DILLSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — His love of basketball started in his driveway shooting hoops after church, and now, Matthew Ward’s passion for the game has him cemented in the history books at Big Spring High School. The senior shooting guard set the Big Spring all-time scoring record in Friday’s win over Northern, 59-53.
The senior needed just one point to tie the school record at 1,365 points. On Friday, it took just one Bulldog possession and a three-pointer from the top of the key, and Matthew would sit along in the record books. He would finish the game with 23 points.
“You dream about it whenever you first step on the court,” Ward said after the game. “You think ‘what goals could we achieve both as a team and individually?’ I’ve been dreaming since freshman year about eyeing that record, and it just felt great.”
Big Spring immediately called a time out as the announcer called out that Matthew had set a school record. His first step was to his teammates, his second was up the bleachers to his parents, Michael and Christina.
“He came up to us and I wanted to say something but I was going to choke up and I couldn’t,” Matthew’s father, Michael, said of the moment. “It’s been pins and needles for the last few games. Last year, he ended the one game here against Northern with 999 points, so he didn’t score his 1,000th point until the next game. So it’s kind of special to be back here and do that.”
“We’re just so proud of him,” Matthew’s mother, Christina, adds. “I think it will be later tonight when we get home and we can all share as a family that it will really hit us.”
The school’s record was 18 years old, and was held previously by point guard Cale Nelson in 2004. The point guard went on to play Division I basketball at St. Francis (PA). Jason Creek, the current Spring boys basketball head coach, was a senior on the Bulldogs team when Nelson was a junior.
“Cale was a great basketball player,” Creek says reflecting on playing with the second leading scorer in Big Spring history. “[Cale and Matthew] play very differently. Both could score the rock a lot and both were on a lot of winning teams too.”
Big Spring’s big win over Northern
The Friday night win over Northern secured the fifth straight double-digit win season for Big Spring. It was something Matthew tried to focus on before the game, knowing he was only one point away and wanting to relieve some of that pressure.
“Walking into the game, I just told myself that I wanted to worry about the win,” Matthew said. “I knew if I focused on the win [the school record] would take care of itself.”
It’s that team-first mentality that has propelled Matthew to so much Bulldog success. The senior is quick to thank his teammates for putting him in the right position to succeed. And Coach Creek applauds Matthew’s willingness to do whatever the team needs to get the win.
“He loves the game of basketball and he’s extremely coachable,” Creek said. “No matter what we want to do or where we want to put them, he buys in.”
Matthews roots in Carlisle
For the Ward family, Matthew’s dedication to basketball started well before he stepped foot on the high school court in Newville. He started playing in kindergarten, which quickly transitioned to a full slate of AAU games by 5th grade.
“Our best memories [are] coming home from church still in church clothes outside shooting free throws to practice,” Christina said. “He is just so committed. It’s his love, and he [even] sleeps with a couple basketballs. That’s how much he loves it.”
He’s a Carlisle native, big brother to Mikaela, aspiring pre-med student, future college basketball player and now the all-time leading scorer in Big Spring history.
“It goes on your resume as a basketball player, but it’s [more than that],” Matthew said. “It’s just like all those late nights you had when [I was] in Harrisburg getting shots up until 9 p.m. and then taking the hour drive home. [My] parents making the sacrifices and everything. It just feels great because it’s also an achievement for them. For me, of course it’s an individual award, but I give credit to everyone who got me here.
“It’s life honestly,” Ward says of the Big Spring community. “You’re going to be a Bulldog forever. I consider them the greatest community in all of Central PA. Every single game you can count on every one of the locals to be out there supporting you. It’s just great knowing you’re welcomed here and you’re loved by the community.”
The school plans to have a brief moment to honor Matthew’s achievement before their home game on Saturday night.