Wearing her electric lime-green sneakers -- with glitter, no less -- Tamara Simpson stole the show.
Not with her flashy attire, but with her lightning-quick hands and feet. Simpson made 14 steals that helped her score 29 points as she led host Portledge to a 56-22 win over Waldorf Thursday in the IPPSAL championship game. It was the Lady Panthers' third straight league title.
"We always believe that defense can lead to offense," said Simpson, a sophomore whose brother Terence is the star of Portledge's boys team. "We try to convert those steals into easy fast-break baskets."
Portledge (25-1) scored 13 straight points in the first quarter to take a 16-2 lead, and it was clear Waldorf (15-5) would not be able to handle the pressure defense. Simpson dazzled during another 13-0 burst in the third quarter when she made five consecutive steals and had 10 points.
"That's my favorite thing to do," Simpson said. "Play defense and get those easy baskets."
Portledge's junior point guard Kristie Kelly had 10 points and eight steals. The Lady Panthers qualified for the NYAIS (independent schools) Class C tournament. They'll play Feb. 29 or March 1, depending on the seeding, to be determined Feb. 24.
"Pressure defense is our game," Portledge coach Skip Amadio said. "That lets us run the fast break. We're much better that way than when we have to play a halfcourt game."
Thanks to Simpson, in her first year at the Locust Valley school, that never became an issue Thursday.
"She averages close to double digits in steals. Her hands and feet are so quick it's tough to get by her," Amadio said. "But she'll do anything for us. She works the ball around and makes everybody else better."