Lydia Sweeney has always been a team-first player, no matter the sport at Grand Island High School. But with 1,000 career points within reach heading into Friday’s Niagara Frontier League showdown with North Tonawanda, the Vikings senior standout understandably had the milestone on her mind.
She got there in the third quarter – and then the Vikings were off to the races. Sweeney’s historic bucket sparked her team and Grand Island pulled away from North Tonawanda for a 67-29 victory in a game that was up for grabs for most of the first three quarters.
“In the beginning, obviously I was preoccupied,” she said. “Not that I wanted to get it over with, but it was very nice to get it done and out of the way so I could focus on the game.” Once she did, the underdog Lady ‘Jacks were no match for the Vikings. Sweeney scored 17 of her game-high 34 points after she hit four figures.
Grand Island led by 10-points when Sweeney hit the mark with 4:29 left in third quarter on a 3-point bucket. Starting with the milestone shot, the Vikings outscored the ‘Jacks by a 36-8 count.
“You could see after Lydia got her thousandth point, the team just came alive,” GI coach Kristin Wegrzyn said. “That’s not something you ever want to focus on, but it’s something that was so out in the open. She’s human and she was a little nervous. And as you can see, with her leadership, her flowing, got everyone else to flow.”
The game was delayed for about five minutes. But instead of sulking in a huddle, the Lady ‘Jacks stood and applauded Sweeney and then waited their turn to congratulate her.
“That was extremely sweet,” Wegrzyn said. “North Tonawanda, that was great sportsmanship. They all came over to give her a high-five. You don’t see that very often. They gave her the moment. I hand it to them, it was very sportsmanlike and I know it meant a lot to Lydia.”
“Of course we’re going to support that,” NT coach Peter Kennedy said. “That’s a great accomplishment. How many people do that? Not many. That’s why it’s so great. We’re going to honor that. We have some young kids on the team…watch, if you work hard, good things can happen.”
Sweeney became the seventh Grand Island girls basketball player to top 1,000 points. She later moved past the late great Julie Roth (Neville) to take the sixth spot in program history. Sweeney will soon pass Dakaylah Winfield, who spent a season at Cleveland Hill, and Courtney Donovan to crack the top four. Callie Banker is the program’s all-time leading scorer (1,700 points), followed by Cassie Oursler (1,318) and Ashleigh Frieday (1,209).
“You just have to work hard,” Sweeney said. “For me, it was never one of my goals because I never want to focus on myself instead of the team. I worked in the summer trying to get the team to win and this is just a byproduct of that. It felt so nice to get it. Knowing the last couple weeks it was a possibility, it was very exciting. But at the same time, we have to keep grinding and working.”
Sweeney, who entered the game averaging 23.8 points per game, scored at least 20 for the sixth time this season. She added 10 steals and six rebounds as Grand Island improved to 7-2 with its seventh straight win.
“She’s just one of those kids that doesn’t come along often,” Wegrzyn said. “She’s a kid that just always wants to be in the gym all the time. Before practice, after practice, before and after games, after school, before school…if you come by this gym, she’s probably in it. She’s a kid that puts in the work. Anyone that aspires to be like her or get 1,000 points, it really comes in the offseason.”
Grace Carey added 10 points and 10 rebounds for Grand Island and Brianna Barr grabbed a team-best 11 boards for the Vikings.
Taylor Ringler and Sophia Wilson scored six points apiece to lead NT (4-3).
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