COAL TOWNSHIP — The biggest question hovering around Lourdes Regional’s Lee E. Korbich Memorial Gymnasium prior to Saturday’s afternoon matchup with Sullivan County had nothing to do with who would win.
Instead, those in attendance were wondering if Thomas Schultz would be able to score the 30 points necessary to break the career scoring record at the school, a bar set by 1992 graduate John Lazicki with 1,937 points.
About two minutes into the game, with Schultz already having scored seven points, the answer became obvious.
The senior scored 31 points to break the record and lead the Red Raiders over the district rival Griffins 88-48.
The record-breaking field goal came in the fourth quarter on an alley-oop from Ty Klembara, which Schultz handled before softly laying the ball into the basket.
The game was momentarily stopped for Schultz to receive an ovation from the Lourdes faithful before he was pulled from the game with his career total at 1,939.
Despite a very quick start to the game, Schultz’s scoring slowed in the second half as he got closer to the record, and regardless of it being clear the team wanted him to reach the mark, he opted to play the same basketball he has played all year.
“I didn’t want to make the whole thing about me,” Schultz said. “Every single one of those guys out there had a part in me getting the record. ... If you look at the scoreboard, we just beat a pretty good team in our district by 40 points and that means a lot.”
Schultz said he hoped to be able to surpass the mark in his home gym.
“Doing it here at home was special,” he said. “We talked about it a little bit as a team, not around practice but in school, and we wanted to do it at home because we have a special fanbase here — we’re all a family — so I feel lucky we could do it here.”
Lourdes assistant coach Matt Reiprish, who played with Lazicki, said that while both his former teammate and Schultz were both big men, there are several notable differences between them.
“Thomas is very even-keeled,” Reiprish said. “When he’s out there playing, you don’t know by his facial expressions if he’s scoring 30 or 10. He has the same face the whole way through.
“John was a little bit more fiery. He was a sophomore when I was a senior so we had to keep him under control a little bit,” Reiprish explained. “They’re both great players. Basketball wise, Thomas is a bit more athletic but John had a bit more of an outside game.”
Reiprish said the record couldn’t have gone to a more deserving athlete.
“Right now, coaching him the last three years has been a pleasure. I don’t have a bad thing to say about him. He deserves all of this attention he’s getting and hopefully we can get where we’re aiming to go this year as a team.”
Head coach James Sandri offered similar praise of the senior.
“He just doesn’t have an attitude,” he said. “He could have broke the record the play before but instead he passed the ball off because it was the right play,” Sandri said. “We just wanted to get the monkey off our back at the end. It’s a school record and we wanted to get it done here at the school and fortunately everything worked out.”
Sandri said he apologized to Sullivan County head coach Glenn Vaughan after the game for leaving his starters in longer than he should of while the team worked towards the record.
Schultz is now 61 points away from being the first Lourdes Regional player in school history to score 2,000 points.
The road back to Hershey
Sandri minced no words about his team’s chances of getting back to the state title game. He said the team is more than capable of doing it, but the loss of C.J. Reichard and Larry Czeponis are hurdles the team must overcome.
“(They) are big losses,” Sandri said. “That’s what we’re struggling with in this starting lineup. Each game the younger kids are getting better. Can we do it? Yes. But it’s going to have to be because of their attitudes and the kids wanting it bad enough.”