It was inevitable. Since seventh grade in fact. The inevitability of Bri Rozzi — the youngest of the fabled Highland basketball sisters — barring injury, breaking the school career-scoring record of 1,615 set by Lisa Pritzlaff in 2001. And she did it with a hard-earned 26 point effort against Division 2 foe and arch-rival Marlboro last Tuesday night. The only downer? Highland lost to Marlboro (at Marlboro) 71-53.
With Pritzlaff graciously in attendance to pass The Rock to her, Rozzi came into the game just 18 points from the record. It wasn’t easy. She hit a four-point play early in the first quarter (hitting a three, being fouled and adding the free throw) and on a drive down the lane midway through the second quarter, giving the senior point guard extraordinaire six points in the 35-20 Marlboro first-half. It being her basketball nature, Rozzi, double-teamed the moment she passed half-court, shot just nine times in the half, content to pass it to her open teammates. The ultimate team-player.
Attacking the basket and finding spaces in the Marlboro defense, Rozzi hit a pair of free throws to open the second-half, then hit a long three-pointer, one-of-two free throws, then a side-jumper, a putback of her own missed shot and then…with less than 1:00 to play in the third quarter, nailed one free throw — tying Pritzlaff — then hit the second — for her 1,616th career point. On the way to this moment, Bri — who scored 16 points in a State Tournament game as a seventh grader — also passed her older sisters: Erica (1,606 in 1994), Ali (1,108 in 2016), Christie (1,080 in 2006) and Renee (997 in 1998), three of whom were attendance at the game (oldest sister Erica had to work) — the Rozzi Sisters: the First Family of Section 9 basketball.
Rozzi added eight more points in the fourth quarter, not enough to overcome an incredible performance from Highland center Elizabeth Lofaro, who scored 35 points and hauled in 25 rebounds; while sister Erin hit four three-pointers in the first quarter and finished with 15. Katie Dauenheimer added eleven points for Highland, with Bridgette Carle adding eight.
“We all knew when she hit a layup in CYO as a third-grader playing up that she was a special player,” said sister Christie.
“She could dribble really well at five,” said sister Renee, “and could already play in kindergarten and first grade.”
“She’s always been super-competitive, worked super-hard and loved it,” said sister Ali, who played two years with her younger sister, winning her only Section 9 title with her in 2013.
“And she likes this setting, rising to every challenge,” said all three.
“She also had more exposure than we had, at least Erica and me,” said Renee. “Remember, when we played we had no idea there would be a second wave with Christie, Ali and then Bri.”
“It was all Dad,” they agreed, looking over at Tom Rozzi, their basketball junkie Father (who also coaches the Highland girls JV team and assists head coach Jim Malak), “he pushed all of us. Always,” added Ali.
“We all were hyper-competitive,” said Christie, “critiquing each other’s play, playing together all the time…not necessarily organized, just playing ball (Christie is ten years younger than Renee and ten years older than Ali)…we watched each other. And grew from that.”
“She’s just the best of us, the most deserving,” said Renee, as all three nodded in agreement.
So it is on to the next milestone of 1,700…then 1,800?…maybe 1,900?…and a place in the top ten of all-time Section 9 scorers, as Rozzi scored 24 in Friday’s 59-46 win at Rondout Valley, with Bridgette Carle adding 13 points.
Highland, 7-5, hosts Burke on Friday, January 25 at 5:30 p.m. and plays Fallsburg on Saturday, January 26 at noon at SUNY-Sullivan in Loch Sheldrake.