Buses started rolling up to New York City early in the morning. The IHM Sisters were ready—minus the buckets this time. Fans, including faculty, staff, students and alumni, held signs reading “We Back the Macs.” The Immaculata players had their game faces on and Mighty Macs Coach Patty Canterino was prepared for the biggest game of the season: the rematch of the 40-year-old Immaculata versus Queens College game at Madison Square Garden.
In tribute to the legendary game on February 22, 1975, when the first two women’s college basketball teams played at Madison Square Garden to a crowd of 11,969, the current Mighty Macs team was invited to participate in the first game of a doubleheader at the 2015 Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden along with the Queens College Knights.
Although the final score of the 1975 game saw Immaculata prevailing 65-61, the outcome of this game was a little different: Queens won 76 to 60. The Division III Mighty Macs played hard against the Division II Knights and entered half-time with only a one-point deficit. Senior Sara Smith led the Mighty Macs with 15 points, followed by sophomore Reilly Larkin with 14, and 13 from senior Adriana Sciascia. Senior Brittany Merkle led the squad with nine boards. Following the game and before the start of the St. John’s versus #2 seeded University of Connecticut, all four teams lined up on the foul line to honor Coach Maggie Dixon, the former Army coach who died in 2006 at age 28.
Much has changed over the past four decades. In 1975 women’s basketball was under the umbrella of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW). Today, college basketball is governed by the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), and Immaculata competes in a lower division than Queens College.
Another notable change from that historic game was that both games of this doubleheader were played by women’s teams. In 1975, the men’s basketball teams from Fairfield University and University of Massachusetts matched up against one another. And in case you were wondering…tickets for the 1975 game were $1; tickets for the 2015 game were $30. One thing remained the same: Helen Reddy’s I am Woman could be heard blaring from arena speakers back in 1975 and again in 2015.
“Playing at Madison Square Garden was an awesome experience for our team,” commented Coach Canterino. “They take such pride in playing for Immaculata University, and to be a part of celebrating and remembering a game that took place 40 years ago was an honor for the present Mighty Macs. We appreciated the opportunity to play at Madison Square Garden, and as we have always known, Immaculata has the best fans. We appreciate everyone making the trip to NYC!”
During half-time, representatives from both Immaculata and Queens gathered at center court for a tribute honoring the milestone game. After the conclusion of the game, Dr. Maria Alonzo ’78, who was a freshman on that 1975 Mighty Macs squad and is now a pediatric and transplant surgeon, participated in a panel discussion with members of the 1975 Queens College team, hosted by former New York Liberty star Sue Wicks. The discussion centered on memories from the 1975 game and the status of women’s basketball four decades later.
Officials at Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous arena, tweeted the following to Coach Canterino and the Mighty Macs:
@IUMightyMacs It was an honor having you all here for a great game. Thank you for giving the fans at the Garden some great memories today.