The grandfather was courtside last month at Burr and Burton Academy, watching his granddaughter chase a dream, close in on a milestone.
In some ways, watching her become the first player in Rutland High School girls basketball history to reach the 1,000-point milestone is even more exciting and gratifying than when Wendell Powers was chasing his own dream back in 1952.
That was the year he was playing professional baseball for the Laredo Apaches in the Class B Gulf Coast League.
If 1952 was magical, so was the school year 2018-19. The granddaughter, Elise Magro, not only reached the cherished milestone that night in Manchester, she also earned a spot as the soccer goalie on the Vermont team that will play New Hampshire in the Lions Twin State Soccer Cup match in July at Castleton University.
Basketball has always been Magro’s favorite sport. It’s the one she will play when she becomes a freshman at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine.
She loves soccer and lacrosse, too, but basketball is the passion.
Going to the Lions Cup tryouts at Otter Valley was almost an afterthought.
“We just said, let’s just go and give it our all, never in my mind did I think I could make it,” Magro said.
She did make it, along with Rutland High teammate and midfield player Maggie Schillinger.
Mike Coppinger, who serves as Lori McClallen’s goalie coach with the Rutland High program, wasn’t surprised when Magro was named to the Cup team.
“She takes her training very, very seriously,” Coppinger said. “She is always trying to improve her game and with her work ethic, I was not at all surprised.
“The Vermont coach (Green Mountain Union’s Carolynn Hamilton) had done some research on Elise before the tryouts. She knew that Elise had kept us in games against CVU and the quality northern teams while facing a lot of shots. All of that played into it as well.”
Magro became an accidental goalie early. She was a second grader at Christ the King when nobody wanted to play in the net.
She stepped up and took the position.
“I found that, oh, I really liked it,” Magro said.
She has played three sports throughout most of her time at Rutland High — soccer, basketball and lacrosse. She believes there is a benefit to being a multi-sport athlete.
“Coaches have always told me that you get burned out playing just one sport,” Magro said.
She took the spring off from lacrosse during her junior year to play basketball for the AAU team Lone Wolf. That was part of the plan to elevate her game with an eye toward college.
She will be back on the lacrosse field this spring.
She reached the 1,000-point standard that night down at Burr and Burton. She flirted with the milestone in the previous game at home against Hartford, scoring 35 points but leaving eight shy.
Manchester is not so far away that it kept Rutland fans from being there for the big moment. They came with signs, balloons and plenty of congratulatory wishes.
“It was a great atmosphere. All of my family and friends got to make it. It felt just like home,” Magro said.
BBA officials stopped the game and a celebration ensued.
“I could not have done it without my coaches and teammates. I thank them,” Magro said.
Magro said her coaches at the end of last year told her that she was within striking distance of 1,000.
“I scored, I think, 328 last year and I needed 292 this season,” she said.
Nate Bellomo and his assistants knew that she was the type of player who would not be affected by having the milestone in front of her. Passing is as much of her game as scoring. She lets the game come to her.
That was evident against Hartford when she was closing in on the big number in the fourth quarter. The Hurricane defenders were clamping down on her for all they were worth and she continually gave up the ball to open teammates.
Scoring was not the facet of her game she worked hardest on to improve this season.
“I really stepped it up on defense and in running on the transition game,” she said.
Sports is highs and lows.
One of the toughest moments came during the fall when the soccer season ended in a bitter playoff loss at Mount Anthony. Rutland had a 1-0 lead throughout most of the game. MAU scored late and the game went to overtime.
Overtime could not resolve the issue. The Raiders and Patriots proceeded through a couple of rounds of the penalty-kick tiebreaker.
Then weather intervened. Rain and lightning forced a lengthy delay.
When the teams returned, the Patriots finally got the winning PK past Magro.
“It was all mud. I could not get any traction. I had got my hand on most of the balls and would have on that one if I had better traction. It was disappointing because we had worked so hard,” Magro said.
But there is always the next dream, the next chapter.
There are still tournament games to be won and then a new lacrosse season.
Then, there is that next phase of life at the University of New England.
Magro looked at other schools like Endicott, Western New England, Castleton and Keene State.
“UNE was the first college I looked at,” Magro said.
It was love at first sight.
“I really enjoyed it. I loved the location and the relationships with the coaches and players. I could tell when I got there that it was where I wanted to be,” she said.
She went to a practice and was struck by the camaraderie.
“The players were all cheering and clapping for each other,” she said.
UNE is known for its majors in the health professions and Magro wants to become a physical therapist. She is involved in an internship program now that lets her learn what the profession is about.
The grandfather sat in his special chair every home game in the old radio booth at Keefe Gym. The dreams and accomplishments were every bit as fresh as they were when he was tugging on the uniform of the Laredo Apaches.