All in the family
On January 29,,1990, in a game against Beaver College, a Melissa Porzio's jump shot scored her 1000th point for Cedar Crest College and earned an accomplishment for her family's name that she thought would never be equaled on a basketball court..
Move over mom.
Sixteen years later, Melissa's daughter, Courtney Porzio, playing for the same school, sank two free throws against Marywood to join her mother as two of only nine members in the 1000 point club for the Cedar Crest Falcons
The significance of their marks of achievement is more impressive by the fact that they are one of only two mother-daughter combinations that have reached this pinnacle in the history of Division III basketball on the East Coast.
There are a few similarities that mark the Porzio point productions.
They both wore number 14. They both love the game of basketball for the fun of it and never set a personal goal of scoring 1000 points. They are both very proud of each other.
Then there are distinct differences.
"I've lived in Lehighton most of my life," said Melissa (Porzio) Miller, " but my father was a military man so I got my start in the sport when I was seven playing a game called bucketball in Dortmund, Germany."
Then when attending East Penn Elementary School in Lehighton as a sixth grader, Miller was given the option of taking art class or playing basketball.
"I knew even then I was not an artist." She said. " I continued to play in an intramural program twice a week, even though I wasn't very good. Later on, I played summer basketball and against the boys at the Grove in Lehighton. This helped me get faster and much more athletic. Even when I was at Cedar Crest, I played basketball with my professors at lunch time to have fun and to improve my competitiveness."
For Courtney (Porzio) Schleicher, the initiation into basketball did not come down to her choice. At the age of four, her grandmother took her to every one of her mother's games at Cedar Crest.
" I was in second grade when mom scored her 1000th point," said Schleicher. I fell in love with the whole atmosphere of basketball. Then from the seventh grade through the ninth grade, my mom was my coach in Lehighton. She always taught me to respect my elders so I respected her as my coach and didn't see her as my mother until after the practices and games were over."
"I made it a point to never give Courtney special treatment or to not be extra hard on her just because she was my daughter," said Miller.
Schleicher's basketball career almost stopped before it started in high school.
Playing for Lehighton in a pre-season scrimmage before her sophomore season, she tore her ACL. She thought she might never play again.
"I was devastated for her," said Miller. "After a grueling regimen, Courtney had to wear a brace for her entire junior season. I hated to see her so upset. It took her a while to regain her skills and her confidence, but she did."
"I thought I would never play again," said Schleicher. Then I found out a friend of mine tore his ACL while wrestling, doing the thing he loved. So, I thought, I did too. I worked really hard to get back to the game I loved. My mom supported me through the whole reconstruction period."
Her arrival at Cedar Crest was not planned at first.
"I also played field hockey for Lehighton and I went to Muhlenberg College to play it there. One day I walked past the gym and heard the girls' team practicing basketball and I knew right then how much I missed the game. I told my mother I had to play again and then she talked me into transferring to Cedar Crest."
On the court, mother and daughter played different positions and excelled in completely different fashions.
Miller played small forward, but at 5' 7'' she proved to be a ferocious rebounder, the first to hit 1000 in both points and rebounds for Cedar Crest. In addition to her 1176 points, which placed her second in school history, she had 1291 career rebounds, a total which has not to this day been surpassed at Cedar Crest. During her senior year she led the country in rebounding at the Division III level. She grabbed 28 rebounds against Columbia Union and then set the Cedar Crest single game record by pulling down 33 against Philadelphia Pharmacy. In 1989, Miller was named Athlete of the Year by the Lehigh Valley Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.
"I loved playing defense," said Miller." Everyone pays attention to scoring numbers, but I am actually more proud of my rebounding. When I played for Lehighton, I was an MVP at Dick Schmidt's Basketball Camp and he said if I was three inches taller I could have played power forward or center at a Division I school."
Miller's daughter, however, excelled at shooting guard for both the Indians and the Falcons. As a junior for Lehighton, she set a school record with six three-pointers in a game against Northampton. At Cedar Crest, she averaged 16 points a game during her senior year.
"I call her Courtney Squarepants because she's very structured and detailed. As a player, she sees the court really well," said Miller. She's also a great passer and not just a scorer."
Schleicher, who finished her career just 71 points behind her mother, talks about her 1000 point moment with great emotion.
" I needed eight points. Marywood was double teaming me in the first half and I was nervous because I wanted the pressure off me. In the second half, when I needed one more basket, I drove down the lane and got fouled. (She had led the country in free throw shooting percentage for a good part of the year.) After I made both foul shots, they stopped the game and I carried the ball into the stands and presented it to my mother."
Then she added with some tears, "My mom is an amazing person. To share this honor with her was an incredible feeling."
"Words cannot describe how proud I was of Courtney that day," said Miller.
Much credit for their success stays in the family.
"My parents were pivotal in my success," said Miller. "They never missed any of my games or Courtney's games as well."
"As grandparents, they were wonderful to me too," said Schleicher. "Especially when Mom was in college, they took care of me a lot so she could finish her education."
Now mother and daughter still share much about basketball and about life. While Miller coached at Lehighton and also at Allentown College, her daughter currently coaches at the Lehighton Middle School where she teaches special education. While Mom works at home to utilize her degree in accounting and waits for her other two daughters, 11 year old Emily and nine year old, Hailey to come home from school, she also watches her granddaughter, Bryn, Courtney's 21 month old.
Though Miller will be fine if her two younger daughters become "bookworms," it appears the zest for the sport remains in the family blood.
"Emily and Hailey love the game, too," she said. "As long as basketball never interferes with getting their education, I am excited that they want to play."
As for her own daughter, Schleicher says that Bryn started playing about the same time she started to walk.
"I bought her a little basketball hoop when she was one year old. And when she gets older," she said with a smile, "I hope Bryn plays basketball, and well, she can play field hockey, too, if she wants."
Based upon what mother and daughter have already accomplished on the hardwood, they may have three more chances to add family to the 1000 point banners that hang from the rafters at Cedar Crest College.