Little did Tyra Buss realize several years ago the significance of those 45-minute trips from Mount Carmel, Ill., to Olney East Richland High School.
Buss, now a senior point guard for Mount Carmel (Ill.) High School, studied Brittany Johnson's game then. Now, the two former Ms. Basketball of Illinois winners are linked atop the state's career scoring list.
In front of an estimated 4,000 fans Dec. 28, Buss took the No. 1 spot from Johnson when she made a 3-pointer from the right baseline during the first quarter of the Toyota Teamwork Classic final at Gibson Southern High School in Indiana.
From 2003-07, Johnson scored 4,031 points to become the all-time career scoring leader in Illinois. Johnson was named Ms. Basketball in 2007, just like Buss in 2013.
"I've never talked to Brittany, but I have been to some of her games," said Buss, who has 4,095 career points and counting. "It was a short trip. She definitely was a scoring machine, and a lot bigger than me. She could do it all."
Buss has been something of a machine herself. She scored 66 points in the 84-82 loss to Princeton in the title game, seventh-most in a single girls game in state history, according to ihsa.org. The night before, Buss scored 60 in a victory against Gibson Southern (Ind.).
Buss was two points shy of tying Johnson's total after that 60-point game. She hit two free throws less than two minutes into the championship game to tie Johnson. The officials stopped the game after Buss' 3-pointer and she received a standing ovation and the game ball.
"Before the basket (the record) hadn't really hit me, but when it happened, it was special because of I've worked so hard and that hard work paid off," Buss said. "It's crazy to think how two girls that lived 45 minutes away, and we're now the 1-2 scorers in the state. It's pretty neat."
The 5-foot-7 Indiana recruit is averaging 47.4 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals per game for the 12-2 Aces.
Buss said her two-game total of 126 points wasn't something she was expecting.
"I didn't know that I had 60 (on Friday); I had no idea because I was just in a zone," Buss said. "I was going to do whatever I could to help the team win on Saturday. (Sixty-six points) was just unbelievable. I was in a zone."
Buss, who averaged 38.9 points, 6.1 steals, 3.5 rebounds, 3.2 steals and set the state's single-season scoring record with 1,285 points last season, had to pick up her scoring out of necessity this season after the Aces lost three starters to graduation and another to an injury from last season's 32-1 team.
"I've played against a lot of junk defenses, and no team has played straight man all season," Buss said. "I've had to work for a lot of my shots. I worked on being a complete player, getting stronger, and that's helped me dribble in and make baskets, and I've worked on my step-back 3s a lot."
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, Buss ranks seventh on the all-time national scoring list. .
Mount Carmel coach Tim Willis coached against Johnson, who played for Ohio State.
"Brittany was a tremendous player," Willis said. "Both her and Tyra are tremendous competitors and great athletes.
"It's wonderful that Tyra broke Brittany's record. Tyra's an all-around ballplayer, not just a scoring phenom. She's a humble kid and always has time for kids in the area. It's a just a great honor for her. She's a tremendous competitor and works really hard and to improve, and it shows now."
One for the books
Top career scorers in Illinois girls basketball history
Tyra Buss, Mount Carmel (Ill.), 4,095 (2010-present)
Brittany Johnson, Olney East Richland, 4,031 (2003-07)
Angie Sapp, Williamsville, 3,403 (1989-93)
Nora Lewis, Peoria Richwoods, 3,314 (1982-85)
Pam Gant, Joliet East, 3,205 (1977-81)