LA CENTER — Moments after the opening tip, Taylor Stephens caught the first pass of the game, faced the basket as if to square up and shoot, then passed to a teammate.
She chose not to take an ill-advised shot. But on Thursday night at La Center High School, it was her night to score.
And score she did.
Stephens notched 21 points to help the Wildcats to a 60-21 win over Columbia-White Salmon, and surpassed 1,000 career points, becoming the 19th player in school history — and only the third junior— to do so.
Stephens is the second player this season to reach the 1,000-point mark for La Center. Senior Taylor Mills hit the milestone exactly one month earlier on Dec. 11.
Stephens, a 6-foot-1 guard, needed 11 points to join the 1,000-point club. And she was glad she didn’t hit the milestone on the team’s game at Castle Rock on Tuesday, even though it was her birthday.
“I was glad that it was tonight,” she said. “Our boys team was here, all our fans were at home. I wanted to do it in front of my family and friends.”
On Thursday she quickly scored 10 points — including two 3-pointers. With five seconds left in the first quarter, she cut to the basket, caught a pass, finished an open layup and hit the milestone.
La Center coach Herm VanWeerdhuizen called timeout, and Stephens jogged into the huddle to round of applause, was embraced by teammates and handed a token of accomplishment, a ball with her name on it to be placed in the La Center trophy case after the season with her point total.
Stephens then ran over to a bleacher filled with roaring parents, handed her father, Seth Stephens, the ball, and gave her mom and dad a hug. Even one of the officials gave her a high-five.
“She’s done a lot of good things for us,” VanWeerdhuizen said. “As far as 1,000 points as a junior in high school, I can’t take that away from her. That’s an awesome deal, can’t take that away from her. She’s done a great job.”
Her father, Seth Stephens, played for La Center in high school, but didn’t hit the 1,000-point mark (He did, however, win a state championship under VanWeerdhuizen).
But it was him, along with her sister and mom, who brought large balloons spelling out “1,000” for her after the game.
“(My parents) put all the time into me, all over the summer traveling everywhere,” Taylor Stephens said. “They put in the time and money for me to play, so all this time, work and effort, I’m saying ‘here you go, I’m just trying to give it back to you.’ He was crying. They were both crying. That felt good, I’m paying them back.”
As early as her freshman year, Stephens had pinpointed all of her dad’s record she wished to beat.
“Third game of her freshman year she had 25 (points), and my highest was 19,” Seth Stephens said.” She beat every record I did. … the only thing I’ve got to hold above her now is a state championship. … Everything you do, multiply it by 100 when you see your kid do it And to see her wearing the same jersey (number), it’s cool. It’s a neat moment.”
Mills also scored 21 points in Thursday’s win.
“I know how much people are really into basketball at La Center, and how they all want us to do good,” Mills said. “Seeing Taylor get her 1,000-point ball, I know it’s a good feeling.”
La Center jumped ahead of Columbia-White Salmon early, led by 20 points after one quarter and pushed the lead to 28 by halftime. The Wildcats effectively pressed the Bruins for the majority of the first half, and forced turnovers as a byproduct.
The Wildcats (12-1, 4-0 1A Trico) play at Kalama in a non-league game on Saturday. Columbia-White Salmon drops to 1-3 in league. Its next game is Tuesday at Stevenson.
LA CENTER , COLUMBIA-WHITE SALMON 21
WHITE SALMON – Angelie Sampson 0, Gracie Vaughan 0, Yazmin Nunez-Cordoba 2, Carlee Trullinger 2, Bailey Gimlin 0, Tate Panki 0, Samantha Tardiff 8, Natalie Humphrey 2, Heidi Pulido 2, Kathirin Hylton 3, Isobel Bradbury 2. 10 (0) 1-6 21.
LA CENTER – Sierra Frasier 0, Alyssa McKnight 0, Whitley Seter 5, Molly Edwards 5, Natasha Lewis 2, Bethany Whitten 5, Taylor Mills 21, Mia Edwards 1, Taylor Stephens 21. 15 (5) 15-21 60.
White Salmon 2 11 6 2 – 21
La Center 22 19 18 1 – 60