The Nick Grathwohl countdown is down to 17 points.
Seventeen more points and Grathwohl will join an exclusive club of Southold High School boys basketball players who have scored 1,000 career points.
Grathwohl raised his three-year total to 983 Monday night with 26 points (six above his average) in a 50-38 non-league win at Port Jefferson. The senior guard looks like a sure bet to reach the milestone Friday night at Bridgehampton.
It’s getting real now.
“It’s like a dream come true,” said Grathwohl.
How much would hitting the 1,000-point mark mean to Grathwohl?
“A lot, just a tremendous amount,” he said. “It’s a true honor.”
It’s believed Grathwohl would become only the fifth Southold player since 1987 to achieve the feat. One might suspect some pressure is involved, but he seems to have embraced the human interest his pursuit of 1,000 has engendered.
“I think he’s handling it pretty well, actually,” coach Lucas Grigonis said. “I know there’s a little bit of pressure off the court, maybe, but he’s just trying to go out and play his game and share the ball, and he’s doing a good job at it.”
Asked what chasing 1,000 points has been like for him, Grathwohl answered: “A lot of people think for me that it would be overwhelming, but I don’t see pressure. Pressure just goes right by, so I just play every game like it’s the last game on the court.”
Grathwohl’s game Monday didn’t start the way he would have liked. He missed his first five shots before connecting on a three-pointer, followed by a close-range basket and a baseline runner shortly after that. For the most part, though, his shot wasn’t dropping early on.
“Some nights my shot’s not there so I just drive,” he said. “… I’m a shooter so I just keep shooting. I’ll get myself out of a funk.”
Thankfully for Southold (9-5, 5-1 Suffolk County League VIII), he did.
Grathwohl nabbed 11 points in the third quarter, the last three of those coming after he made a steal and canned a straight-on three to beat the buzzer ending the quarter. He had hit a three moments earlier, giving Southold the lead for good at 31-30.
Clearly, Grathwohl heated up.
“I just couldn’t find the rhythm in the first half,” he said. “I came out in the second half knowing I had to make a change because I was letting my teammates down. I just caught a spark.”
Grathwohl opened the fourth quarter with a three from the left wing. A left-handed dunk by teammate Nick Carr followed before a steal and a layup by Grathwohl made it 41-30.
Port Jefferson (2-8, 0-2 League VII) has a fine looking player itself in Drew Feinstein, who matched his average with 20 points, adding nine rebounds.
Feinstein made two layups during a 7-0 spurt that pulled the Royals within 41-37. But Southold reeled off the next nine points to salt the victory. Nick DeNicola made both ends of a one-and-one and a layup off a sideline inbounds pass from Grathwohl during that mini-run.
Grathwohl exited after sinking a free throw with 1 minute and 11 seconds left in the game. His evening’s work left him with eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. He shot 10-for-26 from the field, 5 of 12 from three-point distance.
Carr had a monster game on the boards, coming down with a career-high 20 rebounds (10 offensive) to go with nine points, three assists and two blocks. Nick Eckhardt grabbed nine boards himself.
Port Jefferson’s Luke Filippi had 12 points and nine rebounds before leaving with what appeared to be an ankle issue about midway through the fourth quarter.
Grigonis said Grathwohl is a supportive teammate who pays attention to details. “His transformation has been one of maturity and basically utilizing his potential this year,” said the coach.
Carr is not only a teammate of Grathwohl’s, but said he is also a close friend. “He’s very hard on everyone,” Carr said. “He wants to motivate everybody, but at the same time he’s just a really good friend. He’s got a tough side to him, but he’s definitely got a soft side, too.”
That soft side looks likely to emerge at some point during Friday night’s game.
What will go through Grathwohl’s mind and how will he react when he scores the 1,000th point?
“Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “Am I going to break down crying or am I just going to be shocked? I have no idea. It’s just going to be in the moment. Whatever happens happens.”