By John Knebels
Given her preference, Hannah Rush would rather pass the ball than shoot it.
So after the senior from the Country Day School of the Sacred Heart on March 12 became the second player in the history of the school to amass 1,000 career points, it probably caught many people by surprise.
“I’m not sure how realistic it was that I’d score that many,” Rush said. “As the years went by, I wasn’t scoring a lot, but I guess I was scoring enough. Halfway through the season, (Sacred Heart assistant coach) Johnny Cunningham told me it was a reasonable goal, that I could do it if I kept working hard.”
That wasn’t exactly an arduous chore for Rush, a graduate of St. Denis School in Havertown. More than scoring, diligence has been her trademark ever since she began playing varsity as a young freshman.
Then in his second year at Sacred Heart, head coach Zach Schuler immediately realized that Rush and her fraternal twin sister Erin provided the type of talent that would help elevate the Lady Lions from the previous season’s doldrums of only one victory.
“Right away, she was the point guard that we needed,” said Schuler, a 1994 graduate of Monsignor Bonner High School. “She wasn’t a natural scorer because she was a pass first, shoot second type of player.”
So how exactly did Rush manage to become only the second player in Sacred Heart history to reach quadruple digits?
“To some degree, Hannah scored 1,000 points almost by accident,” Schuler said. “I don’t mean that in any demeaning way whatsoever. But when you think about how she is always trying to set up other people to score and she ends up scoring 1,000 points on her own, it shows you how much she improved her all-around offensive game. It’s a great accomplishment for any point guard to score that many points.”
Rush, who also played field hockey throughout her time at Sacred Heart, would never have reached such a lofty status had it not been for the Lady Lions’ all-around improvement that culminated with a more-than-respectable 13-14 record. They reached the PIAA district final and then qualified for the PIAA Class A state tournament this year.
Entering Sacred Heart’s first state contest, a 51-34 comeback win over Forest City, Rush was eight points shy of 1,000. She scored six before halftime and during the intermission hoped to get the big moment over with quickly.
A little more than one minute into the third quarter, the Rush sisters perfectly executed a backdoor play that brought the Sacred Heart faithful to their feet. Erin Rush bounced a pass to her younger sister (by two minutes), and Hannah dropped in points 999 and 1,000 on a layup off the glass to join Class of 2000 Sacred Heart graduate Colleen Helms in such prestigious grand company.
Having already received the OK from the opposing coach to stop the game should Rush reach 1,000, the event was halted to honor Rush’s historic feat. When the game resumed, Rush, who went on to accumulate 18 points, five assists and five steals, said she felt happy, satisfied, thankful and one other thing.
“Relieved,” she said. “It was great to get it over with.”
Erin Rush relished the role reversal of her setting up Hannah for a bucket instead of the usual vice versa. After all, Hannah has led Sacred Heart in assists for four consecutive seasons.
“I’m proud of her,” Erin said. “It’s something that we will always remember. Not just Hannah and me, but everyone on the team.
“When we were leading up to it as the games went on, I kept telling our players how much of an accomplishment it would be and that we would all be a part of it. The girls really got into it.”
Starting in September, the Rush twins will be separated for the first time. While Hannah will attend Muhlenberg to play basketball and major in business, Erin will go to West Chester and major in nutrition.
Neither is eagerly looking forward to being apart, but both agreed that it was necessary.
“It’s gonna be weird but it’s something that we’ll have to get used to,” Erin said.
Hannah, who in Sacred Heart’s second-round loss scored a whopping 24 to finish her career with 1,034 career points, agreed.
“It’s gonna take some adjustment,” said Hannah, using the same verb slang as her sister. “But it’s time we separated. But it’s not like we’re too far apart.”
Just like on the basketball court.
John Knebels can be reached at email@example.com.