LENOX, Mass. -- In 20 years, no one will look at the Ben Harding’s name on the roll of 1,000-point scorers at Lee High school and ask about the score of the game where he reached the milestone.
But for the next 21 days, the Lenox Millionaires will get to enjoy having won Round 1 of the Berkshire County South Division clash with their rivals to the south.
Harding scored on a drive from the left wing in the 11th minute to get his first points of the game and 1,000th of his career, but Lenox came away with a 58-44 win behind a balanced scoring attack.
Harding, after a slow start, finished with 20 points -- and 1,019 as a Wildcat -- but he was not in much of a mood to celebrate as he made his way toward the bus.
“I’m proud to get my name up on the banner,” Harding said. “I just wish it could have come in a little bit better circumstances.”
Harding did more passing than shooting in the first eight minutes, posting a rare scoreless quarter as Lenox was able to build a 12-5 lead.
“I was doing my best not to think about [the 1,000th point], but I think it was something that was in the back of everyone’s mind,” he said. “That’s kind of the bad thing about it.
“I was just trying to play my game and do our best to keep the game under control.”
Lee coach Jason Bliss said it was possible that the 6-foot-5 pivot was being a little too unselfish in the opening minutes.
“I think so,” Bliss agreed. “We were playing a little tentative in the first quarter, but we picked it up in the second half. They just kept coming back and hitting big shot after big shot on us.”
Nick Nicotra and Jett Steinman scored 13 points apiece for Lenox, which got 12 from Luke Patella and 10 from Shane Steinman.
Shane Steinman scored eight in the first half, and Patella had six in the second quarter as the Millionaires (4-9) built a 31-18 half-time lead.
After Jett Steinman hit the first bucket of the second half, Lee went on a 7-0 run to get within eight points. But Nicotra delivered one of those “big shots” Bliss mentioned, driving the baseline for two.
Moments later, Harding scored two of his 12 third-quarter points to get the margin back to eight. But Lenox cashed in a turnover with a Shane Steinman lay-up that sparked a 10-0 run.
Nocotra scored four in the run, which ended with Patella connecting from the elbow on a shot that rolled around the rim before dropping in to make it 48-30 in the final minute of the third.
Lee never got within single digits in the fourth quarter.
Lenox coach Brian Cogswell said Monday’s victory was indicative of how his team has been playing, starting with its win over McCann Tech in the Millionaires’ first game of 2019.
“Lee’s a very good basketball team,” Cogswell said. “We’ve been pretty fortunate our last five games, besides the Drury debacle where we didn’t really come to play, that we’ve played very, very well. We’ve started to play as a team. We’ve started to pass the ball, share the ball, and that’s been a difference for us.”
Lenox looks to continue its winning ways when it hosts Mount Everett next Monday.
Lee (6-4), which saw a five-game winning streak come to an end on Monday, goes to St. Mary’s of Westfield on Wednesday.
The Millionaires go to Lee on Feb. 5.