On Jan. 16 at Spotswood High School, Matt Vento was sitting on 999 career points.
He needed one more free throw or basket to reach 1,000 for his boys’ basketball career.
Late in the third quarter against South Plainfield High School, Vento drove the lane, made a layup and heard the whistle. “And one!” he thought.
But instead, the referee called a charge. Vento would have to wait a little longer.
Minutes later, he again drove the lane, made the layup and heard the whistle. Yet again, he thought, “And one!” And this time he was right. Vento had scored the 1,000th and 1,001st points of his career.
The senior could finally relax.
“There were obviously a lot of nerves. I didn’t want to choke. All my friends were there. I struggled in the first half,” Vento said. “But then, (teammate) Mike Harris brought energy, which got me going, and the points started coming easier.”
The game stopped as Vento’s parents, brother, grandparents, friends and friends’ parents joined him on the court. Vento held the ball as they all took pictures together.
“It felt awesome. It was really cool,” Vento said. “I couldn’t stop smiling.”
After the moment, with his newfound peace of mind, Vento helped the Chargers come back from a 15 point deficit to force overtime. Spotswood would eventually fall in overtime, 67-65, but it was an uplifting effort.
Spotswood is 4-12 this winter, but its best player is still enjoying his final season with the program.
He is scoring 19.6 points per game.
“It has still been so fun this year, just playing with everyone,” Vento said. “Just fighting together.”
Spotswood coach Steve Mate thinks the Chargers can still make a run. But Vento may have to go to another level.
“He will have to put the team on his back,” Mate said. “We’re not out of it.”
Even if Spotswood doesn’t get it going, the program still enjoyed one highlight this year. Its best player will now be a part of program history forever.
“It’s going to be awesome to be on the (1,000 point) banner (in the Spotswood gym),” Vento said. “It will feel so cool coming back to visit, to see my name up there.”
“Even his sophomore and junior years, he just found ways to score. He’s a very natural scorer. He finds cracks in the defense,” Mate said. “Matt’s got a very unique talent.”
Vento, a 6-2, 170-pound guard, is not sure if he wants to play collegiate basketball. He also plays baseball, guitar and does well in school.
The senior wants to major in physics in college, so he may not have time to focus on sports. He is not a one dimensional athlete. He has plenty of options.
“I’m not sure if I want to play at the next level. I’m letting it come as it comes. Basketball, baseball, maybe just education,” Vento said. “Plus, majoring in physics, it might be too much on my shoulders. We’ll see when it comes. But The College of New Jersey is looking like one of my top choices.”
“He didn’t play AAU, which is where most of the recruiting comes in,” Mate said. “But he’ll get into most schools because of his high grades.”
For a moment, at least, Vento is not worrying about what’s next. He is just reflecting on an indelible high school basketball experience.
“Honestly it feels like just yesterday I was playing my first game. It’s crazy how fast it’s gone,” Vento said. “I’ve been thinking about it and getting nostalgic. It’s been a crazy ride. It’s been a blast.”