By Joseph Staszewski
The moment and what it meant didn’t pass Madison Rowland by.
The Queens College sophomore star embraced every bit of playing at Madison Square in a game commemorating the 40-year anniversary of the first women’s college basketball game at the World’s Most Famous Arena.
Rowland ensured history did not repeat itself by scoring 28 points and grabbing 11 rebounds to lead the Knights to a 76-60 victory over Immaculata as part of the Maggie Dixon Classic last Sunday. Queens College lost the inaugural contest 65-61.
“It was getting revenge for losing the game 40 years ago,” Rowland said. “Forty years ago, the game was so close, they were so close to winning it, but we got it back for them.”
She admitted to being nervous before the contest and called the experience of playing at the Garden “surreal.” Rowland and her teammates drew inspiration from a pregame speech from Queen College legend Gail Marquis, who was honored at halftime along with others who played and coached 40 years ago.
When the game started, it was all business for Rowland, who fell a point short of the Maggie Dixon Classic record. It is a performance Queens coach Bet Naumovski fully expected.
“Her competitive drive is stronger than anyone I’ve ever coached hands down,” Naumovski said. “I know she may have been nervous, but as I told her mom, ‘As soon as that ball is tipped her competitive juices are going to start flowing and we will be just fine.’”
The Knights, who play in Division II, led just 25-24 at the half against a hot-shooting Immaculata team that plays in Division III.
Naumovski asked her team to attack the basket more and it was Rowland who led by example. Immaculata (4-6) led just once on the first basket of the second half.
Queens (8-2) put the game away with an 11-3 run that included a three-point play from Rowland and two sweet dishes from Joya McFarland. The Knights led 59-49 with 8:40 to go in the contest and never looked back.
Imani Davidson scored 13 points and grabbed nine boards and Mackenzie Rowland, Madison’s sister, chipped 13 points and eight rebounds. Sara Smith led Immaculata with 15 points and Adriana Sciascia had 13.
The win was just another step under the Queens’ motto of “restore the glory” to the proud program with a rich history. The Knights have won five straight and are one of the favorites to win the East Coast Conference. As much as this win was about remembering the past, the Knights also wanted to put its present and future on display.
“We had this opportunity because of what our alumni accomplished 40 years ago, but I wanted today to be about them and their experience and what they can do at Queens College.” Naumovski said of her current roster. “It was not only about honoring the past, but honoring today and our future.”