By PATRICK SLACK
Late in the first half of Friday’s game at St. John’s Prep, Aimee Pelzer did what she has done countless times before: sink a basket.
However, this one was far from ordinary, as it provided the Upsala girls basketball senior with the greatest milestone in an already record-breaking career: her 2,000th point.
Leading a fast break with a numbers edge with just less than two minutes to go before halftime, Pelzer reached the elbow of the free throw line, pulled up and drained a jumper for the historic shot.
The score elicited a stand-up ovation from both sides of the crowd, with each showing an appreciation for the rare feat. Play was stopped and Pelzer was awarded a game ball from her teammates, with several family members on hand.
“Just having that, it’s such a relief for her,” Upsala head coach Paul Pelzer said. “That’s a lot of pressure in the back of your mind. Just reaching that milestone is amazing. We were so well treated from the St. John’s fans and players, it was almost like being at home.”
When play resumed, the final outcome was what it has been so many times since Pelzer has entered the Cardinals lineup: a mere formality.
Upsala took a 30-12 lead into the break before sailing to a 75-44 win, spurred by the 29-point, 15-rebound performance from Pelzer.
Senior Tracy Herzog posted another double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds, with senior Alissa Zehrer adding 14 points and six rebounds.
Sophomore Brooke Westrich followed with seven points, sophomore Sara Herzog scored five and senior Sadie Welinski and sophomore Kristin Wuebkers each picked up two.
Only five other Upsala girls basketball players have made it to 1,000 points, with Pelzer breaking the school scoring record as a sophomore when she went over 1,300.
Entering the season, only 106 players in the history of Minnesota girls basketball had scored 2,000 points, many now in line to be passed by the Cardinals’ standout.
“When you think of all the players that have played in Minnesota, there aren’t many that get there,” Pelzer said. “It’s very difficult to get to that number. It’s pretty amazing.”
Even more remarkable perhaps is the passing ability Pelzer possesses.
With another five assists distributed against the Johnnies, Pelzer’s career total reached 777, leading to almost as many points for her teammates as she has scored herself.
“She’d rather pass than shoot the ball,” Pelzer said. “That’s the type of player she is. She’d rather have a teammate score than her. She is so unselfish.”
“As a young player I knew she could pass the ball,” he said. “Passing is a lost art. It’s just fun to listen to the crowd when she comes down and gives a no-look pass. That is so unheard of in high school. Just to hear the ‘oohs’ in the crowd, hear them say, ‘How did she do that and see that player open behind her back?’ She’s definitely been fun to watch and fun to coach.”
For all of the records, though, the most important one for the Cardinals is the unblemished 4-0 mark they sport as they seek a fourth consecutive Prairie Conference championship.
“It really doesn’t matter how many points a player scores, all our team cares about is the victory,” Pelzer said. “They want to win, they love to win.”
“If for some reason they don’t win, if they played the best they could and left it all out there, that’s all you can ask,” he said. “They’re such unselfish players, that’s why they’re winners. Half of it is getting along with your teammates and just playing together. It’s totally a team effort. I’ve been fortunate to have those types of athletes. The past four or five years, it’s been unbelievable.”
Upsala returns to action at home against Osakis, Thursday.
Upsala 75, St. John’s Prep 44
Upsala 30 45 – 75
St. John’s Prep 12 32 – 44
Upsala—Aimee Pelzer, 29 (15 rebounds, 6 steals, 5 assists); Tracy Herzog, 16 (14 rebounds); Alissa Zehrer, 14 (6 rebounds); Brooke Westrich, 7; Sara Herzog, 5; Sadie Welinski, 2; Kristin Wuebkers, 2.