Inside the main gym at The Dalton School’s athletics building, there is a large banner listing the 1,000-point scorers in the school’s basketball history. The list stretches back decades and includes roughly a dozen entries. But until this year, it featured only one girl, a 2006 graduate named Mia Gliedman. This season, within a month of each other, two girls added their names to the short honor roll.
Steph Lechich started playing basketball with a small, rubber ball when she was 5. She was too small to use a real basket, so her father would mimic a hoop by holding his arms in a circle and allowing her to shoot through it. She’s been draining buckets ever since. Jan. 25, she hit a 3-pointer to pass the 1,000-point mark.
“Watching her play in middle school, she was always a great scorer and great shooter,” said Dalton head coach Doug Feinberg. “She came right into a spot that was left by Mia Gliedman, so it was from one great player to another at that off-guard spot.”
Bonnie Cecil transferred to Dalton from Marymount in 9th grade and proved as a newcomer that she was just as tough and talented as the veterans. Like Lechich, she has been a starter from the very beginning. Feb. 19, she scored Dalton’s first 13 points in a win over Riverdale, including a layup in the second quarter that put her over 1,000 points for her career.
“I’m even more impressed that Bonnie has scored over a 1,000 points because she’s a point guard,” Feinberg said. “As such, she’s also had at least 500 or 600 assists, accounting in total for over 2,000 points in her career. That’s unbelievable. She’s the third all-time leading scorer, the leader in minutes, the leader in assists, the leader of a wonderful team.”
Thanks to Lechich and Cecil, Dalton (18-6 at press time) has its strongest team in years, one that is a definite contender for the New York State Association of Independent School (NYSAIS) tournament, which begins Mar. 4. How well they do will depend on many things, but any progress they make will almost definitely be based on whether Lechich and Cecil do what they do best: shoot and pass, respectively.
The duo has a comfortable rhythm on the court, with Cecil handling the ball, organizing the offense and then distributing. Lechich is a classic spot-up shooter, draining mid- or long-range jumpers repeatedly.
“Having Steph and Bonnie together for four years helped them because they were able to feed off each other,” Feinberg said. “Steph was a point guard in middle school, and having Bonnie taking care of the ball took a lot of pressure off her. I think Bonnie is one of the top five point guards in the city right now, private, public or Catholic. She has the best court vision I’ve ever seen at this school, boy or girl.”
Cecil credits her success to the time she puts in working on her game outside of normal team practice. Despite passing 1,000 points, she clearly doesn’t see herself as a scorer.
“I didn’t really think about 1,000 points until this year,” she said. “I don’t like thinking about it now, so it feels good not to worry about it anymore. I just tried to keep it out of my mind
during the games.”
For Lechich, who passed Gliedman March 1 to become the all-time leading scorer in team history, motivation comes from her older brother, Nick, who was captain of Dalton’s boys’ team four years ago. He’s been her fan and mentor since they played together as kids at the courts in Riverside Park.
“I’ve played some one-on-one with him during the summer,” she said. “He still beats me, but it’s pretty close.”
As with Cecil, passing 1,000 provided a sense of relief.
“I had been thinking a lot about it, but I didn’t tell anyone besides my mom because I didn’t want to put a personal goal above the team’s goal,” Lechich said. “When it finally happened, it was such a weight off my shoulders.”
Naturally, Cecil was feeling pretty good for her teammate.
“Steph’s one of my best friends outside of basketball, so it’s pretty easy working with her,” she said. “We know each other so well that we know where the other is on the court. We’ve grown together as basketball players.”
Both seniors are heading into the NYSAIS tournament confidently, but no matter what happens, their intertwined basketball odysseys are not ending anytime soon. After four years of teamwork, they will soon have to get used to being rivals. Lechich is heading to Swarthmore next year, while Cecil, whom Feinberg said could be a Division 1 player if she were several inches taller, will play at Dickinson. The two colleges play against each other in the Centennial Conference.
“I am just so excited that I am going to be able to play with her in some form,” Lechich said. “Just playing ball with her in any way, whether against her or with her, has been so important to me.”
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