PITTSFIELD — By the time you’re reading this, the chances are very good that Peyton Steinman has become the all-time leading scorer in Pittsfield High School Girls Basketball history.
She entered Thursday night’s contest against Taconic with 1,489 points, just nine shy of Courtney Shepard’s 1,498 mark. The last time Steinman was held to single-digits was in a 20-point playoff win over North Middlesex her sophomore year, so it’s safe to say the Generals jersey No. 1 is now No. 1 in the PHS record books as well.
Unfortunately, given our production schedule, Thursday nights are very difficult to get content in before our Friday morning release. So, I was fortunate enough to chat with the name which Steinman will be sliding above on Thursday on her view of the current PHS star.
That view is a good one, it comes from alongside head coach Joe Racicot on the Lady Generals bench.
Courtney Shepard was a name I was somewhat familiar with, only from scanning banners and talking to Steinman about her college decision and who she turned to for advice. Shepard was a big influence and sounding board for her throughout her AAU experiences and the recruiting process that ultimately landed on St. Anselm.
Shepard graduated Pittsfield High in 2002 as the leading girls basketball scorer, playing under Coach Bob O’Neil. She then went on to play collegiate hoops at Union before taking a job in the Boston area. Six or seven years later, she opted to move back home to the Berkshires and started working at the student support center at PHS. She was looking to get into coaching and Racicot was more than happy to have her.
She started four years ago on the Generals staff, the same year a young, quiet dead-eye shooter named Peyton joined the squad.
“I didn’t know her really, just knew the name mostly. Before moving I worked at the Boys & Girls Club some and remembered Peyton playing in the house league with boys two or three years older than her,” said Shepard.
Shepard knew almost right away that her record may not stand through the next four years. After Steinman hit 1,000 early in her junior campaign, the assistant coach told her it was coming, even though it still seemed so far away for the player.
When Steinman started to get recruited by colleges, Shepard was a natural source of advice.
“Our personalities are somewhat similar, but it is hard for her to make decisions some times. She really leans on family and I just tried to be one of those people she could come to,” said Shepard. “I just encouraged her to keep her options open. At first it can be exciting, but you can’t get lost in the big picture.”
Shepard warned her about letters from big schools, and encouraged her with information about the conference St. Anselm plays in. She believes that there she can excel, not just do all the work and sit on the bench. Despite being more of a post player in her own time, Shepard has been able to lend advice and coaching on situational basketball, as well as leadership and knowing when to take over games.
“I think it was probably her first AAU tournament, she texted me saying she thought she did OK and took a couple of shots,” said Shepard. “I told her that’s not who she is. She had the ability to play at those events the same way she plays at the high school level. Next thing I knew, she was texting me from Chicago saying she made six threes in a game.”
The landscape of Berkshire County Basketball has changed quite a bit since Shepard was in uniform. There were a lot more basketball players 15 years ago, whereas the girls now are more athletes. Pittsfield won a pair of Western Mass titles with Shepard in 2001 and 2002, so getting the chance to work with Steinman was important and brings back a lot of those memories.
Together, along with Racicot and the entire roster of Generals, the goals go a lot farther than a scoring record and a Thursday night in January. Pittsfield has finished Division II runner-up each of the last two seasons and there’s a lot of work to be done to get back into that title game once more.