss she had from the charity stripe with the record on the line. But with the nerves potentially creeping in, Carpenter stepped up for the second shot. This time, there was no front-end to hit. Instead, it touched off the back iron and fell right through.
"It's pretty cool," Carpenter said of setting the scoring mark. "It's something that [coach Scott Rote's] kind of been talking about since the beginning of the season. We talked about, it would have been better to get a win tonight, so it kind of stinks in that regard, but it's a really cool honor — and it's a really cool thing to be a part of."
Carpenter entered the night needing 12 to break the scoring mark. She ended her night with 14, putting her at 1,791 for her career, passing the mark of 1,788 set by Bennett back in 2000 — almost a full year before Carpenter was born.
Bennett was there in the presentation for Carpenter's milestone. For Carpenter, seeing Bennett at the game made the memory that much more special.
"That was super cool. That was something that I don't think a lot of people get to experience," Carpenter said. "It's funny, I work at a daycare, and both of her kids go to the daycare. That's kind of the relationship we've had. But, she was there when I scored my 1,000th point, and she's kind of given me little tips, little words of wisdom, throughout the years. It was really cool to have her here, and to say that my name is with such a great player."
Carpenter received a gift from Bennett, flowers from her family, and Wahconah athletic director Jared Shannon presented Carpenter with the game ball on the night.
Carpenter is one of seven Eagles to have their names up on the 1,000-point chart. Rote has two biological children on that banner — Allison Rote (1,104 points) and Jordan Rote (1,157) — but said, in equal parts joking and seriously, that he has a third child up on the list now, occupying the top spot.
"I said to her all along, she's my third daughter that I've never had," Rote said. "I joke with her, I said when her name goes up on the banner next year and she comes home from college break in the winter, when we pull the banner down it's going to say 'Gwendolyn Carpenter-Rote', I'm putting Rote on the end of that because you've been my daughter for the last six years."
That relationship between player and coach has helped Carpenter get to where she is. Carpenter affectionately calls her coach "Scott," and said that he and the teammates Carpenter has played with have gotten her here.
"It's a result of everyone around me," Carpenter said. "I've played with so many great teammates, and Scott and I have been together for six years now, and we really know how to work together. It's really cool to be a part of."
Carpenter said that she didn't really think about setting the school scoring mark until this year, when Rote started mentioning it to her. That, of course, is par for the course when it comes to Carpenter. As Wahconah coach Liz Kay joked after, Carpenter might have been more upset that her team lost, than happy that she broke such an impressive milestone.
"I just was like please enjoy this moment a little bit, because it's pretty remarkable," said Kay, who has gotten to know Carpenter through Carpenter's relationship with one of Kay's advisees at Williston Northampton School, former Monument Mountain standout Sarah Sullivan. "I've never heard a bad word about her. She has a bright future ahead of her, not only as a player but as a person."
And while Carpenter never looked at the milestone as something to accomplish, Rote said he knew that Carpenter would break the mark, back when Carpenter was still in elementary school.
Carpenter first started coming around the program as a fifth grader. Back then, Rote saw a "gym rat" running around his court, ready to start playing. Then, in sixth grade, Rote used Carpenter in a shooting drill to help fill out numbers on a thin team. And while the opportunity was essentially a coach throwing a soon-to-be-player into the deep end, Rote's hunch paid off — Carpenter won the shooting drill three straight times.
"I said we had something special coming here, and we knew that she'd have a chance to break a lot of records," Rote said.
Carpenter joked about the record-setting point coming at the charity stripe. Carpenter has made her living at the line throughout her career, but her legs were getting tired from the long game she was playing in. She did note, though, that exhaustion — and not anticipation — kept her first three freebies from going down.
"It's those darn free throws!" Carpenter said. "I wasn't really that nervous going into the game. To me, it was just another basketball game. I couldn't get those free throws to fall, I think I was a little short on all three of them, so I think my legs were a little tired. When that fourth one went in, it was kind of a relief."
It will also be a relief to Carpenter and her teammates, because now they can focus on what is most important to their senior captain — winning basketball games.
"Definitely, it's not looming over," Carpenter said. "Now we can just focus on playing basketball."
That is something that Rote agreed with, after he put just a little more praise on his star player.
"Gwen is just special, there isn't much you can say about a kid who sees the floor so well. She puts her heart and soul into every game. ... She's just trying to make the people around her better players, too. She could care less about the [record]. She was like 'I'm happy it's over, so the team isn't distracted anymore. Let's go out and win, let's go and run the south now.'
"We have to run the south at this point. Like I said, we have a very good chance to make the tournament, but I don't want to make the tournament backing in — we want to make the tournament proving that we belong there."
Of course, Rote glossed over the fact that if Mount Everett can make a deep run, there is another personal milestone at stake for Carpenter — 2,000 career points, and a shot at the seemingly untouchable Berkshire County scoring record of Lenox's Sam Herrick at 2,055 points.
Carpenter, though, wouldn't bite at the prospect of reaching the milestone.
"It's kind of one of those things, if it happens, it happens," Carpenter said. "I'd like to get some more wins, that's what's forefront right now. I really would like to get to the tournament and have the run we've been able to have over the last couple of years."
If the Eagles can, though, reporters and photographers "are going to be taking some more pictures and giving her another basketball somewhere," Rote said.
Geoff Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @GSmith_Eagle on Twitter and 413-496-6254.
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