WEST GOSHEN - The waiting is the hardest part.
For Nina Mazzarelli, it had to seem like forever in her attempt to reach the 1,000-point career milestone. The star guard on the West Chester East High School girls basketball team finished last season just three points shy of the mark, providing her with an agonizingly long offseason to wait for her next chance to reach it. Not only that, but the Vikings didn't have a game scheduled on the opening weekend of the season this past Friday or Saturday. Then what was supposed to be their season opener at home against Kennett on Tuesday night, was postponed due to the snowstom that hit the area.
Mazzarelli finally got her opportunity on Thursday night. Ironically once it came, she didn't have to wait long at all.
Mazzarelli netted her 1,000th point midway through the first quarter, and finished with a game-high 18 points, as West Chester East crushed visiting Avon Grove by a score of 59-23 in their long-awaited season opener, which was also the Ches-Mont League National Division opener for both squads.
Entering the contest with 997 points, Mazzarelli scored on a layup just four seconds into the contest after the Vikings (1-0 National, 1-0 overall) won the opening tip-off.
Later in the period, with 3:24 to play, Mazzarelli went over the 1,000-point mark after she made a steal and then drove the length of the court for a layup. She was also fouled on the play.
The game was momentarily halted to honor Mazzarelli for the accomplishment, as she became just the fourth female basketball player in West Chester East history to reach the 1,000-point milestone.
"As soon as I finally got it, it was the best feeling of my life,' said Mazzarelli. "It was a pretty exciting moment, especially having all my family, friends and coaches there to share in it with me.
"It's good to get it, but getting the team win tonight was the most important thing for me.'
West Chester East had little trouble dispatching of the young and inexperienced Red Devils (0-1, 1-2).
The host Vikings amped up the defense and forced Avon Grove to commit a whopping 12 turnovers in the opening quarter, helping them built a commanding 21-6 lead after one.
West Chester East would go on to lead 42-12 at halftime, and 51-14 after three quarters of play.
Mazzarelli scored 16 of her game-high 18 points in the opening two quarters, before sitting out the majority of the second half due to the big lead.
Vikings coach Moe Blatt said that in last year's season finale in which Mazzarelli finished three points shy of the mark, she passed up numerous shot opportunities in the final quarter of that game to unselfishly dish the ball off to open teammates.
"Words can't describe how happy I am for her,' said Blatt. "She's the ultimate gym-rat. Good things happen to people who work hard, and she works really hard. She's a very down to earth kid.'
West Chester East also got an outstanding game from junior guard Holly Hager, who finished with 16 points. Hager, who missed last season with an injury, gives the Vikings a rock solid one-two punch that they hope makes them contenders in the National Division this winter.
Senior Melanie Hartman also played well with eight points, and Maura McCloskey added six for East.
Avon Grove, meanwhile, received a team-high six points from junior Nina Conner. The Red Devils committed 25 turnovers in the game, and were held to only eight field goals.
But undersized team under first-year coach Harry Loeffler battled hard until the end.
"They didn't quit at all,' said Blatt. "I know what Avon Grove is going through right now. Our team has been there ourselves.
"We wanted to come out tonight and make this a track meet, and our girls did a really good job of that. Our kids were really excited about Nina's opportunity, and they came out with some bounce in their steps.'
Mazzarelli, one of the top players in the Ches-Mont League, is now looking to help lead her Vikings to their best season in the four years she's been there.
Thursday's season opener was a great start.
"It feels awesome to get a win in our first game,' said Mazzarelli. "We got everyone involved and really played a great all-around game. This win should hopefully build our confidence a little too. It was a great night.'
W.C. East 59, Avon Grove 23
AVON GROVE: Whiteside 2 0-1 4, Cook 0 0-0 0, Martin 1 2-2 4, Patone 0 0-0 0, Rudisill 0 1-2 1, Conner 2 2-4 6, Richardson 1 0-0 2, Needham 0 1-2 1, Whiteman 1 0-2 2, Boyer 0 0-1 0, Harper 1 0-0 3. Totals: 8 6-14 23.
W.C. EAST: Culbertson 1 0-0 2, Mazzarelli 6 5-8 18, Newell 1 1-2 3, Hager 7 2-2 16, Hartman 4 0-0 8, Giunta 1 0-0 2, McCloskey 3 0-1 6, Stiebritz 0 0-2 0, Boyle 0 4-5 4. Totals: 23 12-20 59.
Avon Grove 6 6 2 9 — 23
W.C. East 21 21 9 8 — 59
3-point goals: Harper, Mazzarelli.