I was in the bleachers when Courtney Van Brink, a starting forward for the Cherry Valley-Springfield Lady Patriots, scored the 1,000th point of her varsity basketball career.

It's rare that more than 100 people share the same thought at the same time, but all in that crowded gymnasium were on the edge of their seats, fists clenched, eyes on the hoop.

All people in that gymnasium jumped up at the same moment, raised their fisted hands in the air, and screamed Courtney's name, exulting together when the ball swooshed through. Courtney just has that effect on people.

Later, interviewing her in the back of a quiet classroom, we were still high from that moment, still thinking about that feeling of communal celebration.

"It was such a great sense of accomplishment," Courtney told me, smiling. "It was one of those goals I had in the back of my mind all season, and it felt great."

There were less than four minutes left in the game when Courtney scored her 1,000th point, her 15th that game.

Lady Patriots coach Amy Garretson led a troupe of Courtney's fans onto the court, bearing a giant banner and balloons.

It was the last game of the Lady Pats' season "" the final game of Courtney's high school basketball career "" but there was no sense of loss or disappointment when the Schenevus Dragons won the game, 53-37. The Lady Pats went out with a bang.

Courtney Van Brink started playing basketball in a recreational league in fifth grade. After playing on the modified team in seventh and eighth grades, Courtney skipped the junior-varsity level to play for the Lady Pats' varsity team in ninth grade, earning MVP. The forward won MVP again the next two years.

She developed her skills at an AAU summer basketball program in 10th and 11th grades, and attended basketball camps at the State University College at Cortland and the State University College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill, where she excelled.

In Courtney's junior year, the Lady Patriots won the Tri-Valley League Championship at the State University College at Oneonta for the first time in the history of the merged Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School District. The team went on to become Section IV finalists, eventually losing to Davenport in a tough last match.

"It's exciting," Courtney tells me, "to be part of a group that works together so well, to be such a unified team on and off the court."

Courtney was named a Tri-Valley All-Star all four years of her high school career; she was on the second team as a freshman and sophomore and the first team as a junior and senior. She was also named a Daily Star First Team All-Star.

What's inspiring about Courtney, however, is not her ability to rebound or her spot-on shot. She's got that rare combination of self-faith and modesty, the knowledge that she can succeed without the entitlement to success.

When I ask her to list some of her awards, she smiles and shrugs; when I tell her how it felt to be watching her career-defining moment, she is genuinely glad to have shared the thrill with so many people.

Courtney plans to attend the State University College at Oswego next year, where she will continue to play basketball.

"I don't necessarily expect to be on the team," she says, "but I'll try my hardest to be."

In any event, she knows she will stay active all her life. "I'll be one of those power-walking 60-year-olds," she tells me.

We laugh.

Maggie Millner is a senior at Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School.

Trending Video