Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
Just the Facts, Ma'am: Shenneika Smith notched 22 points on Senior Night, and Amber Thompson added 20 points and 16 rebounds off the bench to help St. John's claim a 67-54 win over DePaul. Jasmine Penny led the Blue Demons with 14 points. For a surprising lack of tears, seniors being seniors, travels, mild embarrassment, and the pausing of all good things, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.
There aren't enough words to describe the amazing things that Nadirah McKenith and Shenneika Smith have done for St. John's. There really aren't. No, seriously, there aren't. You've seen the pictures; you've heard the stories. Shenneika and Nadirah are rewriting St. John's history all over the record book. It's been such a pleasure and a privilege to watch them play and to be so sure that they'll be at the next level.
Um, sorry, Mary. Look, it wasn't my idea for you to give up a year of eligibility and take your Senior Night alongside two of the Red Storm's most decorated players; I expected to have another year to come up with nice things to say about you.
Senior festivities seemed short and a bit rushed, but I arrived in the middle, so that might have affected my perception. I would have loved to hear more of Nadirah and Shenneika's accolades, but maybe they didn't want Mary to feel overshadowed. (Even though she totally is.)
Vocal anthem for the first time in a while. The singer knows her voice and its limits. (There were great LOLZ by the band tonight; they were bound and determined to finish "The Pretender" no matter how many timeouts it took. Which I approve of, by the way. "What if I say I'm not like the others? What if I say I'm not just another one in your plays? You're fake! You're the pretender! What if I say we will never surrender?")
Megan Podkowa got a little foul happy in the second half, and I think hers was the basket where the Red Storm essentially decided to concede the basket so the seniors could go to the bench and get their applause. Megan Rogowski got the nod first off the bench in the first half; Kelsey Reynolds got it in the second half, both for Anna Martin. DePaul got solid bench play overall, but I got the sense that they were looking for something they didn't find out of their reserves (which might have been three-point shooting).
Anna Martin got hot in spurts and did a nice job of cutting through the lane. I don't know which knee it was that she injured, because she wears the same brace on both of them. Bruno used her very judiciously, taking her out early in both halves and generally being cautious with her, which is understandable with her injury and with the Big East and NCAA tournaments coming up. Charise Jenkins got decent looks all night, so naturally the only shot she hit was a twisting, over-her-shoulder reverse lay-up with the shot clock running down. It's sort of like a reverse Murphy's Law or something. Brittany Hrynko had her way in the lane. She's pesky on defense, too. With that huge puff of a ponytail, she reminds me a little of those animals that fluff up really huge to make themselves look more threatening, though in her case it just makes her look adorable. Jasmine Penny would not have been able to get away with half of her moves to the basket of Bonita Spence were calling the game, since her footwork is not particularly sound, but she got the job done, especially on the offensive boards (she had one beautiful putback that pretty much just floated into the basket). Katherine Harry didn't seem to be looking to score, and she seemed intimidated by our post player.
Amber Thompson, oh my gosh, that is the kind of game I have been expecting from Amber for the last year. All of the aggression that was missing from her last few games was there. She went strong to the basket on the offensive end and mixed it up for rebounds on both ends of the floor. She was tough, she was fierce, she was determined, and she was amazing. (She also has a lot more hair than I would have guessed from her 'do; her elastic broke after she was fouled, and she shook out her hair during the free throws. She got a spare elastic from Nadirah, in case you ever doubted Nadirah was always ready with the assist.) Keylantra Langley got some good minutes, and of course the shot she hit was with the shot clock running down, and of course the shot she missed was a quick jumper with plenty of time on the clock. These are the things we expect from Key. Ashley Perez played briefly to spell the guards. She was scrappy, but her freshman was showing when the shot clock violation happened (then again, with four seconds left, that should have been Key's shot). Cedrica Gibson got a little time so Nadirah could get her well-earned applause.
The two fouls Briana Brown got tagged with in the first half might have saved the day for her, because that meant she was fresh for the second half to drain the dagger three and get down on the floor for loose balls. I still maintain that it's not a good plan for a Division I, BCS-conference team to try and play someone my height at power forward, but if anyone can manage it, it's Briana and her metaphorical cojones. Aliyyah Handford looks a little like she's hit the wall, but you always expect that from a freshman. She perked up a bit in the second half. Her lanes were clogged, she was trying too hard for the foul, she wasn't getting the calls, and I think she was letting the lack of calls get to her. In that regard, she's got to toughen up and either find workarounds or learn to adjust. Nadirah McKenith wasn't called upon for scoring, which let her do all the other things she does so well. It wasn't a big numbers night for her (except for two blocks; one more ties her for 10th all-time in St. John's history; I have mentioned that she's 5-7, right?) but she proved that a good point guard controls the game without necessarily controlling the basic stats. Mary Nwachukwu was... guys, I can't. It was Senior Night, and I'm not going to give Mary her usual flogging with a wet noodle on her Senior Night. So it's a good thing that Shenneika Smith found her stroke despite her ankle still bothering her at times, and that she has the amazing ability to hit three-pointers with precisely three seconds left on the shot clock, and that she was pretty much awesome.
Can't really complain too much about the officiating, though the people around me were happy to pick up the slack. Aliyyah needs to learn how to take the contact a little better, or at least sell it better. Paging DeMya Walker...
We had some of the folks from men's soccer sitting behind us, and they were great- into the game almost as much as they were into their friend's work during the shootout (he hit the free throw and the three-pointer, got the bottom of the net on the halfcourt shot; of course, the girl they picked for the $30K shot couldn't even get her ball to the free throw line). We even got a little bit of "Seven Nation Army" going at one point.
For St. John's, it's on to Hartford. Storm the XL Center, Johnnies! Then come home. Come home on March 24th. We'll be waiting.