So here we are, at the pinnacle of Mount Awkward, sitting at Walsh Gymnasium. He's wearing a Seton Hall shirt and hat, getting his Jolly Roger ready. I'm wearing a St. John's jersey (actually his normal jersey- it's roomier, and I might as well take advantage of the luxury), with my scarf and hat tucked away in my backpack with my Storm banner.
This is the day I've been dreading. This is the day where I have to yell against my husband. See, this is why it's important to be fan-friendly, coaches. When you're on this small a scale, personal loyalty and respect matter. I could go into a self-righteous, self-centered rant here, but there are game notes to write and teams to root for.
Not to say that we're early, but I think the officials walked in. Might not be a good sign that I don't recognize them, but it might also be a good sign. Let's just hope for a well-officiated, clean game.
Today is Play4Kay, which you do not want to hear my thoughts on, so Seton Hall is wearing pastel pink uniforms and St. John's is wearing neon pink warm-up shirts, and people keep looking at me funny because I'm not wearing pink. I dropped ten bucks in the donation jar on the way in, and I'm dropping another twenty at St. John's in two weeks, and if you get me started y'all are not going to stop me.
Look, no, it is a bad plan to leave tickets for fans of the opposing team, Coach. I bought my ticket.
I think Tabatha wants to kick my ass. I can't say I blame her.
Y'know, I was always taught it was rude to sit directly behind the bench unless you were actually rooting for the team on that bench. Go away, people from East Orange, unless you're part of Jade Walker's contingent. You have two other quadrants of the court available.
It's 1:36 and I have seen no signs of Team Jersey. I am going to be very disappointed in Amber and Aliyyah's families if they couldn't manage to make it from Newark to South Orange. Which they did, along with a fair swath of the Newark prep scene, and Jade's family, and Nadirah, and a whooooole bunch of other people.
At halftime, St. John's is up by 11, 38-27. Danaejah Grant and Briana Brown each have 9 points to lead St. John's, while Janee Johnson's 11 points for Seton Hall lead all scorers. Seton Hall's defense has been stout, the Red Storm's offense plodding. I'm not sure I like the threes we've been hitting. The long ball is a fickle friend.
I devoutly hope Jade didn't inherit her dad's sense of humor.
Epic LOL of the day: Ka-Deidre Simmons inbounded the ball. Keylantra Langley was right on the play and slapped the inbounds pass away. Unfortunately for her, she slapped it right to Simmons, who alertly caught the ball. Unfortunately for Seton Hall, Simmons hadn't yet come back in bounds. Turnover, Pirates. (Which then led to a turnover for St. John's, because that is how we roll.)
I gotta say, sitting back here, Joe Tartamella is one of the most relentlessly negative coaches I've ever heard. I don't think I've heard him give a compliment today. If I heard him correctly, he even got upset that we got excited by a big block from Amber Thompson. (In which case, he can go step on ALL the Legos. I cannot be having with this nonsense.) Shockingly, fans cheer for their teams. If you don't like people coming to cheer their kids and their team, then fine. We can arrange for that.
Seton Hall had no energy today. I don't know what the story was, but a team that normally presses and traps stayed away from that, which is strange because that's something St. John's is vulnerable to. I would have expected more effort on defense. Maybe they let the officiating get into their heads a little, but that doesn't explain some of the decisions.
There was a pregame ceremony for Breanna Jones's mom, who's a breast cancer survivor and usually one of the loudest people in the arena. She got flowers and a jersey and a ball and a lot of applause.
Sidney Cook looked off her game most of the night. She boxed out decently, but it almost looked like some of her lift was missing. Jasmine McCall provided a little bit of speed in a surprising amount of time (the Pirates were short two players, so needs must when the devil drives). Teresa Kucera got a few minutes, but didn't do much with them. If I'd been rooting for Seton Hall, I might have wanted her to take a shot or two and extend the Red Storm defense. Brittany Webb blocked up the paint down low (note: if you are a guard of average build, do not run directly into Brittany Webb, this is a bad plan and you should feel bad for attempting it). She and Breanna Jones got more minutes than usual, in the absence of Bra'Shey Ali (out with a shoulder injury) and the continuing situation with Chizoba Ekedigwe's knee. Someone had to play down low, and it was them.
Janee Johnson showed off a little bit of her shooting range, if only because the Red Storm steadfastly believed that she wasn't going to take midrange and long jumpers. Guys, after she hits two or three of them, you might want to consider guarding her out there. Just a thought. She hustled hard, too. Ka-Deidre Simmons poke-checked the ball like she was playing for the Devils- she had a couple of nice steals and a couple of other deflections that weren't credited for whatever reason. She tried to get her team going a couple of times with fast breaks and drives to the lane, but they just weren't following her. She had to be the scorer, and I don't think it suited her. Alexis Brown drove hard and came away with all the rebounds. She was mixing it up a little inside and taking advantage of her teammates' boxouts to get the boards. For her build, she's surprisingly fast. Chizoba Ekedigwe started, but didn't play a lot- she did a bit of screening for her teammates, and I think she had a block somewhere along the line. Tabatha Richardson-Smith set up for deep threes and couldn't get anything going beyond the arc. She was much more effective driving in transition, so I don't know why they didn't take her inside more.
O HAI Jade Walker. Oh, yes, we see you. We see you going strong to the hoop with the baby hook, and with the long J, and getting position down low. She showed out today- being 'round the corner from home seems to have done wonders for her. She needs to be a little more assertive rebounding- at least two bounced off her open hands- but she showed her potential and it was good. Aaliyah Lewis brought a little speed off the bench, but not as much as she could have. Keylantra Langley was solid but unremarkable. Danaejah Grant brought the firepower, cutting to the lane and hitting deep shots. We got a lot of excellent play from our bench, which I think made a big difference in the long run.
Aliyyah Handford seemed rejuvenated by being back in Jersey, though some of her defensive intensity was still lacking. But her speed was back, and she was making nice plays in transition. Briana Brown hit big threes from the corner and tore away rebounds from bigger players, as she always does. Eugeneia McPherson ran a solid point guard, though with the amount of time she spent looking over to the bench in wild-eyed panic, I started to wonder what kind of confidence she had in herself and the job that she was doing. Running headlong into a Webb-shaped wall was a bad idea, and then she played like she was expecting the foul. Never assume the foul. Sandra Udobi got the start, but didn't play a lot- I think Joe was expecting more of her than she was physically capable of giving on this day. Amber Thompson got close to the basket and got boards, but didn't go for a lot of shots.
Free throws. Dear Lord, St. John's, hit your free throws. Yes, I know we won by 21. Hit your free throws. It's not going to be this easy elsewhere. Hit your free throws.
No one was happy with the refs. They were woefully inconsistent.
The PA guy must not have gotten a pronunciation guide. I can almost understand not getting Danaejah right; I had my worries about that when she came in. But Udobi and Eugeneia aren't that complicated, dude.
I love my team and I'm immensely proud of my team, but today was really awkward and not fun, despite the win.
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