West Central Area senior guard Lexi Bright had the vision of reaching a milestone like scoring 1,000 points in her basketball career years before her time on varsity ever started.

Bright was in 5th grade when she was tasked with creating a goals sheet in school. Reaching a number like 2,000 points is never really on a kid’s mind at that age because it so rarely happens. It had never happened in the WCA girls program.

On Monday night, that changed as Bright scored 17 points in an 84-67 win over Henning (7-4). That gives her 2,008 points for her career with more than half a season left to add to that.

“My goal was 1,000 points,” Bright said as she thought back to that assignment in 5th grade. “I made all these steps to get it, and it’s just crazy to look back and see that I’ve doubled it and how all the hard work actually paid off.”

Bright has never focused much on the personal milestones that have come her way on the basketball court as she grew from that young player into an upperclassman.

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West Central Area senior Kennedy Ulrich, right, hugs teammate Lexi Bright after Bright made a three-pointer near the end of the first half to reach 2,000 points in her career. 
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press
West Central Area senior Kennedy Ulrich, right, hugs teammate Lexi Bright after Bright made a three-pointer near the end of the first half to reach 2,000 points in her career. Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

She barely cracked a smile as her teammates rushed the court during a timeout on March 17, 2021 when she became WCA’s all-time leading scorer with 1,746 points. The Knights were in the midst of a playoff game that night. Goal No. 1 was to get the win.

"Playoffs, the game matters so much," Bright said. "(The scoring record) wasn’t even crossing my mind really because it just wasn’t the priority."

Bright was able to relax and enjoy the moment a little more on Monday during the regular season. She needed nine points to reach 2,000 and was already at six late in the first half with WCA leading the Hornets by more than 20.

Bright ran along the baseline and got the ball from a teammate near the corner. She took a couple dribbles and got separation from the defense with the help of a screen. Bright squared up and drained a three from the left wing that gave her the milestone and the Knights a 48-22 lead at the halftime break.

Henning head coach Mike Hepola, left, congratulates West Central Area senior guard Lexi Bright after she scored her 2,000th-career point on Jan. 10, 2022. Bright needed 9 points against Henning to become the first girls basketball player in Knights' program history to reach 2,000 points, and she got it with a made three late in the first half of WCA's win over the Hornets. 
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press
Henning head coach Mike Hepola, left, congratulates West Central Area senior guard Lexi Bright after she scored her 2,000th-career point on Jan. 10, 2022. Bright needed 9 points against Henning to become the first girls basketball player in Knights' program history to reach 2,000 points, and she got it with a made three late in the first half of WCA's win over the Hornets. Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

West Central Area immediately called a timeout. Bright hugged teammates and shared a laugh with them as they gathered back near the bench as the accomplishment was recognized with a big ovation from the crowd.

“Tonight with how this game went, it was easier to be able to enjoy the moment a little bit and actually think about it as it was happening,” Bright said.

Bright started playing varsity basketball during her 7th-grade year. Her scoring numbers have always stood out, but she is much more than a scorer.

A lot of her points come in transition or within the flow of the offense in the half court. Rarely does she take a bad shot, and she is as active defensively as she is on offense.

Bright came into Monday’s game averaging 19.8 points, 5.2 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 4.8 steals and 1.6 blocks per game.

“She’s a very unselfish player,” WCA junior forward Claire Stark said. “She drives, kicks the ball out, creates openings for other players.”

That’s exactly what Bright looked to do for most of the first half as the Knights built a huge lead. In addition to her 17 points, she finished the game with 11 assists, 6 steals, 2 deflections and a block.

“She’s so fun to watch,” WCA head coach Eric Schoenbauer said. “These girls are starting to believe with her. They still rely on her a lot. Sometimes she just needs to catch her breath. She’s working so hard in the half court. (Her teammates) are really talented too, and she dishes it to them a couple times and they get confidence in themselves. It’s fun to watch.”

West Central Area freshman guard Mya Foslien looks for an opening on a drive against Henning on Jan. 10, 2022. 
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press
West Central Area freshman guard Mya Foslien looks for an opening on a drive against Henning on Jan. 10, 2022. Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Bright’s focus is on winning at a high level with the Knights, which is why she is excited about this year’s team after improving to 8-2.

West Central Area has six players who are either freshmen or sophomores on the varsity roster. Around them is good leadership with seven seniors, and one junior in Stark. Stark, a 6-foot, 2-inch forward, came into Monday’s game averaging 11.6 and 6.8 rebounds per game.

“It’s really fun with the young players and watching them improve as the season goes on,” Bright said. “They’re learning, and we’re learning as a team to play together. We haven’t done that much before this season. It’s really fun to see when all the different skills come together.”

Stark had a big night against Henning with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Senior Elizabeth Rustan had 10 points, freshman guard Mya Foslien added 11, and fellow freshman Addison Staples finished with 14.

West Central Area freshman Addison Staples attempts a short jump shot over the defense of Henning's Ally Hart, 5, and Natalie Eckhoff on Jan. 10, 2022. 
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press
West Central Area freshman Addison Staples attempts a short jump shot over the defense of Henning's Ally Hart, 5, and Natalie Eckhoff on Jan. 10, 2022. Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Staples, a 5-foot, 10-inch forward, was aggressive around the basket in the first half as she helped the Knights build up a double-digit lead that grew to almost 30 early in the second half.

“We’re talking about Lexi being unselfish, Addison is very, very unselfish,” Schoenbauer said. “We’re glad to have her. She’s working hard. The one thing is when she gets tired she picks up fouls really quick, so we’re trying to help her with that. She’s a fun player. We’re excited for her.”

The game against Henning would have a chance to be a section playoff preview if WCA had not made the jump to the Class AA level this winter. The Knights beat the Hornets 64-53 during last year’s Section 6A championship.

West Central Area played five of its first six games against Class AA programs trying to prepare for what the Section 3AA playoffs will entail. They face many Class A teams the rest of the way, but games against Montevideo (8-1) on Jan. 31 and Minnewaska (6-5) on Feb. 15 are two more chances to see winning Class AA programs.

“I’m really glad we have a couple of those because they’re solid programs,” Schoenbauer said. “A team like Hancock (10-0), they’re like a AA team. They can play. Playing those good teams, it points out all of the little things we can do to be there and play with them. I’m excited to play some strong competition again. Henning was a good team that never quit.”

West Central Area junior Claire Stark gets free for a layup against Henning on Jan. 10, 2022. 
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press
West Central Area junior Claire Stark gets free for a layup against Henning on Jan. 10, 2022. Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

The Knights started the season 2-2 with losses to Hancock and New London-Spicer. They have now won six straight.

“We started off the season not playing very well together, but we just started clicking more,” Stark said. “Everything is working more. We’re trusting each other.”

WCA came into Monday third in the 3AA-North pecking order through the QRF on Minnesota-scores.net. New London-Spicer (10-1, No. 5 AA) and Montevideo (No. 13 AA) are the top two teams in those rankings.

WCA players and coaches know it will be a challenge trying to make another deep playoff run in a new section, but they are eager to keep working toward that goal.

“It is a big jump, but in the regular season we’ve always played a lot of AA games,” Bright said. “I’m very thankful for that because it’s prepared us well. Just going into playoffs, we have to remember that even in the first round, it’s big schools. They’ll have a team that’s going to show up. We need to show up no matter what the seeds are.”

WEST CENTRAL AREA 48 36 - 84

HENNING 22 45 - 67

WCA - Lexi Bright - 17 points, 11 assists, 6 steals, 2 deflections, 2 steals, 1 block; Claire Stark - 18 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists, 1 steal; Addison Staples - 14 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block; Mya Foslien - 11 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 deflections, 1 steal; Elizabeth Rustan - 10 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 block; Kaitlyn Hansen - 7 points, 1 rebound; Macy Grosz - 5 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists; Jayden Styba - 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal; Halle Foslien - 1 deflection, 1 steal, 1 rebound; Kennedy Ulrich - 1 assist; Halle Grosz - 1 deflection

HENNING SCORING - Faith Fisher - 15; Lilya Fraki - 6; Ally Hart - 16; Emma Severson - 4; Natalie Eckhoff - 3; Lyvia Misegade - 20; Ava Eckhoff - 3