HOWARD LAKE – The gym at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School was so silent you could hear a pin drop. That was until junior guard CJ Decker knocked down a free throw to complete a three-point play, scoring her 1,000th career point.
Decker’s free throw helped her reach the impressive milestone, and the HLWW girls basketball team went on to cruise to a 62-26 victory over the visiting Paynesville Bulldogs Friday night. While it was just one free throw, it’s surely one that Decker will remember for a long time.
“It was stressful,” Decker said about getting the last few points. “The shots, just some of them weren’t falling. Last game, I tried to get it and it didn’t come. I’m just glad that all my family is here and my friends. My teammates were there supporting me. It was awesome.”
While the moment was special in itself, the fact that Decker got to do it on her home floor with family and friends looking on, only adds to the moment for her.
“It was nice that we had three home games in a row,” Decker said. “It was nice to be able to get it done here with all my people.”
While Decker knew she was close to reaching the milestone, she didn’t know how close. That was until she accidentally read a text message on her mother’s phone.
“At the beginning, I didn’t want to know,” Decker said. “I didn’t know until I had 30 to go. I accidentally read one of mom’s texts and I saw it. I didn’t want to know until then, but I figured I was close.”
Decker not wanting to know her points total comes to no surprise to her coach. He’s seen her be a team-first player throughout her career, and getting herself to her career milestone was no different.
“The girls really wanted it for her,” HLWW coach Rick Baumann said. “The word got out, and I tried to keep it a secret, but you know how that goes. It’s a great honor for a great player. Even tonight you could see that she didn’t force anything. She played with the flow of the game. She knew she was getting there, but she’s such a team-first player. That’s hard to come by. I appreciate her even more for how she plays, and puts our team first all the time.”
Decker needed 19 points coming into the game against Paynesville to reach 1,000 for her career. After scoring 10 in the first half and the Lakers comfortably in front, Baumann began to draw up sets for Decker to get it done.
Although Decker had multiple chances to reach the milestone with a 3-pointer, it was only fitting the way it happened.
Decker came up with a steal on one end, dribbled all the way down the court to make the lay up with a foul to bring her within one point. Knowing she was close, Decker calmly stepped up to the line, and found nothing but the bottom of the net with her free throw.
“That’s just it,” Baumann said. “You could tell she was short with her shot because she didn’t want to force it. She didn’t want to take away from what we do as a team consistently. It was a great way to get it, too. She’s made a lot of baskets for us that way over the years, and that’s a great way to finish it for her.”
While the moment will be on she remembers forever, its a sigh of relief as well for Decker. She felt the pressure of the milestone approaching, but can now go back to playing her game, which has the Lakers playing well as of late.
“It is,” Decker said about getting it done being a relief. “There was a little bit of pressure. Scoring that two after (I got it) was nice. It was just normal.”
For the complete story and more HJ sports coverage, check out the Friday, Feb. 1 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.