Scott and Kessler reach basketball’s 1,000-point milestone
It’s rare for a high-school basketball player to reach 1,000 points in a career.
Yet Shawnee High School’s girls basketball squad has not just one, but two, this season.
Teammates Nia Scott and Avery Kessler have breathed life back into a Renegades’ program that is coming off a loss to Cherokee High in this year’s NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV final. But hitting the elusive 1,000-point milestone has only driven the two seniors to reach more highs before they graduate.
“It was definitely really cool and I’m glad that we were able to do that together, because it made it much more special,” Kessler said of the record. “When (Nia) hit it, I was like, I’m next. And we celebrated for each other rather than being in competition with each other.
“It was really special that we hit it in the same season, since we’ve been friends for so long.”
Scott and Kessler are also life-long teammates. They’ve been playing basketball together since they were kids and have turned into one of the best tandems not just in the Olympic Conference, but in all of South Jersey.
Their success has gone hand in hand with that of the Renegades, who clinched the No. 1 seed in this year’s South Jersey Group IV tournament.
Kessler – who transferred from rival Cherokee as a sophomore – ushered in a new level of Shawnee success as the program went 59-12 over the past three seasons, including one shortened by COVID in 2020.
“I think it’s been a long time coming,” Shawnee coach Chrissy McGovern said. “Coaching Nia as a freshman, I saw all the capabilities that she had as a player. Seeing her work on her game and grow over the years, and then to be fortunate to have Avery come over to Shawnee, has been such a blessing.
“They work so well for each other,” McGovern noted. “They complement each other. They have such a great supporting cast and we’re seasoned. We’ve been in these moments.”
The coach did her best to curate a challenging schedule this year, and outside of Olympic Conference competition, the Renegades have had their hands full all year, playing Trinity Hall twice, along with Mainland, Manasquan and Toms River North, among other opponents.
At the helm always have been Scott and Kessler.
Scott, the senior forward, has committed to playing at Bryant University in Rhode Island. She’s been Shawnee’s “main big” in the front court. But even with added emphasis on her from opponents – and the greater importance of playing well down low – Scott has more than met and exceeded the standard.
“Hitting 1K wasn’t something I thought about,” Scott acknowledged. “It wasn’t what I focused on, because we had bigger plans with the playoffs, but it was definitely something I was looking at before the season started.
“As it got closer, it was in the back of my mind as something I wanted to accomplish.”
It was perfect timing for Shawnee that both Kessler and Scott were able to reach their milestone records during the season, given that the Renegades have revenge on their minds come playoff time. The stinging loss from last season from the SJ Group IV final on the home floor of the Chiefs is not one the team wants to replicate.
“We’re definitely more confident with our abilities this year,” Kessler maintained. “We’re not scared at all … It helps a lot having all of our playoff games at home, being in our own gym, playing with our basketballs, working on our rims.
Shawnee’s South Jersey Group IV first and second round pitted the team against Gloucester Tech Feb. 21 and Egg Harbor Township on Feb. 23. The team has won both games.