Meet the girl who could break Iowa's scoring record
Elle Ruffridge's journey from home to the school gym is a quick fast break.
The Pocahontas Area junior lives three blocks away — about 10 lengths of the state girls' basketball tournament floor. Her father, Brandon, is the school's activities director and Elle has easy access to a hoop.
When you're on pace to set Iowa's all-time scoring record, such convenience is treasured.
Ruffridge scored 24 points in Tuesday's 83-43 win over Mount Vernon in a Class 3A quarterfinal at Wells Fargo Arena. She now has 2,052 career points and is 14th on the all-time list. The record is 2,756. Her team will face Cherokee in a semifinal at 5 p.m. Thursday.
Yet there's a much bigger passion for her. She wants to win a state championship Saturday. Records can wait.
“It definitely pushes me to be better, but I’d rather win a title than personal accolades,” Ruffridge said.
Pocahontas finished as the state runner-up last year. The agony of losing is always close at hand — a photo of her team in tears is the background on her cell phone — but the defeat is motivation to win it all.
Losing hits her hard. A regional loss two years ago, when she fouled out, still burns.
“It was horrible,” Ruffridge said. “It just ripped my heart out and I saw it all fade away.”
This week, the only crying she wants on the court is tears of joy.
The all-time scoring record was set by Rock Valley's Deb Remmerde in 2003.
Ruffridge met Remmerde at a Northwestern College team camp when she was young.
“She was really fun,” Ruffridge said. “I’d love to meet her again."
Ruffridge has dedicated herself to the game. The 5-4 guard, who's planning to play at Missouri State, averages 28 points this season.
Her dad, who's also an assistant coach for the team, allows her to shoot at the gym before school and on weekends.
She makes sacrifices in her social life for basketball, skipping sleepovers and family gatherings.
Attending the prom? Forget it. She plans to be playing in an AAU tournament in Chicago that weekend.
“I’ve had to give up a lot of things,” Ruffridge said. “But if I didn’t give up that time, I wouldn’t be where I’m at.”
She does leave room for other sports in her schedule: volleyball, cross country and track.
Photos: Top scorers in Iowa girls' basketball history
Ruffridge's basketball dedication is demonstrated in her free throw rituals. During the summer, she attempts 1,000 free throws a day. She usually makes more than 900, including a memorable run of 133 once.
“I’ve shot thousands and thousands of shots on that to get that muscle memory,” Ruffridge said.
She dribbles five times — her jersey number — before every shot.
“It’s my lucky number,” Ruffridge said. “I think if I dribble five times, I can’t miss.”
Ruffridge wants all the luck she can get this week as she sets her priorities. The scoring record may arrive next year, but taking first at state is more important.