Casey Bennett was pressing as Friday night’s game against Moses Brown began, and it showed early on. Warwick Vets’ senior point guard missed her first three shots and also dropped a pass that hit her in the hands.
Her fourth shot finally put her at ease.
Bennett rose up from the left side of the three-point arc on her team’s sixth possession of the game and swished a three-pointer, lifting her into the Hurricane history books with the 1,000th point of her career.
She actually only needed two points to hit the mark, but the team’s leading scorer and leading three-point shooter for the last three seasons reached the milestone with an added exclamation point.
“I was a little nervous at first, but it was great to get it out of the way at the beginning,” Bennett said. “It was awesome to do it on a three-pointer. It was just an awesome feeling. I’ve been working for it for four years and finally doing it was a huge goal of mine.”
Bennett is the first girl in head coach Owen Paquet’s seven-year tenure as head coach to hit the 1,000-point plateau, and is one of just a few in school history to get it done.
When the ball went through the hoop, the whistle immediately sounded and the big crowd in attendance stood and cheered for Bennett, who fittingly was also celebrating her senior night along with the team’s five other seniors.
She received hugs from her teammates, as well as flowers and the game ball from Paquet. Her parents Steven and Marybeth came out of the crowd and posed for a quick picture before the game resumed.
It was a special moment for a player who has hung in there and shouldered the load on a team that has otherwise struggled to score the past three seasons.
“It’s a great moment,” Paquet said. “It’s been a pleasure coaching her and seeing her progress through the years. It’s such an honor, coaching her. To see her score 1,000, it’s a special moment for her.”
Bennett’s journey to 1,000 began with a secondary role in her freshman year, as she made the varsity team and started about half the games, but was not the team’s first option. That designation belonged to senior Jess Arnold, and the ’Canes had a few other solid scorers as well.
Still, Bennett was able to amass close to 100 points in that season, giving her a base to build on for the next three years.
“That’s what it takes for a player to score 1,000,” Paquet said. “You can’t be an immature freshman and think you’re going to score 1,000. That’s a big year. You’ve got to put something on the board.”
And Bennett knew that over the next three years, she would be the team’s focal point offensively.
“I definitely knew when I was a freshman, that when (Arnold) would get double-teamed or taken out in foul trouble that I was the next one to go to, that I was the next point guard,” Bennett said. “So I knew the next year it was going to be all on me.”
She upped her point total in her sophomore year, then followed that up with a strong junior season. This year, she is averaging 15.7 points per game, which puts her ninth in the state.
Still, hitting 1,000 came down to the wire. The Moses Brown game was Vets’ second-to-last game of the season, as it will end the year today with a game against Burrillville. There is a chance at the playoffs, but that’s not a guarantee.
But Bennett wasn’t going to get so close to 1,000 and not reach it.
“The milestone was a little far out of reach I thought,” Paquet said. “But she pulled it together this year and she made the big push at the end, which was nice.”
She scored 15 points against Scituate on Feb. 11, then followed that up with 19 against Pilgrim on Feb. 20. This past Wednesday, when Vets played Mt. Pleasant, she scored 22 points to pull her within two.
That set the stage for Friday, and after the early butterflies, she didn’t disappoint. Once she buried that three, she settled right in. She scored 16 points in the first half, including three three-pointers, on her way to 24 points for the game. It was her second-highest point total of the season, trailing only the 27 she scored against Mount St. Charles on Feb. 4.
Vets ended up losing to Moses Brown 47-40 – a strong showing, considering that the Quakers are 11-3 and Vets is 4-11. As usual, Bennett was at the center of it all.
“I think she really feeds into being a leader on the floor,” Paquet said. “She’s accepted that role basically since her sophomore year, when I lost Jess Arnold. She’s fed into that role and she’s really worked hard to score 1,000.”
Bennett has been held under double digits in scoring just twice this season, and she’s gone over 20 six times. Right now, her career point total sits at 1,022.
She’ll have one more chance to pad that on Tuesday, likely the final game of her high school career.
“It’s been an awesome four years,” she said. “This is a great way to finish my career. It’s a huge accomplishment. I’m really proud, really excited. My whole family was here to witness it.”
And she’ll be leaving behind quite a legacy.
“She’s by far the best player (I’ve coached),” Paquet said. “I haven’t had any other 1,000-point scorers. The drive and the will that she has, it’s been a pleasure.”