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’Twas a ‘grand’ night for Horace Mann’s Ella Anthony

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Ella Anthony had the number in her head: 17.

Just 17 points stood between her and a place in the Horace Mann record books. Just 17 points and the Lions’ wondrous junior guard would notch the 1,000th point of her glittering career, forever sealing her place in Horace Mann basketball history.

Her first bucket, with 6:12 left to play in the first quarter last Friday against Poly Prep, brought thunderous applause from the poster-waving crowd inside the Richard A. Friedman Gymnasium. Her second basket less than a minute later only increased the volume.

The drama continued into the second quarter with each basket bringing louder cheers each time. And when Anthony finally burst through the lane for a layup with 6:48 to play in the first half — one that netted the 17th and 18th points of her game — the crowd erupted, the Lions bench exploded, and teammates ran to get their hugs in, as did Lions head coach Ray Barile. Anthony, smiling and relieved, even had an on-court photo-op with her mom, Crystal, as countless cellphone videos recorded the special scene.

It was a moment she knew was coming, but still one Anthony said she’ll never forget.

“Oh my gosh, it was one of the greatest moments of my life,” Anthony said after helping her teammates roll to an easy 68-32 victory. “I mean I knew it was going to happen in this game. But when it happened, it just felt so amazing. And it was so great to have my family and my best friends here and to share this moment with my teammates. It was just amazing.”

Anthony calls herself a “late bloomer” to basketball, which is odd considering she comes from a basketball family. Her dad, Greg Anthony, not only helped the University of Nevada-Las Vegas to the 1990 NCAA championship, but also was a first-round pick of the New York Knicks in 1991, enjoying an 11-year NBA career. Her older brother Cole is a star prep player at national powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in Virginia and is considered the top uncommitted high school senior in the nation.

So basketball, as you might have guessed, is big in the Anthony family.

“Huge,” Anthony said, flashing a brilliant smile. “Basketball actually kind of found me. I started really late.”

Anthony first joined the AAU program Riverside Hawks in fifth grade, but really didn’t start taking it seriously until she was in middle school.

“So I’m kind of a late bloomer,” Anthony said. “But I always remember going to my brother’s basketball games because he’s been playing since he was really young, so I’ve always been a fan. But now basketball has become my thing, too.”

So much so it took Anthony just over two full seasons to reach the 1,000-point plateau. But she had plenty of support along the way from both her dad and brother.

“Growing up, my dad would give me some advice, but he wasn’t really hard on me because we didn’t know where basketball would take me,” Anthony said. “Now that I plan on playing Division I basketball in college, I take all the help and advice I can get. Whenever I’m in Florida, my dad will work me out. But I also like to watch film with my family and my coaches, and my brother gives me a lot of advice. So I like to utilize all the people around me because they have so much knowledge about the game.”

Neither Anthony’s dad nor brother could make her historic game last Friday as they were in Florida and Virginia, respectively. But they would see her magical moment later Friday night.

“They’ll both definitely be getting the video,” Anthony said, laughing. “It’s amazing. My love for basketball has only grown. The fact that it can bond me with my family like this, I mean, my brother and I have gotten so much closer from working out together, watching games together, and playing one-on-one together. The fact that we just share our passion for basketball is just crazy.”

But those long-distance calls to family members and friends celebrating her milestone will have to wait. First there’s some business to attend to for the newly minted 1,000-point scorer: Some self-imposed, post-game practice.

“I have a lot of things I have to work on after this game,” Anthony said. “I don’t think I shot it that well today, so I’ll be in the gym practicing.

The great ones, it seems, are never satisfied.

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