Girl 113

Epiphanny Prince is most closely associated with the number of points she scored in a game this season - 113. Many will hope she flashes the 113 form at the McDonald's All-American Game on Wednesday.

SAN DIEGO - Like the rest of us, she is a name and, maybe even more, she is a number. Unlike the rest of us, she is a name and the number.

Girl 113 - that's Epiphanny Prince. She's the girl who scored 113 points in a single game. Even in this Internet-greased, global-village era, few athletes are attached to a number the way she is.

When Jacki Gemelos, a USC signee and a fair scorer herself with more than 3,000 career points, heard of the feat, she said, "The first thing I said was, 'One hundred, thirteen points in four games?' No way!"

Dymond Simon, another of the nation's top players who is headed to Arizona State, got a call from Washington, D.C., shortly after it happened. It was Kaili McLaren, a Connecticut signee, with the news of the Princely feat.

"I didn't believe it - at all," Simon said. "Kaili said, 'Did you hear about Piph?' I said, 'Piph who?' She said she scored 113 points in a game. I said, 'Are you serious?' "

 

Jacki Gemelos

One thirteen. The number looms large over girl's basketball, a monument and a lightning rod. Surely, it will guarantee more than the cursory attention the McDonald's All-American Girls Game, held at Cox Arena at San Diego State on Wednesday night, usually commands.

Brittainey Raven, a Texas-bound sharpshooter who has been called the next Sheryl Swoopes by some, will be the first in line.

"I want to know," said Raven, ranked as the third-best player in the nation by Full Court Press and HoopGurlz.com for Scout.com. "I want some - whatever it is."

It was Feb. 1, a frosty night in New York, when whatever it was unfolded like, well, an epiphany. Ephiphanny Prince, a cherubic-faced, soft-spoken wizard with the basketball estimates there were about eight people in the stands at the Murry Bergtraum gym - "a couple students and some parents," Prince recalled. It figured. Murry Bergtraum, ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation this season, was playing Brandeis, a perennial doormat in the Public Schools Athletic League.

At halftime, Price says, Bergtraum coach Ed Grezinsky told her she had 58 points. It kind of shocked her. "Keep it going," she said Grezinsky told her, "and you have a chance to do something special."

When the buzzer sounded on a 137-32 Murry Bergtraum victory, Prince had scored fifty layups, four three-pointers and one free throw. Yep, one free throw. There was only one referee. The 5-foot-9 Rutgers recruit missed only six shots all night on the way to breaking the girl's national record held previously by Cheryl Miller, who had 105 in 1982 and now is a Hall of Famer. Initially, few knew of Prince's performance. The Associated Press didn't even catch up with Prince until the next evening.

No one even filmed the game. Prince wishes someone had. As incredible as it seems to others, she's the one who did it and sometimes can't believe it herself.

"I'd like to see it, what it looked like," she said.

What it felt like, she remembers all too well. "I was excited in the beginning," Prince said, her voice trailing.

 


Lisa Leslie (AP Photo)

The firestorm hit quick and hot. Though many celebrated the feat, Prince and, especially, Grezinky were villified in many quarters. Full Court Press called it "a shameful statement by Murry Bergtraum." ESPN reported that Prince scored 33 points in a subsequent game, "80 below her career high." Brandeis coach Vera Springer told the New York Post that Prince's performance was "like picking on a handicapped person."

There were no more eight-person crowds. The gyms started filling. Murry Bergtraum was used to being booed by hostile crowds. But the booes rang louder, Prince concedes, because of her.

Still, in the criticism, Prince had some good company. Two-time WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie once scored 101 points in a half for Morningside High School in Inglewood, Calif., against South Torrance in 1990. South Torrance refused to play the second half. Finally, it was his Airness, who put the criticism to rest, at least in Prince's mind.

While introducing his new high-school all-star game in New York, Michael Jordan said, "I can't fault the young lady for scoring 113 points when she goes out each and every minute to play the game hard. If you're going to fault anybody, fault the coach for not taking her out of the game. ... I think that she's going to innovate this game."

As she did against Brandeis, Prince will do it one explosive, body-hanging layup at a time, a three sprinkled in here and there. Gemelos played against her at a camp all-star game and describes Prince's play as "effortless." McLaren, who along with Tina Charles, a friend and rival at New York's Christ the King, has played with and against Prince more than any of the players assembled here, said, "It's very hard to stop her. In some ways, she plays like a guy, the way she goes to the basket. Her body control is amazing. She draws contact and either scores a basket or is getting fouled."

But enough times to score 113 points? It's still difficult to contemplate.

 


Kaili McLaren

Gemelos got almost halfway there - 52 points, during a game in which her team needed every one. She had 22 points, which she says "felt normal." Gemelos scored 30 in the second half and said, "I didn't like the way it felt. ... If I scored 113, maybe I'd apologize."

Prince doesn't dismiss such a sentiment. She says she often wishes she could take it all back, that it never had happened.

But it did. And every time Prince takes the floor, there will be expectations of, if not cracking the mythical century mark, some reasonable facsimile.

"It's really unfair to her," McLaren said. "Every game she plays, she's supposed to do this or that, score that many points. That's so much pressure to put on her."

Sometimes Prince responds to notions with a quiet giggle and half-cocked smile. This is one. Pressure?

"I don't feel any pressure," she said. "Back home, people will say, 'Go out and get 114, get 115 next game.' But I know they are goofing on me. I just want to go out and have fun. I don't know what people expect."

Girl 113 is what. Not a person reduced to a number, but one who reduced a number, made it real and surreal at the same time. Whether she gets close to it ever again, the number comes with Epiphanny Prince.
 


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