As the ball dropped through the bottom of the net for the first of two free throws, Rachel Iozzia turned and looked at her teammates, then ran toward the Central Regional bench.
A hug with Brianne Allender quickly turned into a pile on the floor Tuesday evening as the Golden Eagles senior captain celebrated reaching 1,000 career points -- just the fifth Central Regional female to achieve that basketball milestone and the first one in 12 years. Iozzia, who has been starting on varsity since her freshman year, finished with 16 points as the Golden Eagles defeated Lakewood 49-18.
"Pressure's off," she said, an ear-to-ear grin on her face after the game. Before the game, she admitted she had butterflies about what was to come. "I'm excited and I'm ready for it to be over so I'm not nervous anymore."
Iozzia joins Lauren Wagner, Erin Fisher, Karen Hughes and Karin Kane -- now better known as Berkeley Township Police Chief Karin DiMichele -- as the only female players to reach 1,000 points in their Central careers.
"I'm happy to see other girls achieving that level of play," said DiMichele, who came to the game to show her support for Iozzia. "It's an honor to be part of such a select group."
DiMichele finished with 1,048 points when she graduated in 1989; Hughes (1981) finished with 1,293, and Fisher, a 2001 graduate, finished with 1,037. Wagner is Central's career leading scorer with 1,518.
"Welcome to the club," DiMichele said.
Iozzia, who came into the game needing just six points to reach 1,000, scored five of them quickly, on a layup 28 seconds into the game and then a layup and a free throw at the 6:10 mark. But a couple of 3-pointers refused to fall as Central kept feeding the ball to Iozzia. Finally, she drove into the paint and drew the foul. With 3:49 left in the first quarter, she stepped to the line and after a deep breath, hit the first shot, setting off the celebration, complete with flowers, balloons, a photo signed by the entire team and a basketball painted burgundy and gold with "1,000" in gold numerals on one panel.
"Rachel has worked very hard to reach this level," said John Truhan, Central Regional's head coach. "She prepares like she's studying for an exam."
When Truhan came to Central five years ago, Iozzia was a shooting guard on the middle school team, he said. He converted her to a point guard and in Iozzia's freshman year, she scored 250 points.
"That's when I knew (reaching 1,000 points) might happen," Iozzia said.
"I knew that if she developed as a point guard she could easily become one of the better players at the Shore, if not one of the best in Ocean County," Truhan said. And she has become a driving force for the Eagles this year, he said.
"It's like having another coach on the floor," Truhan said. "She sees things before they happen."
Iozzia said that while the personal accolades are nice, she's more focused on seeing the team go deep into the state tournament.
"There were a lot of roadblocks this season," she said. "I just want to see us win in the states."
"This year is above and beyond what we expected," Truhan said, whose squad is 9-5 and third in Shore Conference Class B South behind Point Boro, the No. 1 team at the Shore, and Monsignor Donovan. "This is such a coachable group. It's by far the most fun I've had coaching here."
Iozzia, who has 1,010 points after Tuesday's game, has garnered some attention from Division I colleges; a coach from St. Francis is reportedly attending Thursday's home game vs. Jackson Memorial. But she isn't sure yet where she might continue her basketball career.
For now, she's enjoying the game and enjoying her senior season.
"We are having so much fun as a team," she said. "They're so much fun to hang around with."