AMSTERDAM — He didn’t know for sure.
He hadn’t been counting along the way.
But when so many people stood up in Amsterdam High School’s packed gymnasium and so many cell phones were raised up into the air as he prepared Tuesday to take a late-game free throw, Glens Falls junior Joseph Girard III figured he was at the magic number.
“I had a little hint,” Girard III said of the moment right before he swished a free throw to become New York’s new reigning career scoring king in high school boys’ basketball.
Then, he swished home another free throw to keep separating himself from former record holder Lance Stephenson and the 2,946 points he scored in his high school career from 2004-2009 at Brooklyn’s Abraham Lincoln.
In a 74-68 win for Glens Falls (12-2, 14-2) against Amsterdam (11-3, 12-4), Girard III scored 44 points in his record-breaking performance. Girard III needed 38 points to match Stephenson heading into the Foothills Council contest, and he scored that point with a free throw midway through the fourth quarter.
Girard III and Stephenson — now a member of the Indiana Pacers — stayed tied atop the scoring list for a couple minutes until Girard III sank his next couple free throws with 1:41 to go.
“Blocked it all out, focused like I do — just like I was at practice — and luckily I made them,” Girard III said.
Girard III’s 44 points matched a season-low total for the sensational junior, who headed into Tuesday’s showdown with Amsterdam averaging 50.1 points per game. The Running Rams defended Girard III well, but didn’t go outside of their normal game plan to try to keep Girard III from the record.
“We feel like we’re a comparable team to them,” said Amsterdam head coach Tim Jones, whose team received 30 points from sophomore Ozzy DeJesus. “We’re not going in to do any kind of gimmick, any kind of zone, that we don’t normally do. We’re preparing for sectionals.”
Girard III made 16 of 32 shots Tuesday. Glens Falls head coach Rob Girard said he didn’t worry about Girard III pressing as he approached the record.
“He takes it pretty good in stride,” Rob Girard said, “and he does what he does.”
New York’s all-time leading scorer in high school basketball is Caryn Schoff Kovatch, who scored 3,550 points playing girls’ basketball for St. Johnsville from 1989 to 1995.
Girard III set the Section II boys’ basketball scoring record earlier this month in a win against Schuylerville. The junior had 50 points on the night he passed the record of 2,682 Argyle’s Kobe Lufkin set last season.
Along the way this season, Girard III has moved past a couple of his personal icons. In his first game this season, Girard III passed dad Joe Girard Jr.’s mark of 2,179 points. A few weeks later, he broke Jimmer Fredette’s school record of 2,404 points.
Girard III broke the state record not far from where his high school career started. Then-head coach Tony Hammel took Girard III to the varsity level as an eighth-grader, and Girard III began his high school career in Fonda-Fultonville with 31 points and a game-winning 3.
The previous season, Rob Girard — now the varsity coach — had coached Girard III at the freshman level. Rob Girard remembered thinking Girard III could benefit from a year at the JV level, but Hammel was confident in the eighth-grader.
“I just thought at the time he was the best player we could have on the team,” Hammel said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon. “We had to bring him up and let him play.”
Hammel — who coached Fredette — said he expected big things from Girard III in his career.
But, no, he didn’t expect Girard III to break the state scoring record as a junior.
“I mean, c’mon. To be in this position, to be averaging 50 points per game, that shocks me. I didn’t think he could score that many points,” Hammel said. “I thought he’d go past Jimmer, but I never thought he’d be the leading scorer in the state.”
But, now, Girard III is that with his 2,952 points — with more than a season to go in his high school career. Despite all the points he’s compiled, Girard III said topping Stephenson’s record Tuesday night was not his top concern.
“My parents did a good job and my coaches did a good job, along with my teammates, of making sure that we didn’t really talk about it,” Girard III said.
Instead, Glens Falls’ focus stayed where Girard III likes it — on winning.
Continuing to do that is more important, he said, than any individual record.
“It’s great,” Girard III said of his historical feat, “but you know what makes it even better is winning.”
J. Girard 16-7-44, Balcom 1-0-2, Barclay 2-1-5, Q. Girard 1-2-4, T. Girard 6-0-13, Danahy 3-0-6. Totals: 29-10-74.
Brown 6-2-15, Colon 1-5-7, Fedullo 4-4-12, Brennan 2-0-4, DeJesus 13-3-30. Totals: 26-14-68.
Glens Falls 17 17 14 26 — 74
Amsterdam 11 19 11 27 — 68
Three-point goals: J. Girard 5, T. Girard, Brown, DeJesus.