Wildcats Live Out Their Wildest Dreams on the Garden Floor

Just minutes after the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns tangled in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee, the Rye Country Day girls’ basketball team stepped onto the hallowed hardwood of Madison Square Garden for a contest with Masters.

Soaking up the MSG experience.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Wildcats, who were more than up for the challenge of playing at the World’s Most Famous Arena. Behind 18 points from sophomore captain Carolyn Binder, Rye Country Day rolled to a 48-33 victory.

“The girls were very, very excited about playing in the Garden,” said head coach Bob TeCarr. “They may have been intimidated, but they certainly didn’t act it. It was a fantastic experience for the team and the coaches. Even in your wildest dreams, it is almost impossible to think you would ever get such a chance. It’s Madison Square Garden, the Mecca of basketball!”

Binder was the catalyst early and often for the Wildcats. She scored the team’s first basket, which propelled RCDS to a 15-3 lead eight minutes into the game.

Carolyn Binder scored 18 points at the World’s Most Famous Arena.

“I didn’t want to psych myself out, so I told myself that it was just like every other game,” said Binder. “I wanted to let the game come to me and not force anything. When that first shot was open, I didn’t hesitate. It was thrilling to hit it. It was the perfect way to start off the game, and helped us get off on the right foot.”

The Wildcats’ strong start was tempered by Masters’ 9-0 run to finish the first half. TeCarr thought his team seemed to become complacent in the second quarter, and – during the intermission – asked them to tighten the defense and be more patient on offense. The pep talk worked. Rye Country Day dominated the third stanza, outscoring Masters 18-4.

Tara Berger drives for two of her ten points.

“We had to dig down deep – this was the time to show how hard we have worked,” said senior captain Stephanie Binder, Carolyn’s sister. “This victory made all the early Saturday morning practices and extra sprints well worth it. In the second half we dialed up the intensity and played Rye Country Day basketball.”

Stephanie Binder, a dynamo from downtown like her younger sister, finished with 10 points. Eighth-grader Tara Berger also played well. She recorded her first career double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Berger is one of two Wildcats TeCarr called “pleasant surprises” this season. Fellow eighth-grader Nereida Mendez has been a revelation at the point, and is one of the reasons RCDS is off to a 6-2 start.

Even though they graduated longtime stalwart Alexandra Osborn-Jones last June, the team believes they have what it takes to win a third consecutive NYSAIS State championship. In the meantime, they’re content to bask in the glow of their Garden glory.

“It was all just so surreal,” said the younger Binder. “I had butterflies at first, but when that whistle blew at tip-off my nerves vanished and I played my heart out and left everything on the floor. I could not have asked for a better experience. I got to play with my team, including my sister, with my family and friends watching in one of the greatest arenas in the world. Can it get much better then that?”

— photos by http://www.ToddShapera.com

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