The Town & Country native topped the 1,000-point plateau for Principia in its recent district championship game against powerful Whitfield, which finished third in Class 3.
“Starting out my senior season I did not necessarily expect to reach it, but it was definitely a goal I had,” Bania said. “Coach [Shad] Nichols has always wanted and has always done what was best for me as a player and an individual, so having his support in this accomplishment was very meaningful to me.”
Bania became the seventh player in Principia history to score 1,000 or more career points. Bania finished with 1,002 points.
“What makes the scoring accomplishment impressive is that she is second all-time in career assists with 288,” Nichols said.
The Panthers this season had so many scorers on it, Nichols said.
“Four of the five starters will end up scoring 1,000 points for their high school careers, and that is a lot of players who at some point need the ball in their hands,” Nichols said. “Cameron’s main role as point guard is to help get the scorers the ball in positions where they can do just that. In addition, her career average is just about 10 points per game. If she continued to average that it was going to be close, and was it ever.
“She finished averaging 11 per game, and scored her 1,000th point in the last 2 minutes of her last high school game.”
The big moment came with a free throw. In fact, Bania made six straight free throws to get to the magic 1,000 mark.
Nichols helped her get to the scoring plateau.
“Talk about a pressure free-throw,” Nichols said. “We were down over 20 to Whitfield with only about 4 minutes left. We realized that she was at 11 points and therefore was only six points away. With the outcome of the game no longer in question, I called a timeout – our last timeout – and let the team know that Cameron was only six points away.
“I asked the team to support her and try and get her the ball as much as possible, not to disrespect the game, but to work together to see if we could help her get this. It was really cool to see everyone on the team nod in agreement and support her 100 percent. So she knew what she had to do, she got it done, and like I said those were some pressure free throws! With about 1:30 left in the game it was now or never.”
To score her 1,000th point that way was a bit of a surprise to Bania.
“In past seasons, free throws have not always been the best part of my game because I have struggled with the mental focus required,” Bania said. “But having spent countless hours practicing free throws, I was calm and confident in those last six shots building up to my 1,000 points.
“The moment was very special because a lot of my family and friends were there and the support I felt from the crowd was like nothing else. Also, being able to add my name to the 1,000-point club, following many of the Principia girls varsity basketball players whom I have watched and looked up to while I was growing up, was a cool ending to my high school basketball career.”
In fact, her father Tom is always there.
“Her dad, Tom Bania, is my assistant coach, and has been for the past two seasons,” Nichols said. “So it was really a fun father-daughter moment that was kind of the culmination and crowning moment of sharing a lifetime love of basketball together. It was a very special moment for not only her but her whole family. ”
She likes having her father as a coach.
“I have always loved having my dad as a coach and it has meant so much to me to share these experiences with him and so grateful for the positive impact it has had on me,” Bania said.
Whitfield coach Michael Slater even got in on the moment. After Bania hit the big free throw to reach 1,000 points, Slater called a timeout. That allowed Bania to bask in the moment when it was revealed she had reached 1,000 points.
“I would like to note how important Whitfield coach Mike Slater was in her recognition,” Nichols said. “Being out of timeouts, and this being an MSHSAA district event, the game is not allowed to stop for these types of things.
“However, coach Slater showed great kindness and consideration in using one of his timeouts to allow Cameron to have a moment of recognition with her team, friends, family and school. We are very grateful to coach Slater.”
“I am really grateful that he selflessly called the timeout so that I could enjoy the moment,” Bania said.
Nichols said he was glad she joined the 1,000-point club at Principia.
“She is in perfect company with the best who have ever played here. Scoring 1,000 points is just a lot of times to put the ball in the basket,” Nichols said. “It requires so much more than the natural skill to be able to reach the accomplishment. It requires the persistence and dedication to keep working and moving forward. Absolutely, she deserves it.
“I am very excited for Cameron to have accomplished scoring 1,000 points. I am proud of her for how hard she plays the game, how coachable she has been, and for her willingness to put the team first. I am very happy to see her rewarded for achieving this mark.”
Bania was a four-year starter for the Panthers. In her first two years, she split time between shooting guard and point guard.
In her junior year, she assumed the point guard role full time.
“I learned a lot about how to be a scorer throughout my freshman and sophomore years and, starting my junior year, I became the starting point guard, where I learned more about feeding the ball to my teammates,” Bania said. “In my senior year, still as the starting point guard, I put what I had learned from past seasons as a point guard, scorer and defenseman all into play.
“When I first became a point guard, it was hard for me because I did not get the same recognition as I did when I was a shooting guard but I quickly found the value in my position and my ability to see the floor helped me embrace and appreciate my role.”
Bania was a captain for the last two years.
“I loved being able to lead my team. My role as captain was unique to each season but something that my teammates brought to my attention this past season was how I always gave my fullest effort on the court,” Bania said.
She noted Nichols helped her become a better player in the last four years.
“Coach Nichols has always supported me on and off the court. He is always willing to open the gym for me at any time, he encourages me to better my skills in the offseason, supports me through any challenge I face and always holds me accountable,” Bania said. “Outside of basketball, he has always been there to support and share advice whether I was struggling with writing an essay, going through a break-up or deciding on colleges.
“I cannot truly convey my gratitude for the support I have received from coach Nichols.”
She hasn’t chosen a college yet.
“I am still weighing my options,” Bania said. “If I go to Principia College, I will most likely continue my basketball career, but if I attend another college I will most likely only play club or intramural.
“My high school career has flown by, surprisingly. I never believed them when they said it would but I was wrong. It’s hard for me to believe its already over. I am extremely grateful for all of the lessons I have learned and the opportunities provided to me the past four seasons. I could not have asked for better teammates and coaches and I will truly miss playing with all of them.”
Nichols said Bania “would be a tremendous coach, and [that] she is interested in going into coaching in some form at the college level as a student assistant or manager while she is a student, in whatever form that may take.”
Nichols described Bania as “a great kid. Very thoughtful. Kind and considerate.”
Last fall, Principia nominated Cameron for the 2017 Outstanding Student Leader award, presented by St. Louis County to area high school seniors each year. She also has served as captain of the softball team and she is on the honor roll and is a scholar-athlete.
Naturally, it will be difficult to see her graduate.
“Cameron and I have been on this journey together since she was in fourth grade,” Nichols said. “I have a painting she gave me as a sixth-grader that says ‘Coach, yeah I play like a girl. Some things are better that way’ that included a Principia jersey.
“Her dad has become a good friend of mine through our work together the last two seasons. They have been a blessing to Principia basketball and to me. They will be missed but I look forward to working with Cameron and helping her move forward in her profession.”