You could read it on Rodney Hunter’s face.
He wanted it over. The record. The pageantry. The pressure.
And once the Mariner senior did just that Friday, scoring on a twisting lay-up with just minutes left in the second quarter against Gibbs to reach 2,000 points for his career, all those coiled up nerves started to just wash away, and he began to play again.
“It was a lot of pressure,” said Hunter, whose team beat Gibbs 68-58 on Friday at Mariner High. “Everyone has wanted me to get it and the other team hasn’t wanted me to get it against them, so they made it harder to score. Now that it’s over with, I’m ready to play ball.”
Hunter, who committed to Columbia University in December, needed just seven points to reach a mark that just under 100 players in Florida have done before him. He did that in the first two quarters of the 17th game of his senior year, though it came after a frustrating contest Thursday that saw him score just 15 points against a so-so Cape Coral team.
It wasn’t the case Friday. He finished with a game-high 27 points on 10-of-11 free throws, helping the Fightin’ Tritons (14-3) overcome a talented Gibbs team traveling in from St. Petersburg. He also grabbed eight rebounds and turned in a noteworthy defensive performance, surrounded by a Mariner team that frustrated a state-ranked team with considerable size.
“Sometimes we’re so used to getting our way and scoring how we want, but that’s not what happened tonight,” said Mariner head coach James Harris, whose team faced a 12-8 deficit in the first quarter. “I don’t think he was caught up in trying to get his seven. I thought he was trying to get going with his scoring. We’re trying to teach him that sometimes scoring will happen with the flow of the game.”
Hunter had just two points after the first quarter, on a running floater with just seven seconds left. But then he got going in the second, scoring in transition, and then from two free throws.
His go-ahead bucket, in traffic and with a hand in his face, ended with the ball through the basket and a whistle after the play.
Hunter hit the ensuing free throw, giving him 2,002 for his career. Twenty more? He’s at 2,020 now.
“I was ecstatic to just get it over with and get going,” Harris said with a laugh, before adding, “I was thinkin, ‘Let’s get ready to win a basketball game.'”