The Press Newspaper
When Genoa senior guard Simone Eli stepped to the free throw line against Gibsonburg on Dec. 12, she had four chances to make two foul shots to reach 1,000 career points.
"I was shooting four shots because of a technical foul," Eli recalled. "I knew I needed 25 points in the game (to reach 1,000), and I can honestly say I didn't think I was going to get it. I only had 16 going into the fourth quarter.
"I was thinking this wasn't going to be my day. I was kind of bumming because I wanted to get it at home."
The 5-9 Eli made the free throws and finished with 27 points in the Comets' 65-46 victory over the Golden Bears. She joined Kelly Lindesmith, Brittany Darling, Stacy Niedbalski, Amy Sander and Nicole Nissen in Genoa's 1,000-point club.
Eli admitted it was a big relief to finally reach the career milestone.
"It's been my goal since my freshman year," she said. "I want our team to win and that comes way before me, but it's something I've looked forward to."
In the Comets' next home game, against Suburban Lakes League rival Eastwood, Eli was presented with a game ball and a poster of herself. After the game, the team held a celebration in the cafeteria.
Eli, who scored a career-high 33 points in the season opener against Danbury, leads the unbeaten Comets (10-0, 6-0) in scoring at 22.2 (ppg.) and assists (4.2).
Fifth-year coach Tom Kontak inserted Eli into the starting lineup during the third game of her freshman year, alongside his daughter, Abby.
"She came in as a No. 2 guard with Abby," Tom Kontak said. "Her sophomore year, Abby's senior year, those two were two of the better guards in the area. Her sophomore year she was a two-guard, and last year she became the point guard. Now, she runs the show."
Eli, the first Genoa girl to qualify for the state cross country meet, also runs track in the spring. She has a chance to earn 12 varsity letters during her high school career, and she is 49-8 as a member of the Comets' basketball team.
Eli has verbally agreed to play basketball at Bowling Green State University next season as a preferred walk-on. She has a chance to earn a full scholarship her sophomore year.
"She's a winner," coach Kontak said.
Eli averaged nearly 18 points a game as a junior, 13 as a sophomore and nine as a freshman. Her first varsity start came against Oak Harbor.
"I remember that because Abby Kontak came to me during warm-ups," Eli said. "I didn't think I was going to start, but Abby came up to me and said, 'Be ready. There's a good chance you're going to start.'
About five minutes before the game, I thought, 'I'm going to start.' It was my freshman year and I was pretty excited."
Eli scored nine points, hitting three 3-point shots, in her first start. She said Bowling Green, which recruited her to play point guard, was an easy choice. She also considered Grand Valley State and Akron.
"BG has a great program," said Eli, who has a 3.2 GPA. "It's a great program, great coaches. When I first went there, I knew this is where I wanted to be."
It can sometimes be difficult to be coached by a parent, but Eli's father, Art, has been on Kontak's staff for five years. Father and daughter have maintained a close, solid relationship.
"I've done it since I could walk," Simone said. "He comes off quite intimidating for some people. I've adjusted. Our relationship basketball-wise is great. We go home, we talk strategy. We both love the game."
Art said coaching alongside Simone "is one of those dreams come true, a father who has a daughter who works hard."
"I've watched her develop from third, fourth, fifth grade and develop into a good young lady on and off the court," he said. "It's been a good experience as a father, and for my wife, Rebecca, too. I'm yet to find someone who has a stronger work ethic. The good thing is being a winner while she's there, and we're doing it together as a family. Tom is a great coach for these girls, in softball and basketball, and I really appreciate what he has done. He's like a second dad to Simone."
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