Sterling coach Kate MacDonald said you could cut the tension in the gym with a knife.
Kylie O'Donnell, Sterling's senior captain and a basketball player known for her clutch shooting, even acknowledged feeling pressure before scoring her 1,000th point in a 54-18 victory over Collingswood on Monday night.
"The first couple of shots that I missed, my heart was racing. I was pretty nervous," said O'Donnell, who entered Sterling's opener with 999 career points. "I had a wide-open layup on my second shot of the game that I missed so badly because I guess it was just getting to me."
Maybe the missed layup was fate, because the shot that the guard finally made with 2 minutes, 51 seconds left in the first quarter was more fitting to her high school career.
With a defender in her face, O'Donnell, one of the most prolific outside shooters in South Jersey, hit a three-pointer from the right corner and etched her name into the Sterling record books.
"I was just really happy for Kylie," MacDonald said after O'Donnell became her first 1,000-point scorer in her six years at the school.
"She's just a really great kid. Obviously she's a good basketball player, but she's an even better person. She just works very, very hard, and she's very dedicated."
In a ceremony after the basket, O'Donnell was presented with flowers from both Sterling and Collingswood coaches.
O'Donnell's teammates presented her with a game ball, which O'Donnell then gave her parents, who were there to see her score every one of her 1,000 points.
"It was definitely an emotional night," O'Donnell said. "It was a cool achievement, and it's something I'm very proud of."
Seeing double. Washington Township's two leading scorers, twins Kelly and Kylie Giedemann, are freshmen on paper only.
The 5-foot-6 guards bark out orders, run the Minutemaids' offense, and routinely drive to the basket, through traffic and into bigger and more experienced players.
Just one summer removed from grade school and two games into the season, the Giedemann twins look like crafty, seasoned veterans.
It's enough to give hope to a team ready to overcome a tough 2009-10 campaign.
"We played with the team a lot over the summer, and that really helped," Kelly Giedemann said. "So we're really used to playing with the team already. We can read where we're going to go and we kind of just prepared ourselves in the off-season so we were ready for the season."
The twins also point to their sister Ashley as being influential in their transition to high school.
Ashley Giedemann was a second-team all-South Jersey guard last season as a senior. She was also a member of the 2009 Washington Township team that won the South Jersey Group 4 championship.
"She's a great role model on and off the court," Kylie said. "And we just want to follow the example that she set."
Asked if they were competitive with each other, the twins looked at each other and laughed before answering.
"Oh yeah, we're very competitive," Kelly Giedemann said. "We're always pushing each other, always playing one-on-one outside, and always just trying to make sure we get better. And that really pays off."
Brackets released. The brackets for the second annual South Jersey Invitational Basketball Tournament were released last week.
Sixteen teams will participate in the tournament, which will start Feb. 7 and end with the championship game at 4 p.m. Feb. 20 at Sterling High School.
The top bracket consists of No. 16 New Egypt at No. 1 Sterling, No. 9 Bordentown at No. 8 Williamstown, No. 5 Bishop Eustace at No. 12 Cinnaminson, and No. 13 Haddonfield at No. 4 Willingboro.
The lower bracket has No. 14 Florence at No. 3 Timber Creek, No. 11 Winslow Township at No. 6 Kingsway, No. 10 Eastern at No. 7 Delran, and No. 15 Collingswood at No. 2 Rancocas Valley.
Tournament director Mike Hallahan described last year's inaugural tournament as an overwhelming success and said he had more than 60 applications for this year's tournament.
The championship weekend will include a three-point-shooting competition, open to all players in South Jersey regardless of whether their team is in the tournament, and a coaches' free-throw contest, open to all area coaches.
All proceeds from the tournament will go to the SJIBT Scholarship Fund, a scholarship given to a player at the end-of-the-year banquet.
"I'm looking forward to great competition from great teams with great players and great coaches," Hallahan said. "There are a lot of great showcases out there, but we are unique in that we play down to a champion, so I knew it would be successful. But I had no idea the tournament would be this successful this fast."