It had to be Saturday.
North White’s schedule the week after Thanksgiving is two games, both on the road. There was no doubt Cale Robertson eventually would break 1,000 career points. But North White head coach Matt Sipkema wanted the senior to do it amongst his fans, and not hold the ceremony in mid-December.
Sipkema told a couple of his players, swore them to secrecy.
“I knew where he was at … but Cale had no idea. I told a couple boys, and said ‘Let’s get it tonight at home,’” Sipkema said. “He puts the work in. Puts a lot of work in no one sees. How fitting.”
Robertson needed 26 points to reach the mark, and got his 14th point of the second half — and record-tying bucket — on a layup with 1 minute, 37 seconds left in the contest. Play was stopped and Robertson was recognized. Robertson then went to the bench, mission complete, and watched the rest of North White’s 72-63 victory as the second half of a boy-girl doubleheader.
“Not really, honestly,” Robertson said of knowing how close he was. “It was in the flow of the game (I found out).
“I heard the crowd and they started blowing the whistles and I looked over at the scorer’s bench and they were saying, ‘Stop the game.’”
Added Brayden Buschman, “I didn’t know he was that close. I knew going into the game he had a chance … but I didn’t know he would achieve it (Saturday).”
The play was a simple one, with Robertson driving past a defender for the layup. That it wasn’t a 3-pointer seemed incredulous. Robertson scored 12 of his 14 second-half points on 3s, and hit seven 3-pointers on the night. His other three points came on free throws he earned after being fouled on a 3-pointer. He was 7 for 15 from beyond the arc.
“Can’t believe it. It’s been a dream of mine,” Robertson said of reaching the milestone.
Robertson’s day mirrored that of his team. North White took 66 shots, with 40 of them from beyond the arc. The Vikings hit 13 from beyond the arc during their calculated measure to offset the Oracles’ 2-3 zone.
“With the 2-3, they were packing it in close,” Buschman said. “We tried to kick the ball, move it as fast as we could, get the open shots we were looking for.”
Added Robertson, “We were going to live or die by the 3.”
It looked as if the death was quick early on. North White missed a lot of shots — from 3 or otherwise — and Delphi hit five of its 10 long-range shots in the first quarter. The result was a 25-7 deficit after eight minutes.
“A lot of teams would have folded that early, but I reminded them our motto is ‘Run as one,’” Sipkema said. “We were at a summer basketball tournament and down 24-2 at Tri-County after the first quarter. We won the last three, and I told the boys (Saturday) wasn’t any different.”
A diamond press and finally sinking shots helped the home team pull within 34-30 at halftime. North White closed within 29-20, then later 34-27 on Trey Cobb splitting a pair from the line.
Robertson’s trio of foul shots represented the final points before the half.
“I think we just tried to keep our cool,” Buschman said. “We came out in the second quarter with the press, and that really boosted us, gave us a couple turnovers and some quick buckets that helped get us back into the groove.”
And the triples, which came in bunches. Seven of the 13 field goals North White hit in the second half were from beyond the arc, which gave the Vikings 21 of their 42 second-half points.
It started with consecutive threes from Hunter Pogue and Robertson, the latter of which tied the game at 36. Another Robertson 3 turned the score in the home team’s favor for the first time, and a Bentley Buschman triple started a 7-0 run that put the Vikings in front for good.
It ballooned to 10 points at 58-48 on a Pogue 3, then grew to 15 on a Robertson 3 (67-52). A little later, Robertson broke the record to set off more figurative fireworks.
“We weren’t looking back,” Brayden Buschman said. “We carried (momentum) into halftime, we were all up, in good spirits. It was full steam ahead.”
Sipkema made the ‘time to eat’ motion made famous by Ezekiel Elliot and James Harden during a pep talk before the game, which drew teasing from his players.
“I said, ‘What’s that? Feeding? We’re going to feast tonight,’” the coach said of his gesture. “In the first quarter, we didn’t look that hungry. But I kept saying, ‘We’re going to line and die by the 3.’ Thank goodness, for the last three (quarters) we lived.”