Leah Bezon is one of three fifth-year seniors who have helped lead the Elba girls basketball team to four straight Sec. V Championships. Bezon, along with teammates Maddie Muehlig and Brynn Walczak, all entered their final high school season, hoping to round out phenomenal careers as each of them closed in on 1,000 career points and the team’s fifth-straight sectional title.
On Saturday afternoon against longtime rival Notre Dame, Bezon entered the game just seven points away from becoming the first of the Lancers’ senior triumvirate to reach the 1,000-point plateau. With 6:03 to go in the third quarter of the Lady Lancers’ 52-38 win over Lady Irish, Bezon drained a free throw to record her 1,000th point. After her teammates mobbed her and a brief ceremony took place at center court, she added a couple more points which placed her current career total at 1,002 points.
“It’s just good to know that I left my mark and that my name will be on that banner in the gym for years to come,” said Bezon. “It makes it even better to do this in a program that I love.”
For the Elba senior, playing for the Lancers girls basketball team has been a labor of love.
Bezon was called up to the Elba varsity squad as a seventh-grader due to a season-ending injury to then-senior Alex Reigle. From that moment, Bezon stepped in and never looked back.
“She immediately had a hard-working, care-free attitude - perfect for what we were looking for at the time,” said Elba head coach Tom Redband.
Bezon came into her own as a critical contributor during her eighth-grade season, helping fill the void left behind by injured star forward Emily Reynolds. With Reynolds on the mend, Bezon was called upon to start a few sectional games and helped the Lancers to their first of four consecutive championships.
“She has always been unshaken with her attitude and doesn’t get too caught up in the moment,” added Redband. “She’s been so solid for us throughout the last few years. She’s what every successful program needs.
“She’s our rock.”
After becoming a full-time starter during her freshman season, Bezon slowly chipped away at the 1,000-point barrier.
She began her career with just 120 points over her first two seasons at the varsity level. Then, during her ninth-grade year, everything fell into place. Bezon finished her freshman campaign with 241 points and followed that up with an explosion of 331 points her sophomore season. As her teammates, including Muehlig, Walczak, and now-fourth-year senior Taylor Augello, began to get better around her, Bezon took a step back and scored 260 points during her junior season. She’s now scored 50 points through her team’s first six wins to begin this season.
On Saturday, Bezon became just the sixth Elba girls basketball player to eclipse the 1,000-point mark. For a program that has won sectional titles and state championship and seen countless star players filter in and out of the program, what Bezon has accomplished at Elba cannot go understated, said Redband.
“It’s elite company,” said the Lancers head coach.
Reynolds was the last Elba girls basketball player to score 1,000 and did so during her senior season in 2015. Reynolds currently ranks fifth on the school’s all-time scoring list. Leah’s cousin, McKenzie Bezon, ranks second all-time with 1,461 career points, eclipsing the 1,000-point mark in ’13. Current Elba assistant coach and Redband’s wife, Marci Redband (Jonathan), is fourth on the program’s all-time scoring list with 1,103 points, netting her 1,000th in ’07. Just above her is ’91 grad Sharonda Brown who finished her career with 1,394 career points. The all-time scoring leader in Elba girls basketball history is Suzi Egeli, who finished her career in ’93 with 1,557 points.
Beyond the personal statistics and accolades, Coach Redband says that Leah Bezon will be forever remembered at Elba, above all else, as a winner.
“She’s part of a small handful of girls to have four sectional championships,” he said. “Her legacy is going to be that she is a winner. Winning and playing the right way has always been her priority.”
Redband went on to say that Bezon is as humble a player as he has ever coached.
“When an athlete is as successful as her and never talks about it, you know her values and priorities are in the right place,” he said. “She’s also a really nice person and a good teammate.”
For Bezon, growing up in Elba has been a blessing. In her eyes, she wouldn’t be where she is today if she hadn’t played in front of the Lancers community.
“I don’t think you get support from any other school and community like you do from Elba,” said Bezon. “Elba is definitely there for you when you need them and goes above and beyond for their own - especially when you reach your goals.”
Reaching the 1,000-point mark is significant for the Lancers senior.
“It definitely means a lot. It feels good that all my hard work has paid off,” said Bezon. “It means even more that my community was there to support me (today).”
It won’t be easy for her coaches and her teammates to see a player and a person of Bezon’s caliber depart the program at the end of the year.
“I will certainly miss coaching her and seeing her every day in practice,” said Redband. “She’s just a nice, pleasant person with a smiling face who loves to compete.
“I remember my first year in Elba, she was in fifth grade, and I was rebounding for her. I thought, ‘this is a serious athlete who wants to be good.’ I could see it in her face. We will miss her greatly.”
The Lancers’ success over the past several seasons has not been about one player. But every successful team comes equipped with an individual whose unwavering spirit drives the group emotionally on and off the court. For Elba, throughout much of the past half-decade, that player has been Bezon.
Perhaps Coach Redband said it best - Bezon has been the Lancers’ rock.
With her 1,000th career point under her belt, it’s now time for Bezon to place sole focus on claiming the program’s fifth consecutive sectional crown. Because for her, it’s always been about one thing.
Winning for Elba.