Tamara Simpson got her Amar'e Stoudemire on.
There she was, late in the second quarter of North Babylon's game Sunday at Madison Square Garden with time expiring on the shot clock, and well beyond any three-point line, regulation high school or otherwise. Simpson lunged forward, let it rip, and watched the ball swish through to the ooohs and aaahs of the hundreds of spectators gathered to watch her Bulldogs take on Commack as part of the Maggie Dixon Classic.
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The scoreboard glowed red just before she let go and the referee did, indeed, wave it off. And, though some similarities are better than others, Simpson wasn't complaining. Because it was Simpson and her game-high 14 points which helped give North Babylon the edge necessary to defeat non-league rival Commack, 45-28.
"It was pretty cool," Simpson said. "It was like, 'Don't eat any of the Garden food and get heavy, don't get nervous, just cut the nerves down.' "
The nerves, the bigger court, and the big-league lights seemed to affect both teams in the early going, leading to a 4:30 scoring drought in the first quarter.
North Babylon recovered quickly, outscoring Commack 12-5 in the frame, as the Cougars didn't sink a field goal until Samantha Lanes' short baseline jumper with 40 seconds left.
North Babylon led 25-14 at the half and took off on an 12-4 third-quarter run, capped by eighth-grader Brianna Jones' trey from the left side to make it 37-18, the Bulldogs' biggest lead of the game. Jones finished with 11 points.
That either team was even in the position to play at the Garden was a testament to both sets of coaches, specifically Commack assistant coach Bruce Haller, who petitioned to have the squads play after the Ohio State-Connecticut women's game that took place earlier in the day. Ohio State is the current home to former Commack star Sammy Prahalis, and North Babylon alum Bria Hartley plays for Connecticut.
"This is awesome, absolutely," Jones said. "Being here and the crowd was amazing, but I wouldn't remember it so [nicely] if we lost."
Even so, it was clear early on that at least this one was about more than the score.
Commack, which suits up 16 players and North Babylon, which brought 15, committed to letting every girl play 21/2 minutes. That meant playing time for seniors such as North Babylon's Destinee Daly or Commack's Nicole Muller and Crissy DeAngelis - girls who have seen limited minutes and, according to Commack coach Denis Conroy, deserved a shot to shine.
"It's a big deal to play at Madison Square Garden," Conroy said. "A lot of time, in a regulation game, it's hard to find them minutes."
Jones had a more practical view. "The high school gym is small compared to this, easy," she said. "I feel like after playing in this gym, I can jump higher, run faster."
Minutes, memories, and maybe a little momentum - all found Sunday at MSG.