New Bedford native Cathy Johnson graduated from UMass Dartmouth, then Southeastern Massachusetts University, in 1986 as the leading scorer in UMass women’s basketball history. That record held up until Feb. 10, almost 32 years, when Alicia Kutil surpassed the local legend, scoring her 1,324th point in the final minute of UMass Dartmouth’s 78-62 win over Eastern Connecticut on Saturday.
“That’s why records are made,” Johnson said. “Records are made to be broken. I’m glad. I’m glad I was able to come here and see it. We were hoping for it to happen (Saturday) rather than their next game, which is away. I’m happy for her and that she was able to break the record.”
Kutil, a Franklin native, scored her 1,000th point against Western Connecticut earlier in the season, after she was unable to reach the mark in high school. It only took 15 more games to stand alone in the record books, averaging 21.6 points per game during the stretch.
“Coming here (breaking the scoring record) definitely wasn’t my goal,” said Kutil, who was named the LEC Player of the Week for the fifth time this season. “This year it kind of just happened. A couple days ago, someone mentioned it to me and I wondered how close I was. I looked [and] I was 25 points away.
“(UMass Dartmouth) coach (Matt Ducharme) didn’t want to bring it up, no one wanted to bring it up to me. And I understand why. We were definitely more focused on the win today.”
Kutil was battling nerves throughout the game though. Especially once she saw who was in attendance.
“I had never met Cathy Johnson before,” Kutil said. “And towards the end of the game, I see (her and her family) up in the Hall of Fame Room and think ‘Oh my God, they think I’m going to get it today.’”
The win over Eastern Connecticut wasn’t just a milestone for Kutil, but for the entire team. UMass Dartmouth reached the 20-win mark the fastest it ever has in the program's history and secured the first seed for the Little East Conference Tournament, which the Corsairs will now host as a result.
But with the game seemingly in hand late, the Corsairs made a concerted effort to get Kutil the ball so she could reach the mark at the Tripp Athletic Center.
And there was some concern she might not reach it, with Kutil having four fouls to her name much of the second half. That forced Ducharme to put her on the bench momentarily, leaving everyone on the edge of their seats.
Soon after, he put her back in, telling her “don’t foul out.”
But even when she re-entered the game, and UMass Dartmouth possessing a double-digit lead, Kutil was still looking for the open player every time, instead of looking for her shot alone.
“I looked at her with two and half minutes, three minutes to go and I put her back in and she did pass it,” Ducharme said. “I was like, ‘Um, you gotta go for it. I mean, we were home, we’re away next game, you gotta go for it right now.’
“I said, ‘Do it by getting a three.’”
When Ducharme told her to shoot the three, Kutil was two points away from tying Johnson, three from passing her. So the first chance she had to go for the record, Kutil took her shot. It didn’t go exactly as everyone might’ve expected since she air-balled the shot, but it gave everyone a good laugh, including Kutil and Ducharme.
“We get down to the last minute and coach comes up to me and say ‘Go for it,’” Kutil said. “So I shoot the air ball at the top of the three and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God.’ And so next possession down he’s like, ‘Go for it again. Like c’mon. You’ve got one more and I’m pulling you.’
“Chelsea (Houlihan) is yelling at me to get in the paint and I’m like, ‘No dude I need a three, I need a three.’
Kutil took her shot, deeper by anyone’s standard, and drained it, breaking a record that lasted more than three decades.
“It honestly felt like a really lucky shot,” Kutil said. “But it meant so much. I looked up and was glad I did it today because they all came. Of it was for nothing, that kind of would’ve stunk.”
Kutil’s far from finished with two regular season games left, the LEC tournament and possibly another NCAA tournament run in her future. Now it’s her turn to make it a challenging milestone to eclipse.
Men’s basketball edges No. 10 Eastern Connecticut
UMass Dartmouth men’s basketball snapped a four-game skid with a 101-99 victory over Eastern Connecticut Saturday, when Brandon Williams Jr. scored a career-high 28, including the game-winner with 20 seconds left in overtime.
It was a career night for Williams, coming just shy of a triple double with eight rebounds and seven assists in the 29 minutes he played. Williams was named LEC Player of the Week.
Jake Ashworth (Fairhaven) led the Corsairs with 31 points, going 4-7 from behind the arc, while Atakan Akcam scored 18 and Arinze Obiora scored 13. Ashworth was LEC Rookie of the Week.
UMass Dartmouth (12-11, 5-7 LEC) visits Rhode Island College on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., directly after the women’s team plays RIC.
Hockey seniors account for 9 points in home finale
Although the Corsairs fell 7-6 against Westfield State on Saturday, the seniors made sure to leave everything out on the ice in their final performance at Hetland Arena.
Brandon Berkley was the first senior to score with a short-handed goal 33 seconds into the second period. Casey Shea also scored a goal with 14:31 left in the game.
Shea also led UMass Dartmouth with three assists. Mike Sones finished with two assists and Jerry Laakso pitched in one himself.
UMass Dartmouth (9-12-2, 6-8-2 MASCAC) visits Framingham State on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Follow Nick Friar on Twitter @Nick_Friar.