Moments after their favorite player concluded a post-game television interview, Central Elementary School students swarmed Tierney Pfirman while giving her big hugs.
Pfirman might only be a 17-year old high school senior, but she is much more to those aspiring basketball players. To them she is their hero. Really, the entire South Williamsport community loves Pfirman, a fact made abundantly clear Tuesday night as Blue-clad fans jammed the South gym and enthusiastically cheered Pfirman's every point.
She has captivated South since she first became a basketball prodigy as a young child and to those fans, Pfirman is a legend. Tuesday their legend achieved something legendary.
South Williamsport’s Tierney Pfirman, center, celebrates her 2,000th career point with Jamie Steer, left, and Emily Green, right, Tuesday at home vs. Lewisburg. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
Pfirman sank two free throws midway through the fourth quarter, scoring her 2,000th career point while helping South rally for a 48-45 win over visiting Lewisburg. Pfirman became only the third Lycoming County girls player to ever reach 2,000, joining Loyalsock's Jill McElhinny (1989) and Montoursville's Kelly Mazzante (2000).
"It's all surreal right now," Pfirman said. "Going Division I, getting the 2,000 points... It's high school, I'm still a kid and hopefully in college I'll look back and be like, 'Wow that was a good high school career there.'"
Good would be an understatement.
Pfirman has scored 2,008 points, averaging 23.6 points her entire career, two points more than McElhinny, who was a captain at Pittsburgh. She also has been a three-time all-state selection who has led South (13-2, 7-1 HAC-II) to a district championship, two league titles and a 75-9 record the past four seasons. Headed to Maryland next year, Pfirman put her whole arsenal on display Tuesday, scoring 27 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking three shots.
More important than those numbers is when Pfirman produced most of them. She went on her own personal 9-2 fourth-quarter run, blocked a last-second potential game-tying shot, broke up a pass in the final seconds and played her best when her team needed her most. It was a fitting night to score her 2,000th point since that is the kind of performance that has made her one of District 4's all-time greats.
"I am thankful that I've been around here long enough to be here when a player of that caliber comes through," South coach Mike Allison said. "It's special to be able to coach somebody like that and be a part of that experience as a coach."
Pfirman entered the game needing 19 points to reach 2,000 and Lewisburg (7-6, 4-4) did everything it could to prevent her from doing so. Maria Kelleher and Kasey Conrad draped themselves to Pfirman throughout the game and South's all-time leading girls scorer had only 11 points late in the third quarter. Pfirman, though, started attacking the basket and getting to the foul line and earned her shot at history when she was fouled driving in for a layup with 4:26 remaining.
As soon as Pfirman went to the line, needing two more points, the South students started jumping in near delirium with anticipation. After sinking the first shot, Pfirman dribbled the ball four times, spun it once and released. The ball glanced off the rim and fell through the net as Pfirman officially put her image upon the Mount Rushmore of legendary County players.
Pfirman quickly dropped to a knee before teammate Jamie Steer ran toward her and gave her a big hug. As the crowd went crazy, South players stormed the floor and engulfed Pfirman. She received flowers and balloons from Allison and assistant coach Bob Harmon before running into the stands and embracing her family, most who have attended every one of Pfirman's games over the years.
"We have a great following. Without them I don't think I could do it because the gym was going wild tonight," Pfirman said. "There's a little more pressure trying to get it when all the fans come out and it's expected to happen. As a freshman it was one of my big goals but I didn't think I would get here."
Reaching 2,000 not only seemed to relax Pfirman, but the entire team. South still trailed by three after that milestone, but Pfirman tied it with a long 3-pointer near the 3-minute mark. Nearly a minute later, Pfirman grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast, going up and under a defender for a go-ahead layup while putting South ahead to stay.
Anastasia Laird and Pfirman both hit free throws in the final two minutes and the Mountie defense played great during that time while preserving the win against a dramatically improved team. Pfirman also blocked an Emily Conrad layup when South led by two.
Trailing by three with five seconds remaining, Lewisburg had one last chance to tie but needed to go the length of the court. Pfirman knocked away a pass near the 3-point line, leaving Lewisburg just one second and Chelsea Boyer's off-balance 3-pointer fell short as time expired.
"Any goal a teammate has, I think it's natural for it to be on the players' minds," Allison said. "Once Tierney did get the 2,000th point I think they finally felt we have to get back to business and finish up the game and play Southside basketball."
Lewisburg gave a valiant effort and threatened to steal the show on Pfirman's big night. South had routed Lewisburg by 34 points a month earlier, but the Dragons are a different, and better, team now. Lewisburg entered having won five straight and looked like it might make it six when it opened a five-point lead with 5:37 remaining.
Kelleher skillfully ran a patient offense and helped Lewisburg dictate the tempo while scoring 16 points. Lois Lesher added 11 points and nine rebounds while the defense was terrific as the Dragons neutralized the South transition offense which shredded it a month earlier.
"They did exactly what they had to do. We were patient on offense, we moved the ball well and we attacked the basket when we had to," Lewisburg coach Phil Stamm said. "Defensively we did everything we possibly could to make Tierney work as hard as we could on that end and we executed that pretty well. We did really well, but we just came up a little short."
Steer scored 11 points for South and did some damage inside while Laird, Jen Jackson and Emily Green combined for 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Pfirman scored 12 fourth-quarter points and delivered the kind of clutch performance that has endeared her to South, likely now and forever. Those same kids who hugged Pfirman afterward will understand the standard has been set by their favorite player. And whenever Pfirman comes back to South in the future, those same kids might borrow a line from the movie "The Natural" and say there goes the best player South has ever known.
"There was a lot of relief just knowing I could focus on winning the game after that (2,000)," Pfirman said. "That's behind me now."
But so much more appears to lie ahead.
Maria Kelleher 4 7-7 16, Emily Conrad 2 2-2 7, Chelsea Boyer 2 3-6 7, Lois Lesher 4 3-3 11, Drew Kline 1 0-0 2, Haley Stanko 0 0-0 0, Kasey Conrad 0 0-0 0, Lenore Doyle 1 0-0 2, Patty Sullivan 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 15-18 45.
Tierney Pfirman 7 11-12 27, Jamie Steer 3 5-6 11, Jen Jackson 1 0-0 2, Anastasia Laird 2 2-4 6, Emily Green 0 0-2 0, Sarah March 0 0-0 0, Samantha Reasner 1 0-0 2, Jillian Jackson 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 18-24.
Lewisburg13 12 10 10-45
South8 14 11 15-48
3-pointers: Lewisburg 2 (Kelleher, E. Conrad); South 2 (Pfirman 2).
Records: South 13-2, 7-1 HAC-II. Lewisburg 7-6, 4-4.
JV Score: Lewisburg 23-13.