In the last regular-season girls basketball game played at Seton Keough High School, Gator senior Kayla Bacon scored her 1,000th career point in the Gators’ 61-45 win over St. Vincent Pallotti (9-10).
Bacon, who will play at Drexel University next season, made a layup with 5:19 left in the third quarter to pull the Gators within one, 32-31.
The basket triggered a 20-2 run for the Gators (11-9), who celebrated senior night before the game.
Senior Sydney Mitchell led Seton Keough with 17 points. Bacon scored 13 and now has 1,003 career points.
Yasmin Lewis (12 points), Brittani Smith (4), Camryn Shaw (4), Jaya Green (2) and Kaila Jennings (2) also scored for the senior class.
Tahlia Stangerin (13), Musha Alhassan (13) and Jay Griffin (10) led Pallotti.
Although Bacon didn’t break the 1,000-point barrier until the third quarter, the senior was emotional before the game while watching Jennings score her two points.
Jennings, the Gators’ point guard who will play at West Virginia State next year, injured her knee two weeks earlier and was unable to play.
But, she was allowed to start the game and score an uncontested layup after Alhassan made a free basket for Pallotti.
“We definitely wanted everyone to be able to play tonight and since Kaila Jennings is hurt, we talked amongst ourselves and we came up [with the idea] as a team, that, if it would be okay with the other team, we would let her score because it was her last game,” Bacon said. “She went out in a tough game. She was playing really hard and the fact that she had to go out in her senior year was just really sad, so we did what we could for her.”
Jennings’ two points started a 14-2 Seton Keough run in the first quarter that included seven points from Bacon.
Mitchell scored six in the first quarter, including a three-pointer she banked in at the buzzer and the Gators held an 18-7 lead.
Pallotti clawed back in the second quarter with Alhassan scoring nine points and Stangerin adding six.
Stangerin’s basket with 1:05 left in the first half gave the Panthers a 27-26 lead, but Smith’s follow shot with eight seconds left put the Gators up one, 28-27, at intermission.
Three free throws by Jania Hall and a basket by Griffin gave Pallotti a 32-29 lead before Bacon made her historic 1,000th point.
The game was stopped and she was given a game ball commemorating the feat.
“I was a little nervous, but my team definitely encouraged me,” Bacon said. “We were definitely working together and it wasn’t like I was reaching 1,000, it was like our team was reaching 1,000 so it was a team effort.”
After her basket, the Gator defense forced several turnovers and sparked the 20-2 run.
“We came out of halftime and coach said we needed to press the ball because they were beating us in the paint because they were bigger than us,” Bacon said. “Coach said if we could press the ball and guard the three-point line it would be harder to make passes down low so that’s what we started to do.”
Yasmin Lewis made a basket to put the Gators up 33-32 and Bacon assisted Green and the Gators led 35-32.
Two free throws by Lindsay Thweatt cut the lead to 35-34, but that was the closest the Panthers would get the rest of the night.
“That’s been our problem all season, being able to put four quarters together,” Pallotti coach Russell Davis said. “We are a young team and we need to gain experience and be able to play through fouls and play through adversity and things of that nature.”
The 6-foot 4-inch Alhassan is a senior, but there is only one junior, five freshmen and one sophomore in the backcourt.
“We have a lot of freshmen guards so it’s kind of hard, but they are going to be fine,” Alhassan said. “We weren’t mentally ready to finish it off.”
Davis hopes they can develop that by playoff time.
“As a coach you want us to hold on and be able to fight through that and sustain anything that we can do,” Davis said.
Bacon hopes the Gators can learn from losing two big leads.
“It definitely gives us a lot to work on,” she said. “We have to work on closing teams out when we are up and making sure we are not slacking off. Teams come back and it can sometimes bite us in the butt, but we pulled through today.”
Seton Keough coach Stephanie Gilmore is also looking for the right combinations without Jennings at point guard.
“We hit a wall for a little bit, but we have players who are adjusting to playing different positions,” Gilmore said. “When you lose a point guard more than halfway through the season, that kind of hurts, so we have to try different combinations.”
When Jennings got hurt, Bacon scored 69 points in the next three games.
“This year, she has really stepped up, especially after Kaila Jennings got hurt,” Gilmore said.
Bacon and the other senior players and team managers Kewena Killikelly and Lauren Shepard were honored, along with family, in a brief ceremony before the game.
“Since it was our senior night and since it was our last official home game at Seton Keough, and since the school is closing, everyone really came out and it was a really big turnout for us,” Bacon said.
Gilmore wanted to make sure the seniors enjoyed the night.
“I just wanted to make sure it was about the seniors and that they had a good time,” Gilmore said.
Bacon sure did, but the finality of the game wasn’t her main concern.
“I think because we have other games, it hasn’t really sunk in yet, but I know when we get our first playoff game, and hopefully it will be home, I think that is when it will really sink in for a lot of us because this will be our last year for Coach ‘G’ and our school,” Bacon said. “We won’t be able to come back here.”