Whenever and wherever she played, the huge crowds followed. Following games, she signed countless autographs and touched her young fans' lives by just flashing a smile or offering an encouraging word.
Kelly Mazzante was a small-town player, but she had a big-time following. Her biggest fan might have been Tierney Pfirman, who was just starting at South Williamsport's Central Elementary School when Mazzante concluded her legendary Montoursville career in 2000. Twelve years later, Pfirman is experiencing everything Mazzante did. Twelve years ago, young aspiring basketball players wanted to be Mazzante.
Twelve years later, they want to be Tierney Pfirman.
Pfirman earned all-state honors for a fourth consecutive year Wednesday. The high school All-American was selected as a first-teamer for a second consecutive year and will play at national powerhouse Maryland next winter.
Liberty all-time leading scorer Brooke Scott-Knecht, a third-team Class A selection, was the only other all-state area player.
To really get a feel for what Pfirman has meant to South and the community, one needed only attend South or nearby games the past two seasons. There were huge crowds, a steady stream of well-wishers and autograph seekers that rushed toward her after every game. They told the story.
"When you go to the gym and see people of all ages cheer her on and ask for autographs, that's special," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. "When I walked into the gym people wanted to talk to me because they had a story about Tierney or the Pfirman family. That's wholesome and it has a small-town feel. People have really taken ownership and hopefully they follow her to College Park."
They likely will. Pfirman could probably run for South Williamsport mayor and win in a landslide. It's not a stretch to say she might be the most popular Mountie athlete in school history. Every time Pfirman played at home, it felt like a community celebration with the crowd going wild every time she made a good play. Even in an early-season win at Lewisburg opposing students lined up to receive autographs.
It seemed people had a feeling they were watching someone special, someone they might not see come along for quite some time. Pfirman is one of only five Lycoming County players to ever receive a basketball scholarship to a BCS-level conference school. She is proof that being from a small area does not prevent one from reaching the big time. And that is why so many young girls hope they one day will follow in Pfirman's footsteps.
"Every little kid has their hero, whether it's a super hero or a singer or an athlete. Being a little kid I had my hero and it was Kelly," Pfirman said. "She was from a small town and made her dreams come true big-time. Those kids are in the position I was back then and that they actually got to know me, that's a cool experience.
"Being a senior in high school, you don't think of yourself as a superstar. I'm just a kid. People say I've meant a lot to them. It's unreal."
One might say the same about her scholastic career. Pfirman topped 2,000 career points and broke the South scoring record late this past season before finishing with 2,309 career points, second in Lycoming County history. The 6-2 forward, who played all five positions, averaged a district-high 27.7 points, 13 rebounds, 6.1 steals and 3.1 assists per game despite constant double teaming and face-guarding.
Pfirman averaged 24.1 points during her career while leading South to 83 wins. As a freshman she helped South make a 14-win improvement, capture the District 4 championship and tie a program record with 25 wins. She averaged 12 rebounds during her four seasons and, had it not been for a stress fracture injury ending her junior season early, Pfirman likely would have topped 1,000 rebounds. She also had 247 assists and 239 steals.
More important than the numbers was how Pfirman made her teammates better. Each season she played, Pfirman ignited comebacks over quality teams and it seemed the only thing bigger than her talent was her will.
"The most important thing is Tierney is extremely competitive," Frese said. "When you're competitive and a winner and you hate to lose that characteristic always stays with you. When tough times come she just focuses on doing whatever it takes to make herself better.
"After her final game of the high school season all she kept telling our staff was how hard she was ready to work. She flipped that switch that high school was over and she already was ready for the next level."
Most of Lycoming County has known about Pfirman for a long time. Coaches used to approach South coach Mike Allison and ask about Pfirman. They were in awe of how she took over games and dominated opponents. They marveled at her ability to help South win.
And all this while Pfirman was still attending Central Elementary School.
"I was coaching junior high and I remember all these coaches asking me, 'when is this Pfirman girl going to start playing?' Allison said. "She was not even out of elementary school and they were already asking about her. It's been nice to be a part of this experience and to see Tierney grow as a player and as a person and a leader on the team as each season came and went."
When her mother Kim was coaching in the John Bower League, a neighbor watched Pfirman shooting and dribbling the basketball off to the side. He was so impressed he predicted Pfirman would some day play Division I basketball.
Pfirman was 2.
Expectations always have been high for this teenager, who never let those burdens weigh her down. The bigger the pressure, the better Pfirman played at every step up the basketball ladder. Now 16 years later, Pfirman is not only one of the state's best players, but also one of the country's best.
Like Mazzante before her, Pfirman has struck a blow for small schools in small communities. She has shown that nothing is out of reach.
Allison says his elementary program's turnout has dramatically increased the last few years. Pfirman is the biggest reason why.
"That is the name that comes out of their mouths," Allison said. "They can see that somebody from a small school like ours can play at a higher level if they work hard and have the ability. Hopefully, that will help our program."
Pfirman likely has helped programs throughout the community. When they pick up their basketballs these days, Pfirman is the one they are emulating. They are hoping to become the next Tierney Pfirman.
The catch is this. Just like there was only one Kelly Mazzante there also is only one Tierney Pfirman.
And the past four years she was in a league of her own.