The cheers, partial standing ovation and bobbing Erin Fabbri mug shots on a stick might have seemed premature.
After all, St. Viator's 54-51 upset of host Carmel Catholic wasn't secured until a split-second before the Corsairs attempted a desperation 3-pointer, which was launched just after the final buzzer and off-target anyway. Fabbri's 2 free throws with 3.9 seconds on the clock, with the Lions clinging to a 1-point lead, were more than just clutch in Saturday's East Suburban Catholic Conference basketball matinee.
The second foul shot was the senior guard's 1,000th career point.
At game's end, St. Viator (13-12, 1-6) celebrated an upset of Carmel (16-7, 2-5), which suffered its first loss at home, and mobbed Fabbri, who was moved to tears.
The three-year varsity player, who was playing just her sixth game since returning from a broken right ankle, came off the bench to score a team-high 17 points.
"I've been playing against her since I was at St. Francis and she was at St. Emily's," said Carmel guard Kathleen Felicelli, who had 21 points, 7 rebounds and 6 steals. "She's a great player. She deserves it. I'm so happy for her."
Fabbri went to the foul line with 11 seconds left, 4 points shy of 1,000, and sank both free throws to extend St. Viator's lead to 52-48. Carmel's Cassidy Kloss buried a 3-pointer with five seconds left, necessitating the need for the Corsairs to foul again, and the Lions knew whose hands they could trust with the ball.
As Fabbri stood at the stripe, her friends and family could barely contain their excitement. Up popped her mug shot on sticks.
"They kept counting down the whole time, and I didn't know if I was going to get it," Fabbri said of her milestone point.
When she swished career point No. 1,000, she sneaked a peak at St. Viator's fans -- and lost it.
"All of a sudden, I looked and they all had my face (on the stick)," Fabbri said. "I cried with excitement."
The loss was a crying shame for Carmel, which took a 41-39 lead into the fourth quarter but fell behind -- for good -- on a putback by Jessica Hohlweg with 6:07 left. Hohlweg scored all 6 of her points in the fourth, as the Lions outscored the Corsairs 15-10.
"It's just disappointing," Carmel coach Kelly Perz said. "Our conference is tough. So when you have an opportunity to get a win, you got to take advantage of it, because they don't come along often."
It didn't look good early for St. Viator, as Carmel used its full-court press to bolt to an 8-0 lead in the game's first 70 seconds. St. Viator coach Christina Jost called timeout, and her Lions collected themselves. After one quarter, they trailed only 18-15.
"We came out really strong," said Felicelli, who scored 7 points in the opening quarter. "But they stepped up their pressure, and we got frazzled, which we don't usually do. So it was weird that happened."
St. Viator continued to attack. The Lions beat Carmel's pressure and, with the help of Maddie McAteer scoring 9 of her 13 points in the second quarter, led 30-28 at halftime.
"We stayed together as a team," Fabbri said. "We played hard the whole time, and we knew we were going to get (the win). We kept encouraging each other."
"We've talked a lot during the season about keeping our poise and composure throughout the game," Jost said. "About the last week and a half we've had a couple of games that have been nip and tuck like this, and I think they've helped to get us ready to take care of the ball down the stretch and keep our poise."
At game's end, Fabbri's friends, family and teammates hung around in Carmel's gym for a while, taking pictures and holding their cutout head shots of the hero.
"First conference win and 1,000th point all in one day," Fabbri, who became the fourth girl in St. Viator history to score 1,000 points, said with a wide smile. "It was a great win. A great day."
"She's just a super kid," Jost said. "It's hard not to like her. She comes out, she plays hard and she's got a positive attitude every day. She deserves all this recognition right now."