‘Gumby’ etches her name in the record books

(Editor’s note: This story, published in the Jan. 28, 2011, edition of the Citizen’s News, recounts the scene as Woodland High basketball player Heather Framski scored her 1,000th career point. This column won third place at the 2011 Connecticut SPJ Awards among sports news stories in the community non-daily category.)

BEACON FALLS, Conn. — A saggy but amicable, life-size replica of the classic cartoon character Gumby started dancing last Thursday in a way that would have gotten him the lead in Saturday Night Fever.

It could have meant only one thing — Heather Framski finally scored her 1,000th career point at Woodland.

The costume that Framski wore to school for Halloween came back for the Hawks’ game against Kennedy thanks to the man who calls her a clay-figurine look-alike daily.

“Gumby is a nickname that I have for Heather, and I told her in the summer that whatever game she can possibly score 1,000 career points I’d wear the Gumby costume for the game,” says Craig Genz, who admittedly became overheated in the stuffy Woodland gym.

The presence of Gumby for the big moment wasn’t lost on anyone — especially Framski.

“Having Gumby there was awesome,” Framski says. “I don’t think many 1,000-point scorers can say they have a nickname with a mascot to match.”

Genz takes some credit for motivating the 5-foot-9 senior enough to score the 22 points she needed in front of the home crowd.

“I think it made her really motivated,” Genz says. “When [public address announcer] Mr. Lownds called out the starting lineup I walked down to the first row of the bleachers. Once Heather’s name was called she ran over to me and game me a double high five and I saw that she had the eye of the tiger, so I think she was ready to go.”

Framski says she was feeling the pressure before the game but that she couldn’t disappoint her supporters — especially a giant, green one.

“Of course I felt the pressure,” Framski says. “It’s a moment where anyone would feel the same way. I thought, what if I don’t get 22 tonight? But I couldn’t let all my friends and family — especially Gumby — down.”

Framski entered the game against the Eagles with 978 career points after an admittedly subpar performance in a 54-33 loss to St. Paul Jan. 17 where she scored a season-low 12 points.

“St. Paul was extremely disappointing because I thought this year we had a very good chance at winning our division,” Framski says. “Only scoring 12 was nowhere near as disappointing as a 20-point loss.”

Even though Framski needed 22 points — over two points more than her season average of 19.6 — to become the third Woodland player to hit the 1,000-point mark, nobody, especially coach Gail Cheney, thought it would take long.

“I knew she had an inkling that it was going to happen that game and I knew she didn’t want to let everybody down,” Cheney says. “I think it really meant a lot to her to come through. No one really doubted her.”

Framski scored just eight points in the first half of a physical game as the Hawks had trouble feeding her the ball inside. That changed in the second half when Framski utilized jump shots, layups, and fast breaks to creep closer and closer to the milestone.

With 6 minutes, 2 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Framski was fouled while hitting a jumper from 14 feet for point no. 999, sending the crowd into a frenzy and giving Framski the most pressure-packed free throw of her career.

“There was a lot of pressure,” Framski says. “It was the most pressure I have ever experienced during a foul shot.”

Framski sank it with ease, giving her 22 points on the game and 1,000 for her career. Her teammates mobbed her but none more demonstratively than Kate Tuckey, who leaped into Framski’s arms and wrapped herself around the all-state player.

“Heather and I have been planning for that night for a very long time and all that I told her was to be ready for me,” Tuckey says. “Sure enough she was ready to catch me in her arms when I jumped into her. I’ve shared so many good memories in basketball with Heather, seeing as we’ve been playing since fifth grade. This one will definitely be remembered.”

The historic moment illustrated how important Framski has been to the team for the last four years.

“It’s such a great accomplishment,” Cheney says. “I know when I did it in high school it’s the most awesome feeling in the world. She’s brought this team to a whole new level every single year. Even when there were years when we really didn’t have that much, she really rose to the occasion.”

To Framski, her career point total — which stands at 1,023 after her 23-point game against Kennedy and a 22-point showing Tuesday against Wolcott — is the highlight of a career full of obstacles overcome.

“It means the world,” Framski says. “I overcame knee surgery my sophomore year and I think it’s safe to say I don’t let asthma stop me from reaching my goals.”

While Framski will eventually see her name be the third emblazoned on the school’s 1,000-point banner, the question remains what the point total next to “Heather Framski” will read. Ahead of her on the list are Sam LaCroce with 1,067 points and leading scorer Jen Valente with 1,157.

Cheney sees no reason why Framski can’t top Valente’s mark set from 2002-06.

“Not to jinx her, but I think she can do it,” Cheney says. “She has an awesome supporting cast around her. But we have to win games in the NVL and win games in the state tournament and that should be no problem.”

Don’t think hitting 1,158 isn’t on Framski’s radar, either.

“I set a goal to score 1,000 points and I did it,” Framski says. “Now my goal is to beat the record. I guess we’ll see.”

If and when she does, expect Gumby to bring along Pokey, too.

(Editor’s note: Here’s how the story looked in print.)

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