CLINTON >> Morgan girls basketball coach Caitlin Woods did everything she could to try and slow down East Hampton senior Gyanna Russell. Woods even resorted to a rare box-and-one defense.
But Russell made sure this was going to be a special night.
“She’s great,” Woods said. “She’s the best all-around player we’ve seen this year.”
Russell poured in a game-high 30 points to lead the Bellringers to a 51-44 Shoreline Conference victory Tuesday night in Clinton.
Russell was at her best down the stretch for the undefeated Bellringers, who were clinging to a two-point lead with a little less than four minutes left in regulation.
But it was early in the third quarter when Russell made East Hampton basketball history. Russell joined the Bellringers prestigious 1000 point club with a pair of free throws early in the third quarter. The game stopped and Russell was mobbed by her teammates while the East Hampton faithful who made the trip to Clinton gave her a resounding standing ovation.
“It was a wonderful night for Gyanna,” East Hampton coach Shaun Russell said. “No relation but she’s like a daughter to me. She’s had a great year all year. The way she’s been playing and scoring I thought tonight was a possibility. I’m so happy for her. I’m sure (scoring her 1000th point) was weighing on her a little bit.”
Russell needed 15 points to become the 14th player in Bellringers history to reach the 1000 point milestone. After scoring 13 points in the first half to give East Hampton a slim 24-23 lead at the break, Russell swished a pair of free throws to give East Hampton a 26-23 lead with 6:08 to go in the third.
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“It was nice,” Gyanna Russell said. “It was a relief, I guess too. It’s all fun.”
Russell seemed to relax after that and began to dazzle the crowd with her entire repertoire. She drained a buzzer-beating three pointer to give East Hampton a 36-31 cushion after three quarters.
“I think I started playing the way I usually play,” Russell said.
Morgan, however, kept things close behind Sydney Chomicz (18 points) and Shannon Maher (10 points).
Leading 39-37 with 3:41 left, Russell came up with a huge putback then was fouled on a terrific drive. She made both free throws for a 43-37 lead.
“She’s been doing a great job on the boards,” Shaun Russell said. “She’s also been doing a great job sharing the ball. She’s making her free throws and letting the game come to her. Tremendous job by her tonight.”
Russell, who made 13 of 15 free throws, sealed things with another driving layup and a nifty scoop shot in the lane to stretch East Hampton’s lead to 49-42 with 42 seconds remaining.
Jenna DeMartino buried five 3-pointers to finish with 15 points for East Hampton (7-0).
“We lost so many seniors I don’t think a lot of teams thought we were going to be this good,” Gyanna Russell said. “I’m really happy with the way the underclassmen have stepped up.”
Russell joins Kenneth Lutton (1954), Richard Hallberg (1971), Eugene Rossi (1974), Holly Brown (1979), Lisa Abbott (1991), Brian Dominksi (1991), Brian Krepcio (1997), Holly Neiweem (1998), Tracy Wolf (2002), Allyson Smith (2004), Brooke Pitcher (2008), Kelsey Booth (2011), and Matt Vasquenza (2014) in East Hampton’s 1000 point club.
Lutton is the all-time leading scorer with 1,536 points, while Smith is the top girls’ scorer with 1,444.