Keishla Gilmore does so much for her school that she lost track of how close she was inching toward becoming Mariana Bracetti Academy Charter School’s first 1,000-point basketball scorer.
Not to worry: her teammates, coaches and classmates made sure to commemorate the achievement, and they didn’t even wait for halftime or the postgame to do so.
With 3:27 remaining in the second quarter of Bracetti’s Friday afternoon home contest against Delaware Valley Charter, a second-chance layup opportunity landed in Gilmore’s hands underneath the basket and she did with it what she did for the 999 points that came first: she converted. Gilmore’s 15th and 16th points of the game, which increased Bracetti’s lead to 21-7, set off a raucous celebration on the court in the middle of the action. Spectators jubilantly launched blue and white paper confetti streamers in Gilmore’s direction while her teammates mobbed her near midcourt. She posed for a picture with the coaching staff, which offered her a special 1,000-point basketball to commemorate the occasion; behind Bracetti’s bench, four supporters stood in a line holding up individual signs that read ‘1,000’ when placed together.
“I didn’t know exactly where I was at, so it was exciting,” Gilmore said after Bracetti squashed a late Del-Val run to hold on for a 53-41 win. “I was surprised to see the streamers get thrown in the air and all my teammates running toward me with the fans screaming. The support of the people at this school has been amazing. To see them cheer me on, that cheers me up and makes me want to do good things for them.”
Mission accomplished. In her 48th career game for Bracetti, Gilmore sliced and diced her way to 32 of her team’s 53 points. She shot 15-for-27 from the field (0-for-2 from three-point range) and 2-for-7 at the foul line, displaying lightning-quick speed and a knack for getting to the rim despite being a natural guard.
Bracetti, now in its 10th year as a school, used to be located at 2501 Kensington Ave. until this year, when teachers and students moved into the old North Catholic building at 1840 Torresdale Ave., which Bracetti purchased three years ago, according to head girls basketball coach and athletic director John Westfield.
In her almost four years at the school, Gilmore has pretty much done it all. In addition to being an All-Public basketball selection for three years (and a fourth certainly to come), she plays volleyball in the fall and softball in the spring. Gilmore is the vice president of her class, as well as a straight-A student. As Westfield said prior to Friday’s game, she is “the epitome of everything you look for in a student-athlete.”
“Coming here has been amazing, because everyone has continued to get me to strive to do my best,” Gilmore said. “I have a lot of friends here, as you could see by the reaction and support for me today. I love this school, and if it’s going to keep giving me opportunities, then I’m going to keep taking advantage of them.”
For someone who scores the basketball so much, it’s a natural inclination to envision Gilmore as a selfish ballhawk. This couldn’t be further from the case. In fact, when she was still a point away from 1,000, she had a surefire shot to score on a 2-on-1 break. Even if Gilmore didn’t know her current tally, the noise and anticipation from the fans was palpable every time she touched the ball. And at the very last moment, with history one bucket away, what did Gilmore do?
“When I see my teammates open, that’s who I look for,” she said. “They might expect me to drive and score all the time, but I love to give them the ball so they have the same opportunities as I do. My teammates, I love them and they love me. They’ve supported me throughout this ride.”
This type of quality in Gilmore, and not her ability to score the basketball at will, is what truly makes her special, her coaching staff stated.
“If she only scored two points her entire career, she’d still be one of my favorite players,” assistant Claude Reifsnyder said. “She’s that great.”
Added fellow assistant Tara Kelly: “From the day she got here, she’s been a leader on the court and in the classroom. She’s my go-to person for everything. I’m not sure if people realize how rare the magnitude of this accomplishment is, either. It just doesn’t happen often at the high school level. She’s just a diamond in the rough. She glows in everything she does.”
Gilmore is remarkably mature for her age. Early in the second quarter, she took a hard foul underneath the basket, hitting her head on the floor when she came crashing down. Gilmore left the game briefly, but was compelled to return quickly, and not because she had a record to break, mind you.
“It was a hard fall, but I had to get back up and keep playing for my teammates,” she said. “Scoring 1,000 points means a lot, but it doesn’t distract me or stop me from playing my hardest for my team. Just because I got this record doesn’t mean our season is over. I want to keep helping this team win games.”
Westfield, who has probably spent the most 1-on-1 time with Gilmore, calls her forthcoming graduation from the school “bittersweet.”
“It’s hard to replace,” he said. “She’s our fourth coach on the court, as well as a coach in the school and a role model in general. Those students, nowadays they’re hard to find.”
And as she said, just because Gilmore broke the 1,000-point barrier doesn’t mean she’s finished. She’s got a basketball season to finish strong, as well as a softball season to look forward to. As far as she’s concerned, going full throttle all the time is the only way Gilmore knows.
“I go hard all year,” she said. “I like to stay active and get involved with everyone, whether it’s sports or being vice president for my class. I want to know who everyone is, to be the role model they need to make sure their voices are heard. I’m going to be there for them as long as they need me to be.” ••