By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Katherine Flint needs only one moment.
One opening. One flicker of light, dawning between two defenders, and then the Shenandoah senior dances. Astonishes. Inspires.
She sprints, cuts, swooshes through the paint. She may not soar, but she can fly. The defense reacts. Too late.
N.C. Wesleyan, Meredith, Peace, they all fall to their knees, clutch at their chests. They hemorrhage points, and Flint poses for pictures.
Flash: 369 career assists -- third best in school history.
Flash: 228 career steals -- third best in school history.
Flash: 1,072 career points.
Flint's name, it seems, is painted next to every possible statistic, and it's hard not to notice.
"Her quickness and her intensity on the court just kind of overtakes everyone," said Alexis Hargbol, the team's only other senior.
But it wasn't always so, Flint admits. Though her AAU team plucked her from the depths of recreational basketball when she was 8, though she scored 1,000 points at Rockbridge County High School, Flint relied heavily on her unparalleled speed early in her career. Her 1,000 points at Rockbridge County was built upon a foundation of steals and layups.
"I was faster than everyone else," she laughed. "I didn't even develop a shot until probably my sophomore year here, so that helped me out a lot."
Even while playing lacrosse her junior year at Rockbridge County, her first time ever playing the sport, Flint rode her fleetness to the team's most improved player award.
But basketball is Flint's true love, her lifelong passion. She played against Division I talent in high school, and she kept pace. But it was perplexing for Flint that recruiters from major universities came to her games and scouted her opponents -- Kristi Toliver, who scored 2,078 points for the Maryland Terrapins, just to name one.
Those might have been Flint's points, if only those recruiters had come to see her. But former SU coach Kathy Orsini did see her, recruited her, nabbed her right from under the noses of those larger schools. Flint's heart might have been with a D-I program, but if it was a D-III school that came-a-calling with a chance to continue with basketball, so be it.
When Flint showed up in Winchester, though, rumor had it that Orsini was gone -- resigned, and replaced by Michelle Guyant-Holloway. As far as Flint and Hargbol are aware, they were Orsini's only recruits before she went up in a puff of smoke.
Thus it was Guyant-Holloway, how fortunate, who stumbled upon a goldmine of points.
"We were the only two freshmen that actually played that year, so we kinda bonded in that sense," said Hargbol, whose 1,159 career points is 10th most at SU. "We knew it was just gonna be us two for the next four years, as one class."
After spending their freshman season adjusting to the speed of Division III basketball, Flint and Hargbol developed a chemistry Guyant-Holloway said was reminiscent of the relationship she had with her point guard during her previous coaching stint at Northern Michigan University.
In the summer before her sophomore year, Flint took a job in Winchester and stayed on campus. She spent her free time in Shingleton Gymnasium shooting, always shooting. She developed the ball-handling to match her speed, and the jumper to match her basketball IQ. As a starter her sophomore season, Flint averaged 12.6 points per game and was named USA South honorable mention. Last year, she was named second-team all-USA South.
But Flint is hardly just a bucket of points. Or assists. Or pizzazz.
She may be Lilliputian in stature, but she's Brobdingnagian at heart. Each possession begins in her hands, and many end there, too. The tides of every game ebb and flow with Flint and her zeal for the game.
"Sometimes my emotions get the best of me," Flint smiled, "but I feel like they really do help me. If you go out there and you play like you really want it, with heart and passion, I really believe that it does take you to another level."
But how often does Flint reach that other level? At home against Greensboro this season, Flint posted 22 points and seven assists. In a loss to undefeated Christopher Newport, she gashed the Captains for 24 points as she marched the Hornets to within four points of the conference leaders after being down by 20.
If Flint manages just one more of those games today, at Methodist in the USA South tournament quarterfinals, the Hornets will travel back to Newport News for a semifinal game against either top-seeded Christopher Newport or eighth-seeded Greensboro.
Outside of Shingleton Gym, a cathedral she knows will never again house her brilliance in a meaningful game, Flint bounces a basketball and ponders.
"Everyone needs to have the heart to go out there," she said. "I feel like we have the hustle ... we just need to have the execution, and I feel like, come playoff time, you never know what's gonna happen. I feel like we can beat any team that comes at us."