THOMASTON – The name will always be emblazoned on the 1,000-point banner in the corner of the Thomaston High gym, a permanent testament to talent. Nicole Decker’s game will always be center court, center stage, it is that good.
The Thomaston High senior joined the rare air that 1,000-point scorers live in Friday night with an 18-point performance that pushed over her over the coveted mark. It was late in the second period when Decker got loose on a fast break and eased in a left-handed layup to stop the game and become the fifth Thomaston High girl, in the last decade (eighth overall) to earn a spot on the banner for the stunningly successful program.
Decker’s career assures membership and conversational inclusion in the Golden Bears Mt. Rushmore club that includes Amy Matthews, Tanya Ramos, Abby Hurlbert, Maggie Eberhardt, Morgan Sanson, Heather Boguslawski and Casey Carangelo.
A stoic and steady presence marked by excellence on the court, you can watch Decker during a game and find no indication of the Bears are winning or losing. Even in the throes of a major career accomplishment the smiles were there for sure but tempered, the night bathed in quiet satisfaction.
On this night, in this moment however she allowed herself a touch of public introspection.
“It’s all kind of surreal . I watched Casey (Carangelo) and idolized her (girls all-time leading scorer) and Mozey (head coach Brian Mozelak) is the school’s all-time leading scorer, “Decker said after the Thomaston High gym emptied out. “A lot of times I don’t take time to be proud, but I’m proud of myself for all the hard work and I could feel the love tonight.”
Those who have watched Decker, revel in the point total and distinction the number 1,000 points bring with it. But, and it is a big but, they see way beyond the point total for what it is, a measuring stick for the kid they started talking about in fourth grade. Points tell a story but only part of the story. They are never all-encompassing.
Thomaston Athletic Director A.J. Bunel stood in the corner of the gym and caught the most important hoop on video. He stood there before the moment and kind of shook his head.
“She could play for me right now,” he said and this wasn’t a caught in the moment joke.
“She is the most unselfish 1,000-point scorer in school history,” Bunel went on. “A pass first, a score when needed, a first rate winner. I don’t know if she is best ever to wear the brown and gold but she’s on the Mt. Rushmore.”
Mozelak made another poignant point regarding Decker.
“A lot of people look at only the box score,” Mozelak said. “The real MVPs are the ones who cut down the nets. You saw it last year in the Berkshire League Tournament. I thought she was the best player in the league. She was not trying to fill the box score up, she just wanted to win.”
Decker does a lot of scoring but the truth be known, she is a ring girl. The bottom of the net is awesome; cutting down the nets is off the charts. And she has done it so well. Three Berkshire League titles, two BL Tournament titles, the 2022 Class S state championship crown and there is still a half season to go before college beckons. Oh and as an added character reference how about the 2023 BL soccer title and BL Tournament title to go with a Class S state final appearance. The banner will always be a tribute to her as a scorer, the resume says she is a first flight winner.
Much of the success comes as much from the head as the talent.
“I do what I need to do, what the coach asks,” Decker said.
Scoring was not the focus for good chunks of her career. The Bears needed Decker for other things and she obliged. Freshman year, the Bears had the league’s best player in Emma Kahn and Sydnee Eggleton and her job was to make sure they got the ball.
Sophomore year she was living room couch comfort with the ball, a guiding hand in the Bears state championship run. There were occasional outbursts like an 18-point beauty against Bolton in the state tournament, but the calming influence and rock solid ball-handling were crucial contributions.
Decker averaged six points as a freshman and 10 points as a sophomore. Last season the Bears needed offense and she provided with a 16.5 average highlighted by a savage BL Tournament performance with 26 and 20-point efforts in wins over Gilbert and Northwestern.
This season Decker was asked to score, rare in the Thomaston program where 15-18-point averages have been the norm for the best. But the situation has demanded and she has responded with a 22.5 average punctuated by a 35-point gem against Gilbert, 31 points against Litchfield, 27 points in a win over Nonnewaug and 23 points against Northwestern. Meanwhile the Bears have posted a 9-2 record.
“This year my role changed,” Decker said. “The team and coach rely on me to score. I always felt I could score I just didn’t always have to do it.”
“Nicole has always done what was asked for, “Mozelak said. “Her freshman year and much of her sophomore year we asked her to distribute. Last year we needed her to score more and she took it upon herself to do that. She has matured as a scorer and a leader.”
Decker has done it all changing roles along the way. She has scored, she has won. She is a class act always. A proud night for a proud accomplishment in a proud career. She has earned her spot on the Bears’ Mt. Rushmore.
P.S. – Decker chided Mozelak a bit telling him, “I’m going to catch you. Mozelak has 1,614 career points. He quickly reminded her with a smile, “Remember I’m the one who decides how many minutes you play.”