— Last week, Maria Farrell became the first basketball player at MaST Charter to score 1,000 career points.
Being a student-athlete at MaST Community Charter School is all Maria Farrell has ever known. Now, with graduation looming in a few months, she’ll be forced to move on to the next stage of her life and subsist on the memories she’s made.
Suffice it to say she has more than a thousand of them.
“I was thinking about it recently, the fact that I’ve probably spent more time at my school than I have at my own house,” she said matter of factly.
For Farrell, a MaST (at 1800 Byberry Road) lifer and Holmesburg native, Tuesday of last week marked the culmination of an epic journey. The school, known much more for academics than athletics, got to celebrate Farrell becoming the first basketball player in school history to score 1,000 points in her career. She wasted no time in getting there, either, burying a three-pointer from the left corner on the game’s first play.
It’s hard to fathom Farrell ever seeing this coming when she first laced up her high-tops as a MaST sixth-grader. Being able to accomplish something so rare and share it with the people around her — some of whom she’s known since she was 5 years old — has made it even more special.
“At MaST, everybody kind of knows everybody, so everywhere I go people have been congratulating me, even if it’s someone I haven’t spoken to in five years,” she said. “I think it’s something to celebrate together as a school, and the fact that I was the first one to do it is a big deal for me.”
MaST has won just four games this season, and the team’s season included an 11-game losing streak at one point. Thus, charting Farrell’s progress as she approached the milestone has been enough to get everybody at the school involved and feeling like a part of it.
Farrell hit 1,000 points in a 38-28 win over Plumstead Christian on Jan. 22. After her shot swooshed through the net, head coach Adam Washam called time so that the school could commemorate the special moment, complete with pictures, flowers and, of course, a celebratory pile-up.
“I don’t even know how to describe the moment,” Farrell said. “Everybody tackled me into a dog pile. It’s been our goal this year to get me to 1,000 points, so it’s been a great experience for the whole team. Everyone has been so supportive. I don’t think it’s really hit me yet. It’s surreal, I guess I’d say.”
Michelle Farrell, one of Maria’s two older sisters, has had a unique vantage point in monitoring Maria’s quest for 1,000. Since last season, Michelle has been a teacher at MaST as well as an assistant to Washam on the basketball team.
“I was obviously very, very proud of her when it happened,” said Michelle, who is 13 years older than Maria. “She’s been watching me play since she was three years old, and it was neat growing up and being able to teach her things about the game. It’s great that I can coach her, and then we can get in the car and I drive her home and we just talk about anything.”
And how do the two compare as basketball players?
“She’s scored way more points than I ever did,” Michelle said, laughing.
Washam, who has served as Maria’s head coach for both basketball and volleyball (her secondary sport), struggled to put into perspective his star player’s impact at the school.
“I think ‘ambassador’ is the perfect word to describe her,” Washam said. “We’re fairly new and don’t get much outside attention when it comes to sports, but she’s changed all that. Now, there’s more of a buzz, both within the school and outside of it. She’s helped change the persona of MaST athletics. Having been here from the beginning, doing what she’s done has pointed us in the right direction.
“It changes the overall perception,” he continued. “We just got a new weight room here, and I’ve seen more athletes in there. They see what she’s accomplished and think they can do that, too.”
Michelle Farrell agreed.
“My daughter is a third-grader here and was at the game (last week), and the first thing she said was, ‘When I’m in high school, I’m going to score 1,000 points,’” she said. “Maria walks the halls and the little kids look up to her. Not only that, but they see they don’t have to go to another school to shine athletically. She’s a good role model in that respect.”
As for what comes next for Maria Farrell, well, she’s still undecided. When you’ve been at one place for so long, it’s easy to understand why even the thought of going somewhere else seems completely foreign. She did say she would continue her basketball career at the next level, though she’s still unaware of exactly where that will occur. Farrell also said she’s leaning toward studying nursing, because there’s something appealing about “being the one in the room helping patients.”
Now that her milestone accomplishment is out of the way, she said she really just wants to enjoy the handful of games she has left with her teammates, as well as the handful of months with her classmates, some of whom she’s known since kindergarten.
“It is a scary thought,” she said of moving on. “But it’s also exciting to have that new challenge to look forward to. You kind of just have to hope for the best and trust that the school you attended for thirteen years will prepare you for whatever college and life throw your way.”
Though she didn’t want to get into specifics, Michelle Farrell acknowledged that her younger sister had an opportunity somewhere along the line to transfer to a more athletically revered institution. Maria politely declined, instead choosing to finish what she started at MaST all those years ago.
“All I’ve wanted to do is have the best senior year ever,” Maria said. “We won our second straight volleyball championship in the fall, and now I’m the first one to score 1,000 points. I was actually really nervous because this was such a big deal to me.
“I just wanted to go out there, give it my best and leave everything on the court. It’s good to have more people recognizing our school and seeing what we can do, both athletically and in class. Everybody knows everybody here, and we just have a strong bond that can’t be broken.” ••
Sports editor Ed Morrone can be reached at 215-354-3035 or firstname.lastname@example.org