Alex Hampton vividly remembers her first big shot against an upper-echelon opponent.
It came in her sophomore year, a game-winning three-pointer with four seconds left against perennial power Massapequa, and was the impetus that put Baldwin on the map as one of the top teams on Long Island for three seasons. It also was the beginning of Hampton's propensity for playing her best in the most critical games.
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The Baldwin senior point guard was the MVP of the Nassau Class AA girls basketball championship game as a sophomore. As a junior, she had a critical basket in the waning seconds of Baldwin's victory in last season's county final. As a senior, she scored a career-high 24 points to lead the Bruins to their third consecutive county championship, earning another MVP award in the final.
Hampton averaged 14 points, eight assists, six rebounds and five steals before averaging 20 points in the postseason.
"From that moment on, I knew the program could turn it around," Hampton said of the winning three-pointer against Massapequa. "That game gave us confidence. We didn't have it until then."
Many expected Baldwin to fall short this season after several key players graduated. Hampton, a pass-first point guard, was asked to become more of a scorer in her final season. Her scoring totals weren't gaudy in the regular season because she often sat out the entire second half of blowouts.
Against Riverhead, one of the best teams on Long Island, Hampton had 10 of her 20 points in the fourth quarter of a 56-50 loss in the Long Island Class AA final. She scored seven straight points to give Baldwin a 48-46 lead with 1:52 left.
"She's a complete player," Baldwin coach Tom Catapano said. "She defends the best player on the other team, she scores and she's a leader. She's very calm under pressure. She always had her best games in the biggest moments. She's a winner. No matter what gym we played in, people asked me, who is No. 4?"
Hampton, who will play collegiately for Molloy, was at spring practice last week until 9 p.m. to help the young players. She plans to attend the four-day summer camp with the Bruins in July.
"It was a great experience to turn this program around," she said. "This is my family. I don't want this run to stop. I will do whatever I can to keep Baldwin a winner."