FAIRLESS HILLS – For the briefest of moments, time seemed to stand still.
Pennsbury’s Dalton Pepper took three dribbles and then rose up for one of his patented jump shots from beyond the three-point arc. The shot hit nothing but net.
The standing-room only crowd at Friday night’s SOL finale against Neshaminy erupted. This was history in the making. The trey had vaulted Pepper over the prestigious 2,000-point plateau.
With the scoreboard clock frozen at 6:00 in the first quarter, the game was halted as streamers from the stands fell onto the court. The Falcons’ star became only the 13th male player in District One history to surpass that magical milestone.
With very little fanfare, Pepper – who never seeks the spotlight – accepted the game ball from coach Frank Sciolla and immediately gave it to his parents in the stands.
“He’s phenomenal,” Neshaminy coach Jerry Devine said. “You hear people arguing that he’s not that good, and he should be averaging (x number of points). If that kid wanted to get 40 a game, he could. He’s phenomenal.
“Tonight he said to himself, ‘I’m going to be aggressive, and I’m going to get buckets,’ and he did. You can’t do much about that.”
Pepper went on to score 12 points in the first quarter and 28 in the game as the Falcons rolled to a 67-45 win over the Redskins on Friday night.
“He’s done a tremendous job,” Sciolla said. “He’s the ultimate competitor.
“Everything he has been able to do statistically has been tremendous, but he’d done so with no slipups.
“There’s just a steadiness, a consistent level of effort he brings to the table. He’s not up and down, up and down emotionally. He has the same approach to every game.”
A first team all-state selection last year, Pepper has 103 career double-figure scoring efforts, including 36 in a row, and he has scored in every varsity game he’s ever played. The last time he was held under 10 was when he scored nine against Bensalem. He scored 40 the next day and 41 four days later.
If it seems as though Pepper might have an inflated sense of self, guess again.
“He’s the most down-to-earth kid ever,” teammate Eddie DiRugeris said. “He’s real humble. He just plays the game. He doesn’t talk trash.
“If he makes a shot, he has the same face as if he missed a shot. He’s real special.”
Pepper couldn’t have picked a better stage to score the historic basket. It was not only the Falcons’ final SOL game, but it was played against their archrivals. Throw in the fact that the game was played in a sold-out gym on Senior Night, and it might just be a perfect script.
“It was just a great night,” Pepper said. “It was one of the best nights of my life.
“Where else would you want to be but in this gym on Senior Night, scoring your 2,000th point and beating a team by 22.”
That’s not to say there weren’t some nerves involved.
“I was a little jittery,” Pepper admitted. “We had a long wait, and it was tough to settle in.
“I guess I was forcing some shots at the beginning of the game.”
But not for long.
When Pepper found his rhythm, he didn’t lose it, scoring 17 first-half points as the Falcons opened up a 31-20 halftime lead on their way to the big win.
“There’s a school of thought that he’s already done enough to be the best that’s come through this area,” Sciolla said when asked if Pepper was the best ever. “There have been a lot of great players from this area, and I think he compares favorably to all of them.
“(Dalton) leaves that double legacy of statistics and wins, and his wins – he’s had so many high quality ones, and that he has to be in any argument about best player, especially all-around best player.”
After the game, Pepper expressed his gratitude to his coach.
“I have been guided by coach Sciolla,” the Falcons’ star said. “He helped me be a better person, a better student and a better basketball player, and I thank him a lot for what he helped me do.”
Pepper is following in the footstep of many great players at Pennsbury.
“I remember coming to games and watching them play and being one of the biggest fans,” he said. “It’s a good feeling to come in here and play in a place like this. “
And there was no place Pepper would have rather made history than home, sweet home.
“This is one of the best places to play in the state,” Pepper said. “It’s so loud, it’s a small gym, and fans are right on the floor. Opponents are getting talked to the whole game by the fans. It’s a great place to play. I’m going to miss it.”