Paige Fowler

Paige Fowler

Can a basketball player quietly score 45 points in a game?

That seemed to be the case when Herculaneum senior forward Paige Fowler did it when the Blackcats beat Orchard Farm 73-52 in the Lutheran South Tournament on Jan. 6.

“I haven’t been scoring this year like I have in the past,” said Fowler, who set the school record against the Eagles and also holds the school’s career scoring mark with 1,180 points. “Going into this game, my goal was to score more. Coming out of halftime, my brother said, ‘Dude, step it up, you have 20 points.’ I thought he was joking because I didn’t feel like I had that many. After the game was over, I thought maybe he wasn’t lying and thought I had 32. Then in the locker room after the game, (Herculaneum head coach Riley Blair) said, ‘It was quiet, but Paige scored 45 points.’ All of our jaws dropped. Later when I got home, I went on Facebook and I was tagged a bunch of times saying that I had the record.”

It dawned on Blair that Fowler was doing something special when an assistant coach told him she had 31 points midway through the third quarter.

“I was shocked because it was a quiet 31 points,” he said. “We were giving her good looks inside and not one girl on our team, (Fowler) included, knew she had 45 points at the end of the night. She went out and played the game and we gave her the ball when she was open and she finished.”

With the way Fowler has set team milestones the past four years, it only seems natural that she’d be the record-holder for points in a game by the time she finishes this season. After surpassing 1,000 career points last season, she passed Cailey Metcalf’s mark of 1,032 points earlier this season. Fowler set the school record for points in a season (510) in 2019-2020.

“Honestly, I didn’t do anything special,” Fowler said of her latest achievement. “We just ran through our offense and capitalized on our opportunities. It worked very well.

“I watched the film (the next day),” she said. “I was counting my buckets and it doesn’t seem like I had 45 points.”

Becky Kasten (318 points in 2000-2001), Lauren Dunn (318, 2004-05) and Kellie Pigg (306, 2011-12) are some of the other Blackcats to post big scoring seasons. But nobody has been as consistent as Fowler, who has been the MVP of the Jefferson County Activities Association small-schools the past two years.

In the 2018-19 season, Fowler started the season with 21 points against Windsor and scored in double figures in 25 of 27 games. She topped 20 points six times. In last season’s opener, the Owls fell victim to Fowler again as she torched them for 28 points. Only St. Pius X held Fowler to fewer than 10 points in Herculaneum’s 27 games.

“That means the world,” she said of her growing list of school records. “I’ve been coming to games here since I was in third grade, dreaming of wearing the striped pants. It’s amazing to know that my name will be here for a while.”

Not surprisingly, the Blackcats have a record of 63-27 (.700) during Fowler’s tenure with the team. One game after blitzing Orchard Farm, she led Herculaneum with 25 points in a 69-57 victory over visiting Fox.

The Blackcats have a strong lineup around Fowler in juniors Kyrsten Britton, Macey Pilliard and Madison Lawson and senior Emily Weise. None of Herky’s starting five are shorter than 5-9 with Pilliard standing at 6-1.

That height advantage was the difference against Fox.

“Coach (Blair) told us we’re bigger and stronger than them and there’s no reason we should be letting them get rebounds,” Fowler said.

The only thing that’s different this season is the crowds at the Blackcat home games. Because of COVID-19, the players only get a few passes for their family members. A usually raucous crowd attends their home games. For the game against the Warriors, the stands on both sides of the court were less than half full. That’s not lost on Fowler.

“I’m happy we get to allow some fans because some places don’t allow them at all,” Fowler said. “My parents and both sets of my grandparents were here (against Fox). It makes me sad to remember all of those nights where the student section is packed.”