It took almost 20 seconds before James Anozie released that free throw. It took the Our Lady of Lourdes High School basketball star a while to gather himself and settle the nerves.
He had shot plenty of free throws before, and certainly had scored plenty of points throughout his career. But this one, on Tuesday night against Peekskill, was more significant than most.
“It’s the most nervous I’d ever been at the line,” the 6-foot-5 center said with a chuckle. “Because I knew.”
He knew that he was a point away from scoring the 1,500th of his career.
He swished it. Anozie, who entered the game needing 16 points, completed a three-point play midway through the third quarter and added another notch on his decorated belt.
The senior had 23 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks to lead the Warriors in a 74-51 win over Peekskill in his team’s regular-season finale. Freshman Aidan Hilderbrand added a career-high 23 points.
Lourdes (14-6) earned the fifth seed entering the Section 1 Class A playoffs and will host the winner of the 12th-seeded Roosevelt vs. No. 21 Gorton game at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Anozie said the milestone “means everything to me. It’s an honor, and not something a lot of people get to experience. It’s something that makes you look back on your whole career.”
Anozie began playing basketball in kindergarten, simply, because his friends were into it. He, admittedly, wasn’t very good at it.
“I didn’t think I’d even get this far with basketball, let alone doing things like this,” he said.
But his skills began to improve in the eighth grade, and he continued to grow rapidly. He joined the Lourdes varsity team as a freshman and has since developed into a powerful low-post scorer, with quick moves and guile around the basket.
He scored his 1,000th point in a game against Carmel last February and was named the Journal Player of the Year last season.
Warriors coach Jim Santoro alerted the officials that Anozie was a point away from the milestone as he stepped to the line. That commotion contributed to his prolonged attempt, the coach said. The game was stopped briefly and the center was congratulated by teammates.
“He has done this while being double- and triple-teamed, and he’s also shot over 60 percent from the floor in the last three years,” Santoro said. “That’s a tribute to him.”
Stephen Haynes: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4