Clay senior Pat Booth knew how many points he needed to score against Bowsher in the teams’ sectional tournament opener Feb. 26 at Waite.
Booth’s goal was not only to help Clay upset the City League champion and eighth-ranked Rebels, but to reach a career milestone.
“I remember going into that game I needed 12 points,” Booth said. “I got that in the first quarter. I was on fire that game.”
Booth’s 12th point was career point No. 1,000. He finished the game – and his prep career - with a career-high 37 points in the Eagles’ loss, their 20th of the season (3-20, 1-13 Three Rivers Athletic Conference).
“It felt great,” Booth said. “I think I hit 5-of-10 from three. Other than that, it was really just (scoring by) driving and on a lot of fast breaks.”
Booth (1,025 points) became just the fifth Clay boy to reach the 1,000-point milestone, joining Jim Routson (1,226), Randy Felhaber (1,115), Ben Tobias (1,103) and Tom Clay (1,035).
After the Bowsher game, Booth said, “We took pictures and fans and parents were saying congratulations and asking for pictures. It made me feel pretty good. I was embarrassed that we lost, but other than that it felt pretty good.”
Booth, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard, averaged 14.8 points and 4.2 rebounds a game this season and dished out 48 assists. He is the Eagles’ career leader in 3-pointers made, with 115.
“Pat has been great for our program,” coach Rob Belegrin said. “He transferred in from St. John’s (as a freshman) and made an immediate impact. He has a great attitude and listens to everything in a positive way. I told him after his freshman year that he will be the next 1,000-point scorer at Clay, and that worked out pretty well.
“He scored within our offense; we never really ran specials (plays) for him. I’d like to think that our style of offensive play suited him well, and he bought into it from the start. I appreciate that. He has been a pleasure to coach, and we have a solid relationship off the court as well. I’m truly going to miss him.”
Booth said he took advice from his father, Patrick Booth, who played basketball at Waite.
“He told me to always put the work in,” Booth said. “He got me involved with AAU ball going into my seventh grade summer. I started with the Ohio Heat with a coach my dad knew and joined that summer team. That was the first time we traveled a lot and went to small cities around Ohio. We did pretty good.”
Booth said he played baseball and basketball before he got to high school, but he gave up baseball once he started attending Clay.
“I just thought basketball was a more fun game,” he said.
Booth remembers scoring one bucket and handing out “maybe five assists” in his first varsity game, a sectional tournament loss to St. John’s. A lot of baskets followed over the next three years. He said Belegrin told him he would score 1,000 points before his Clay career was over.
“At the time I would go to open gyms and I could compete with guys at the varsity level,” said Booth, who was a 5-11 point guard as a freshman. “Once (Belegrin) told me that, I always stuck with it and always tried to better myself.”
Booth said he began pressing once he learned he was 50 points shy of No. 1,000.
“I was counting down,” he said. “Not during the games, but before the games. I wouldn’t recommend doing that. Just play.”
Booth added that the Eagles could have had “a real good season if we could have learned how to finish.” Clay lost 10 games by six points or less.
“Still,” he said, “I accomplished a lot of goals at Clay.”