When Courtney Cribari and Leah Furney both hit the 1,000-point milestone in the 2009-10 season, they told their sophomore point guard that she was next.
Danielle LeBlanc had her doubts.
“I didn’t believe them at first,” LeBlanc said. “I thought they were just saying it because I was young and they wanted me to feel good. I never thought that I would get it.”
But Cribari and Furney were right.
LeBlanc got it.
The Pilgrim senior scored her 1,000th career point on a fadeaway jump shot late in the first half of last Thursday’s game against Exeter/West Greenwich. She became the sixth girls’ basketball player in school history to reach the 1,000-point plateau.
“It took forever, almost the whole first half,” LeBlanc said. “It was a lot of stress and pressure. I think that’s why it took so long, but I was glad to get it. It meant a lot.”
LeBlanc has been a starter since day one for the Pats, and she was a key player on Division II playoff teams in her first two seasons. Last year, the Pats were moved up to Division I, and it’s been a struggle, but LeBlanc has continued to shine. She scored more than 400 points last year, and ended the year just 79 away from 1,000.
“She continues to always work hard,” said Pilgrim head coach Ian Smith. “There never seems to be any letup with her at all.”
At the end of last season, LeBlanc knew she was close but didn’t want to know exactly how many points she needed.
That changed at the beginning of the new school year. LeBlanc was close friends with Bella DiPalma, one of two Pilgrim students who was killed in a car crash in August. LeBlanc decided to dedicate her quest for 1,000 to DiPalma, and she wanted to wear DiPalma’s old basketball number on the 1,000-point night.
When LeBlanc scored 29 points in last Wednesday’s game against Toll Gate – getting her within six – it was clear that Thursday would be the night. LeBlanc donned the No. 21 jersey, and DiPalma’s family was in the stands to see the milestone.
“It was really a nice piece of the event, that she was able to honor her in that way,” Smith said.
Knowing how close she was made the chase a little tougher. A big crowd was on hand for Thursday’s game, and LeBlanc thought she’d do it early in the game. The first half ended up being a struggle.
But eventually, the fadeaway did the trick.
“It was a crazy shot but luckily it went in,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc’s parents, Robin and Robert, joined her on the court to celebrate, and they watched as LeBlanc’s name was unveiled on the 1,000-point scorers’ banner.
That was a surprise, but LeBlanc’s father puts together the banners at Pilgrim anyway, and Smith was able to get it to him early. When LeBlanc hit 1,000, a black cover was pulled away to reveal her name. Her final point total will be added after the season.
“We were able to unveil it right away, so that was pretty cool,” Smith said. “The faculty was great, the whole school was supportive. There was a lot of excitement.”
And it made for a special night.
LeBlanc has been playing basketball since she was 5. She started at St. Peter’s and later joined the AAU Rhode Island Breakers. At Pilgrim, she’s become a star.
“She never played JV,” Smith said. “She made a difference right away. She contributed from day one and just increased her role every year.”
Along the way, LeBlanc caught the eye of college coaches, and she has committed to play at Rhode Island College.
“I met the team, and the coaching staff is great,” LeBlanc said. “I love it.”
For now, it’s still a struggle in terms of team success. The Pats are 0-3 in league play, though LeBlanc’s 29-point night did lead them to a non-league win over Toll Gate. Regardless, LeBlanc and the Pats are still working.
“We know what to expect,” LeBlanc said. “We’re not down about it anymore. We’re just having fun and doing what we can do.”
And for at least one night, the Pats had a lot to celebrate.
“Once it was over, I was speechless,” LeBlanc said. “I didn’t know what to do. There’s no words to describe it.”