Senior Kelsey Kutch realized she had scored a ton of points since recording her first basket as a Lion on November 16, 2007 against Kings College, but she didn’t quite know exactly how many until a teammate pointed it out to her last Thursday.
Kutch was informed that she had recorded 986 points during her tenure at the College and that a performance of at least 14 points on Saturday, Jan. 21, against New Jersey City University would bring her to the 1,000-point plateau — a feat that Kutch put away in the Lions’ 67-39 victory.
“It is all very surreal scoring my 1,000th point in college,” Kutch said. “I think it’s an honor to be a part of a group of basketball players who are so talented.”
With 2:50 left in the game, Kutch, who was stuck on point 999, received a pass from sophomore forward/center Liz West in the paint and shot herself into a realm that only 13 other Lions have ever reached.
“I am just humbled at how special my teammates and family made the accomplishment for me,” Kutch said. “The team was so genuinely happy for me that it made the milestone that much more special. There would be no other group of girls I would have wanted to experience this accomplishment with.”
Her teammates rallied around Kutch in celebration as if they had all scored their 1,000th point, according to senior point guard Katie Occhipinti.
“We were so excited to have Kelsey reach her milestone,” Occhipinti said. “Although it is an individual accomplishment, to us it felt like a team accomplishment.”
Kutch led the Lions with a season-high 15 points and also recorded seven assists, while West also played a major role in the Lions’ win with 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
The Lions recorded another conference win earlier in the week on Wednesday, Jan. 18, against Rutgers-University-Camden. The Lions came out on top 56-48 in a game that saw some impressive defensive efforts.
“Defense is our bread and butter,” Kutch said. “Our defense has been instrumental this year for our success because when our offense isn’t running the way we would like it to run, our defense picks us up and we end up winning tight games.”
Occhipinti credits the coaching staff and their preparation for the Lions’ ability to settle down and play strong defense in tight games.
“Our coaching staff has done a really great job of knowing which style of defense will be the most effective against which team,” said Occhipinti, who had four steals in the win. “In practice we spend a considerable amount of time making sure that we have the X’s and O’s of the defense down, that way during the game we don’t have to think about it, we just have to work our butts off.”
Junior center/forward Candice Vigo was instrumental for the Lions’ defensive effort, coming off the bench to register eight rebounds, four blocks and a steal. Vigo also added to the offensive effort by scoring 10 points.
Senior guard Jessica Imhof was also effective on both sides of the ball as she racked up 11 points, five rebounds, three steals and a block.
Fellow senior Hannah Tait led the Lions with 12 points, making a couple of three-point attempts. Occhipinti played her part as the Lions main facilitator during the night, dishing out six assists.
“Having a team full of solid shooters makes my job easy,” Occhipinti said. “I just try to find who is hot and get them the ball. We have a great team mentality, do whatever it takes to win. Every player knows their role and my role is to help control the tempo and to set my teammates up to be successful.”
After the two conference wins, the Lions are now in sole possession of second place in the South Division of the New Jersey Athletic Conference. However, the Lions have no intentions stopping there, according to Occhipinti.
“Our goal is to win the conference and it starts by winning one game at a time,” Occhipinti said. “We are hoping that the last few wins will give us the momentum we need going into the next few weeks.”
The Lions will be back on the court against NJAC competition this weekend when the Montclair State University comes to the College on Saturday, Jan. 28.