A season's high in scoring? Tonya Kolodziejski laughed at the thought that this was anything less than a career night.
The North County junior emerged from the shadows of her more celebrated teammates totake center stage Friday night, keying the Knights' thrilling 62-57 upset of visiting Old Mill in a 4A League Friendship Division basketball game.
Her 15 points were fewer than what Renita Johnson (19) and Kim Miller (16) managed against the Patriots, but they were far more than what she is accustomed to scoring in a single game.
This explains the sheepish grin she wore afterward.
"I never, ever do that good,"she said. "I've never gotten double digits before."
She's probably never stepped up to the line at such a crucial time as the tail endof Friday's game. But with her team clinging to a one-point lead with 19 seconds left, she calmly sank two free throws to give North County a 60-57 lead.
"It's confidence," Kolodziejski explained. "You see it in your mind, and you shoot the ball. I was thinking, 'God, give me strength,' and I just blocked out everything around me and shot the ball."
She did more than that, hustling back on defense and stealing the ball from Old Mill guard Sandy Johnson around the three-point arc. Renita Johnson then hit the clinching layup to hand the Patriots their first loss in 11 4A league games.
North County improvedto 12-3 overall and took over first place in the division at 6-1.
Old Mill came into the game 14-1 overall and 4-0 in the division. Among its victories was a 64-43 pasting of North County back on Jan. 4.
"They were embarrassed that they played that way," North County coach Sally Entsminger said. "I knew they could play better basketball, and they knew they could play better basketball. If you're a good team, you take a loss like that and learn from it and you work hard to get better. If you're not a good team, you fold your tables and go home."
The Knights didn't fold, though they had ample opportunity.
A Kolodziejski three-point play broke a 33-33 tie midway through the third quarter, and North County would lead by as many as 12 points early in the fourth period. But Old Mill's press began forcing turnovers -- as it had in the first meeting -- and Stacy Himes erupted for 11 of her team-high 16 points.
Himes scored off the glass with less than two minutes remaining to reduce North County's lead to one point, 58-57, and position her team for a possible victory.
"They got hot there, and we made some careless mistakes," Entsminger said. "But to the kids' credit, they regained their composure and got back into it and made some tough plays on the boards and some tough shots."
Old Mill got the ball back with a chance to take the lead, but Himes missed the front-end of a one-and-one, committed her fifth foul and sent Kolodziejski to the line.
"We were working on free throws with her the practice before, so I was confident in her," said Miller, who grabbed 14 rebounds. "I just had the feeling we were going to win by her free throws."
If only the Patriots could have enjoyed such precision. Instead, they missed 19 of their 30 free throws.
"That's the game right there," said Old Mill coach Pat Chance, who lost junior forward Cindy Davenport to a knee injury in the third quarter."I knew it would happen. It's got to catch up with you sooner or later."
It did Friday, enabling the Knights to gain a measure of revenge.
"They humiliated us the first time, and we knew we could do better against them," Kolodziejski said. "After that game is when we finally realized we had to work together in order to win games."
North County received six points and nine rebounds from Elise Maccubbin. Old Mill sophomore forwards Debbie Dawson and Allison Wentworth scored 12 and eight points, respectively, and each pulled down seven rebounds.
"This is a big win for us, to know we can do it," Entsminger said. "It doesn't make it any easier down the road, but it's a great feeling tonight."