Never count out a superstar. That’s what Whitney Creech proved on Tuesday night.
The Jenkins senior scored a career-high 71 points to get past Jaime Walz for the most points by any player in Kentucky history, 4,957. The Cavaliers needed every single one of them as they rallied to earn a 90-87 win at Paintsville in overtime.
Creech needed 63 points to break the record on Tuesday. Her previous career high was 65.
“I’m thankful to be in the position I am and for the coaching staff and teammates that have been training me to get to this point,” Creech said in a phone interview. “I’m thankful for my family and friends for all their support. Thank God for giving me the ability to play the game.”
“And just, wow.”
The weakest part of Creech’s offensive game is her three-point shot. In the true spirit of the moment, she hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 74-all with 3.5 seconds left. It was her 58th point of the game. “I had to make a play and get that three and get the game to overtime to give my team a chance to win.”
Paintsville couldn’t get the ball down the floor for a shot, enabling the scoring machine to claim the record with 13 points in the extra period. The record-setting basket came on a baseline jumper.
“I still can’t believe this happened,” Jenkins Coach Ashley Addington said. “That’s one of the best games I have seen in girls’ basketball. And it was a whole team effort too.”
After a recent string of 30-plus point games — well below her season average of 49.2 coming into Tuesday — Addington said Creech thought she was due for a breakout performance.
“I would consider this that,” Addington said with a laugh.
Forty-eight of Creech’s 71 came in the second half and overtime. Shots she normally makes weren’t falling in the first half, Creech said.
“My mindset in the second half was to be aggressive and have confidence that the next shot was going in,” she said.
She passed Walz, a star at Highlands, who had held the record with 4,948 since 1996.
Walz, now Walz-Richey and in her 14th season coaching the girls’ basketball team at her alma mater, has followed Creech’s progression through the season. She teaches computer and business classes at Highlands, and said her students bring it up frequently. Walz-Richey will probably be fielding lots of questions Wednesday morning.
“That all ask me, ‘What do you think?,’” Walz-Richey said. “Records are meant to be broken without a doubt. It’s just bringing good publicity to girls’ basketball in the state, which is great to see.”
Creech’s mom was an emotional wreck after the game.
“One of my teammates said she just lost it on her. So she was emotional, as expected,” Creech said with a laugh. Her dad was a bit more composed. “He didn’t cry or anything but he was pretty excited.”
Adrian McGowen of Goodrich, Texas, holds the national high school record with 5,424 career points as recognized by the National Federation of High Schools. The NFHS only recognizes points scored by players while they’re in grades 9 through 12, so Creech isn’t likely to break that mark.
She could, however, become the first player in state history to reach 5,000 points when Jenkins travels to Perry County Central on Thursday night. Forty-three points is what it’ll take.
“Just whatever I have to do for us to win the game,” Creech said. “If I’m forced to hit that 5,000 mark I’ll do it. If I don’t have to score that much then we’ll wait ’til another game.”
Addington said a pep rally will “for sure” happen at Jenkins on Wednesday. Other celebratory plans have not been determined.
Top girls’ scorers
1. Whitney Creech, Jenkins: 4,957
2. Jaime Walz, Highlands: 4,948
3. Geri Grigsby, McDowell: 4,384
4. Kim Mays, Knox Central: 3,952
5. Carolyn Alexander, Hazard: 3,726