Unofficially, they’ve been playing girls basketball at Monticello High School for a lot of years – nearly one hundred. Offically, as part of the Minnesota State High School League, it’s been played for 39 years.
Yet in all those years, and each of those seasons, no one has scored more total points than Grace Sawatzke.
The Monticello junior achieved the Monticello Girls Basketball career scoring record Tuesday night when she recorded her 15th and 16th points of the game on a pull-up jump shot from the elbow just a couple of minutes into the second half. That bucket gave her 1,366 points for her career, surpassing the previous record holder, Jill Zaruba, a 2006 MHS graduate.
“It means a lot to me,” said Sawatzke after the game. “I’m thankful for all of my past teammates, my current teammates and my coaches for getting me to where I am.”
It was the third major record the junior has broken this year. She set the MHS girls basketball assists record earlier in the season, and just last Friday she surpassed the career steals record. It is certainly a partial testament to playing time (Sawatzke came up as an eighth grader), but a much larger testament to one of the most influential players to ever grace the program.
When Sawatzke came up as an eighth grader, she was a part of a Magic team that struggled mightily. That season they won just seven games. Four years later, she is the leader on an 18-4 team that is coming off its first-ever state tournament trip and appears to be looking for more. Sawatzke said that it’s not the individual records that motivate her, but instead the team record.
“It’s the team aspect, winning, getting better,” she said. “Starting in eighth grade, I’ll be honest, we were terrible. But now every single year we’ve gotten better and better and that’s pretty much what drives me.”
For Sawatzke, basketball is a life story. And it’s been a story of growth, not just as a team, but as an individual talent.
When she arrived on varsity, Sawatzke could put her head down and get to the hoop, but do little else. She can still get to the hoop with the best of them. But it was perhaps symbolic that on the night she set the career scoring record she hit three three-pointers and used her newly minted pull-up jumper for the historic basket.
“I’ve become [more versatile]”, said Sawatzke, when asked about her improvement since that eighth grade year. “I contribute more to the game than I did.”
And for Sawatzke, that’s what it’s all about. As big of a story as the career points record tells, her assists and steals records, along with averaging eight rebounds a game as a guard, tells the whole story. She’ll do anything it takes to win.
“She’s someone that everybody hopes they could coach,” said Coach Craig Geyen. “She works hard on and off the court. She wants it.”
Amazingly, Sawatzke, and many of her standout teammates, are only juniors. And if the past is any indication, the near future holds even bigger and better things for Sawatzke and her teammates. But no matter where they end up, Geyen knows it won’t be a matter of happenstance.
Whether it’s with her coaches (including assistant Dan Mielke who’s helped push her to develop a jump shot), with her dad (Pat), or by herself. Sawatzke is always putting in work.
“One of my friend’s daughters went up to the Monticello Community Center and there was Grace working on ball handling, working on tennis ball drills, doing stuff against the wall,” said Geyen. “Nobody else knows that, I would have never known that if someone from the community wouldn’t have said ‘jeez look at her work.’ ”
“It doesn’t happen overnight,” the coach added about his star guard. “There is no such thing as an overnight success. She’s worked hard for it, and she’s earned it. She deserves it.”
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]