by ANDREW GARDA
Montclair Kimberley Academy junior Kerri McGuire scored a team-high 15 points in the Cougar girls basketball team’s 42-33 loss to Montclair Thursday night, but none of those points were bigger than a layup early in the fourth quarter.
Not only did it pull her squad within three points of the leading Mounties, but it also marked McGuire’s 1,000th career point.
MKA coach Jess Bishop immediately called a time out so that both the Cougars and the home-team Mounties could take a moment to mark the occasion. For Bishop, it was also an opportunity to appreciate not just McGuire’s mark but the team’s ability to rally around each other.
“It’s really something that I think is a huge milestone for her,” she said. “And it’s always nice for me to see kids surround a kid like that and support their teammates.”
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McGuire is the fourth player coached by Bishopo reach the 1,000-point milestone, and the coach said it is a testament to how hard the junior has worked to reach that level of play.
Bishop didn’t know where or how McGuire would score her benchmark basket, but knew it was only a matter of time.
“She’s a great driver to the basket, so her driving to the basket and getting that shot there, that was no surprise.”
For McGuire, she felt the moment was about more than just herself.
“It’s a testament to how much effort I put in for the last three years of basketball,” McGuire said. “But it’s not only a reflection of myself, but my teammates as well. I couldn’t have done it without them and their support, constantly encouraging me to push myself harder, to get better and score that many points.”
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Despite reaching the 1,000-point milestone, McGuire wasn’t satisfied, pointing out that the team really wanted the win above all else.
“Points are just points. They’re just a number and the most important goal, and my focus has always been, on the team’s win.”
For Bishop, that’s exactly what she expects from her players.
“We’re the type of team where the focus is on winning the game, and we really wanted it tonight. We came down here a couple of weeks ago and we got beat by about 20 points. So I know the kids came in today really wanting to get another crack at Montclair, really wanting to win and we saw a much better, cohesive effort today.”
For McGuire, it’s all part of a larger journey and she’s aiming for bigger things for her team – a title.
“I want this for the team and I want this for the girls,” she said. “Because I might have been the one who scored 1,000 points, but this is a team sport. Everyone is putting in just as much effort, so it’d be nice to capture a prep championship or even just go far in the states.”
That next step begins on Wednesday, March 1, with a first-round NJSIAA North Jersey, Non-Public B tournament game against Montclair Immaculate at Mount St. Dominic in Caldwell.