Over the course of its life expectancy, the game of basketball has seen excellent basketball families come and go from the game, such as Rick, Jon, Brent, and Drew Barry, Dell, Stephen, and Seth Curry, and Joe “Jellybean” and Kobe Bryant, among many others.
But while they may not have professional basketball experience, the Buckley family has put together a great crop of high school basketball talent in its own right.
If one doesn’t believe so, New Boston’s Mariah Buckley can prove you wrong. The heady guard became the third of her five siblings to eclipse the 1,000-point plateau — following in the footsteps her older sister, Missy, and her older brother, Shane — by obtaining 17 points in a 70-62 victory over South Webster on Monday evening in New Boston.
However, for the entire Buckley family, this one may very well the most exciting of them all — especially considering what Mariah has been through.
“Last year, I came back from an ACL injury, and I worked really hard over the summer,” Buckley said. “That’s the part of this that really means the most to me. I worked so hard to get to where I am at today, and I could not do this without any of my teammates or my coaches, for sure.”
“It’s a well-deserved accomplishment,” Wiley said. “She’s really worked hard for it. She tore her ACL last year and just found a way to bounce back. She definitely puts in the work and she definitely deserves this milestone.”
Yes, that’s right: Mariah accomplished the 1,000-point feat while battling back from an anterior cruciate ligament injury that cost her a significant portion of her junior season.
However, being the gritty and mentally tough student-athlete that she is, Buckley returned just four months later — and reassumed her position as a starting shortstop on the softball field for Brian Holbrook’s program.
“Mariah was out for four months, and that was it,” Wiley said. “It was a really quick recovery. She’s just really disciplined and very stubborn when it comes to her playing basketball. She loves basketball, and that is something that is very important in her life.”
Being involved in athletics in general, however, has been a passion of Buckley’s. A three-sport athlete at New Boston, Buckley — who also plays the setter position in volleyball in addition to her point guard and shortstop duties in basketball and softball — has been a key cog in engineering the turnaround of all three programs.
New Boston’s basketball program? 13 wins or more in each of the past two seasons, and well on its way to a third straight plus-.500 campaign in 2017. New Boston’s softball program? A competitive seven win group last season. And New Boston’s volleyball program? It’s posted a 35-13 overall record over the past two seasons, with Division IV District Semifinal appearances across each campaign.
Those results, however, are a direct correlation of Buckley’s work as a leader. In each of the three sports, the senior has been named as an All-SOC honoree, with basketball, where the point guard has obtained All-Southeast District honors in each of the past two seasons, being the senior’s best sport.
Fellow teammates Ali Hamilton and Kaylee Stone have been right by Buckley’s side and have starred in each of the three sports, while senior classmates Peyton Helphinstine and Bri Humble, who transferred over from East, are girls that Buckley has developed a bond with.
“Kaylee, Ali, and I have been playing alongside each other since we were extremely little,” Buckley said when discussing all five of her senior teammates. “Then, when Peyton and Bri came in, it was like I had been playing with them for years. We just all connect so well.”
That is evident on the basketball court, where Buckley, who runs the show for the Lady Tigers, has shown the poise and leadership necessary in a lead guard looking for an opportunity at the next level. New Boston has won six out of its last seven affairs, is 11-2 overall, and, last, but not least, is state-ranked behind the efforts of the 5-6 guard, who has a strong knowledge of how to utilize the pick and roll game to her advantage and has a crafty knack for getting to the rim.
“She does a really, really good job and has a lot of finesse to her,” Wiley said. “I really believe that she’s a great guard. She’s great at driving and doing what she needs to do. She really plays to her strengths. That’s something that a lot of high school players struggle to do, but she has, and she’s done it very well.”
“(Kayla) Wiley is an amazing coach,” Buckley said. “I wouldn’t be able to do this without any of my coaches, at all. They’ve pushed me so hard. I’m glad I got this accomplishment for them and my teammates.”
That was evident in Monday evening’s contest against South Webster, where Buckley ultimately was able to use her crafty play to draw fouls — and lots of them. Ultimately, Buckley, who obtained her 1,000th point at the charity stripe, connected on 15 of her 18 free throws, but also contributed in a strong manner in additional areas by supplying seven rebounds and four assists to the table.
“Regardless of her being part of the 1,000 point club, the win really meant a lot to her tonight,” Wiley said. “I know that reaching that milestone means a lot to all of her family and her friends. She really was excited about winning the basketball game, as well. We all were.”
“Defeating South Webster was the main thing that I wanted to do,” Buckley said. “It means the world to me to beat them, because it’s been about improving as a team, and being there for my teammates when they need me. South Webster is a very good team, so it shows that we are making good progress as a group. We did what we set out to do (on Monday evening).”
That, however, is not a surprise — because Mariah Buckley, as she has displayed on the basketball court, is a fighter in life.
“It’s a proud moment for me to get to watch two 1,000-point scorers in the same class (Buckley and Ali Hamilton),” Wiley said. “I thought about all of the hard work and the adversity that Mariah has overcome with that. To me, that shows a person, ‘Hey, if you put in the work, this is what will come out of it.’ It’s a great feeling to be able to watch a player battle through the lows, reach the highs, and score 1,000 points. I’m a proud coach.”
“It really means a lot,” Buckley said of her newfound honor. “I couldn’t do this without my family, my coaches, and my teammates. They’ve really made this a great experience for me.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT