The clock showed seven minutes until game time and the North Babylon girls basketball team wasn't even in the building yet. Because of an overturned tanker truck on the Long Island Expressway Saturday morning, the North Babylon bus didn't move for two hours.
The trip from North Babylon to In-Tech Academy in the Bronx took 3 hours, 15 minutes and left the Bulldogs just 10 minutes to warm up before the game. That wasn't a good recipe for a team that needs high energy in its fast-paced style, especially with a full-court press. Who needs warm-ups?
North Babylon showed no signs of being affected by the long trip. Bria Hartley had 34 points, 14 rebounds and 11 steals as the Bulldogs defeated Woonsocket (R.I.), 65-44, in the Kennedy Challenge.
"The bus ride was horrible," the UConn-bound Hartley said. "We were at a complete stop for a while."
The Woonsocket offense seemed to stall, too. North Babylon's pressure and trapping defense wreaked havoc on Woonsocket (10-3), which is the defending Rhode Island Division II state champion.
"We played faster than they wanted to," Katrina Plummer said. "Our defense trapped them and our zone gave them problems."
Hartley scored six points in a 10-2 first quarter and 11 points in the second quarter to give North Babylon (10-1) a 29-15 lead at halftime. Woonsocket had some really good shooters, but rarely could get into their offense with just five field goals in the first half.
"We knew we were going to extend the perimeter," North Babylon coach Mike Petre said. "In the first half, that was as well as we can play. They didn't get any open looks. We made very few mistakes in our assignment."
Woonsocket had an easier time in the third quarter and pulled to within 44-31. Then Hartley scored on a conventional three-point play to start the fourth quarter. She forced a steal at midcourt and tiptoed the sideline and stayed inbounds for a fast-break layup. She then hit two free throws to give the Bulldogs a 51-31 lead 1:31 into the fourth quarter.
Hartley got to play the entire game and that has been a rare occurrence this season. She usually plays just one half since the Bulldogs have won their league games by an average of 53.8 points.
"It's hard because you always want to play," Hartley said. "A game like this definitely helps us for the playoffs. We need to play good teams."
Petre said he isn't too worried about the lack of minutes for his starters in league games. The Bulldogs have eight players who are freshmen or younger on the roster, so they get a lot of minutes.
"It concerns me to some degree," Petre said, "but our practices this year are better than they have ever been because the talent disparity is less. We go after each other very hard in practice."