Catchings Hosts Horse Challengers at The Garden

May 26, 2005
Long Island office manager and part-time disc jockey Carrie Schwartz proved that persistence pays off, Thursday morning at Madison Square Garden. She may not have beaten Tamika Catchings in a game of HORSE, which she won on a WNBA.com auction over a year ago, but she patiently waited for the game to take place and even then stretched the game as long as she could.

Catchings won the game, but not before Schwartz netted a shot from the right elbow to avoid elimination with her final letter.

Schwartz, from Valley Stream, N.Y., won the opportunity in an auction during the 2004 WNBA season, but because of Fever schedule changes on its final road trip a year ago, Catchings had to cancel the appearance.

Finally, after emails and phone calls to keep in touch – and even a chance meeting at the 2005 NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis, Schwartz earned her 30 minutes with her favorite Fever star. Catchings arrived early for the Fever’s May 26 shooting practice, in time to greet Schwartz and two friends, Paula DeBlasio and Maria Vulcano. Vulcano spent the time videotaping and photographing the event.

For Schwartz, a fan who has never played the game, the last time she had shot a basketball was in practice for the game of HORSE originally scheduled last September.

On an empty floor at MSG, Catchings exchanged greetings and conversation before the game began with DeBlasio, a P.E. teacher and former high school basketball player sporting a Tennessee T-shirt, handed Schwartz the game’s first letter with a layup. Schwartz, wearing a Catchings replica Fever jersey, quickly found herself in a hole after missing a left-handed layup that was made by both Catchings and then DeBlasio.

Eventually, DeBlasio would become the first player eliminated, in part because she followed Catchings in the three-player rotation. But neither challenger would be defeated without an attempt to avoid her final letter.

With Catchings yet to earn a letter and both DeBlasio and Schwartz holding an “S,” Catchings swished a shot from the right elbow of the free throw lane. DeBlasio followed to avoid her elimination, and Schwartz matched the shot to send the lead back to Catchings.

In the end, it was a layup that ended the game for both challengers. DeBlasio missed a right-handed layup to end her run. And after Catchings made the same shot a second time, Schwartz missed, as well.

“I should have made the layup,” said DeBlasio. “It’s the easiest shot to make. I’ll never hear the end of it [from Carrie].”

After remaining in the arena as guests to watch the Fever shooting practice, all three friends planned to return for the Fever vs. Liberty game Thursday evening.

“It was worth the wait, I had fun,” said Schwartz, a Liberty season ticket holder. Asked who she was rooting for in Thursday’s game, she chuckled, “that answer could get me in trouble.” She then added, “We’re WNBA fans!”