ROTTERDAM — Payton Graber will have to wait at least one more game to break the Schalmont girls’ basketball scoring record.
That’s OK by her, though, because the Sabres picked up another win Thursday, topping Catholic Central 46-30.
The junior scored 18 points to move within five of Kelly Paulino’s school-record career scoring mark of 1,346. Never throughout the night, though, did she move her focus off achieving team success.
“I don’t think I’m rushing it. It’s going to come eventually,” Graber said. “I don’t need to force it to get my points.”
Instead, Graber focused on making sure her team won. After dropping 27 points in the teams’ first meeting of the season last week, Graber was a focus of the Crusaders’ on defense, and she responded to that attention by creating open looks for others. She also was crucial to Schalmont’s rebounding efforts with seven.
Schalmont head coach Jeff VanHoesen, who picked up his 100th career win in the triumph, said his standout guard’s all-around effort was the latest example of her basketball IQ and character.
“She’s a gym rat,” he said. “She just works so hard, and I’m excited for her to have the opportunity to [break the record]. But, at the same time, she wants to win games and I think it showed tonight.”
Playing hard on both ends of the floor was a challenge VanHoesen posed to his Schalmont (4-0) team entering its game against Catholic Central (2-2), a Colonial Council rival. After reviewing recent game film, the Schalmont coaches had noticed a need to increase hustle — and the Sabres responded right out of the gate.
Field goals were hard to come by in an aggressive first half filled with battles for loose balls and both teams pushing the ball in transition. However, the hosts were constantly back on defense, preventing open looks for Catholic Central.
Juniors Haley Burchhardt and Siena Hallberg set the tone, combining for six of the team’s nine first-half steals, which the Sabres turned into 12 points.
“I was really, really happy,” VanHoesen said. “I just said to Siena in the locker room that I think that’s the best she’s played so far on the varsity level.”
Catholic Central head coach Audra DiBacco was also pleased with her team defensively. After giving up 20 points in the first quarter alone seven days earlier, the Crusaders held the Sabres to 24 in the entire first half.
“We did a really good job of defending and playing hard,” DiBacco said. “We’re a team that doesn’t have a true post player, but we play post by committee. We tried to dig in and be tough.”
Graber only had six points in the first half. In the third quarter, though, Graber got going, scoring nine of her team’s 15 points, but the Crusaders made her earn every point. The usually dominant shooter spent the second half driving the lane, drawing contact, and getting to the line where she made 5 of 7.
“We didn’t want somebody to [set a record] against us,” DiBacco said. “Last year, we had people score their 1,000th point against us, and we wanted to take pride in [saying], ‘Not tonight. She’s going to do it against somebody else.’”
Schalmont freshman Karissa Antoine also felt the pressure of the visitors’ defense down low, but had her way with them on the boards finishing with 18 rebounds, to go along with four blocks and 12 points.
“I think that was their game plan,” Antoine said. “Just to be aggressive toward me, and not let me get the ball. I just had to work my hardest and fight back.”
Rebounding was the difference down the stretch. The Sabres outrebounded the Crusaders 21-11 in the second half, including 11 rebounds from Antoine alone.
VanHoesen said this season is about building for next year since the abbreviated season includes no Section II or state playoffs. He said Thursday’s performance showed his squad is a true team, even if Saturday’s game against Ichabod Crane is likely to include his team’s top star setting a program record.
In Schalmont’s next game, her focus will stay on what’s most important to her.
“No matter what,” Graber said, “it’s a team game.”
Catholic Central 8 5 13 4 — 30
Schalmont 13 11 15 7 — 46
Catholic Central scoring: Boucher 1-1-3, Finn 0-2-2, Giuliano 3-2-8, B. Graber 3-3-9, Mattfeld 2-1-6, McGowan 1-0-2. Schalmont scoring: Antoine 4-4-12, Burchhardt 4-3-11, P. Graber 6-5-18, Hallberg 2-0-5. Scoring totals: Catholic Central 10-9-30, Schalmont 16-12-46.