Noah Vipond is heading into the regional playoffs trying to soak up the final moments of his high school basketball career at Francis Scott Key.
The senior forward is also entering the postseason having joined an exclusive club — Vipond became the fifth player in Eagles history to reach 1,000 points in FSK’s regular-season finale last Friday against Thomas Johnson.
Vipond said Key coach Ryan Kimble told him prior to the game he needed 15 points to hit 1,000, which he reached on the number, but the achievement didn’t change his approach.
“I just went out there and tried my hardest to get there … as quick as possible,” said Vipond, a young man of few words. “It was great. Just a really big accomplishment, like all of my hard work has paid off and I have a really big reward for it.”
Eagles fans shouldn’t confuse Vipond’s quiet nature for anything other than his personality. After playing varsity for two seasons alongside a crop of veterans, Vipond assumed a leadership role this winter, and Kimble said his senior flourished.
Vipond’s 18.5 points per game is second best in the Carroll County Athletic League this season. His 9.1 rebounds is second only to Liberty’s Tristan Kent. Vipond’s power comes from a strength and conditioning regimen over the last few years, but Kimble said his 6-foot-3 forward added individual workouts with assistant coach Tyler Forster, a former basketball player at Francis Scott Key, to log as much court time as possible.
Vipond’s statement game came Dec. 28 in Key’s holiday tournament game against Parkville. The Eagles fell 64-62, but Vipond poured in a career-high 43 points. He netted 30 points in a 67-66 victory over Smithsburg on Jan. 10, a win that snapped Francis Scott Key’s 10-game losing streak.
The next day, against county rival Winters Mill, Vipond collected 25 points and 15 rebounds in a 67-47 win.
“The 1,000 points is hours and hours in the gym,” Kimble said. “He’s a hard worker in the weight room. He works really hard on his vertical. Dunking is big to him. He loves to dunk. But he put a program together, and he used our program for the upper body and he used his program for his legs — and it worked.”
Vipond is FSK’s first boys basketball player to reach 1,000 career points since Bradley Schug did it five years ago. Schug finished with 1,091, second on Key’s all-time list.
Rick Jenkins is the leader at 1,306; Bill Hill (1,059) and Mike Crawmer (1,046) are behind Schug.
Vipond said playing two years with former all-county teammates such as Josh Brown, Amir Cole, and Rashad Giles, made him a better player. And it helped him understand what would likely be asked of him when he became a senior.
“Watching them in games and during practice, watching them just take over like they did,” Vipond said. “How they managed things scoring wise.”
Vipond’s work on offense has shown. He’s a 51.6 percent field-goal shooter, and hits 3-pointers at a 41.1 percent clip (37-for-90).
Vipond’s statistics do most of the talking, but Kimble said his senior knows how to handle being the leader of a young squad. When a teammate makes a mistake, Kimble said, Vipond is first to drape an arm around the player’s shoulder and offer positive vibes.
“I was worried about leadership, but what I found out was there is the introverted leader,” Kimble said. “He’s not going to sit here and hoot and holler, or he’s not going to be the one that’s the loud kid. That leadership, to me, is the growth of the young man that you want to see. He cares so much about the group. This year he has been nothing but positive with the guys.
“Through a 1-10 start, and then a pretty good middle, and then a rough end, he has stayed steady and positive. Never frustrated with anything that goes on.”
Vipond said he’s doing his best to slow things down now, with the one-and-done playoffs about to begin. Francis Scott Key (5-17) heads to Catoctin on Friday for a Class 1A West Section 2 quarterfinal — the Eagles beat the Cougars 79-76 on Dec. 6, the season opener, but were routed 65-34 on Feb. 14 in Thurmont.
Regardless of the outcome in this third meeting, Vipond said he’s excited for a shot at some postseason success. And more points to add to his career list.
“We feel pretty good … we’re going in there like we did in the first game,” the senior said. “I’ve been thinking about [the end] a little bit, but it hasn’t really hit me yet. It will probably hit me on Friday.”