Queens, NY - The last few moments were a little unnerving.
Fifteen seconds remained, Memphis trailed by two and had possession of the ball.
Memphis coach Melissa McFerrin opted to try for a two pointer. The last second attempts missed and were rebounded by the Red Storm. Following a quick Memphis foul, Keylantra Langley calmly sank both free throws allowing Kim Barnes Arico to breathe a little easier.
St. John's prevailed 64-60 over a good Memphis ballclub to capture their Chartwells Holiday Classic.
St. John's 63
St. John's 102
The Red Storm built a 14 point lead midway through the first half. St. John's came out with a great deal of energy and attacked the basket on the offensive end. Their defense mirrored the intensity.
To their credit, Memphis, coming into the contest at 9-1, did not fold. They gradually settled down, though trailing 40-31 at the break. Jasmine Lee, one of their top scorers (15 PPG), was relatively quiet with an eight point day. Brittany Carter was more than taking up the slack. The senior guard, an 18 PPG scorer, finished with a game high 23 points and led the Tigers' second half charge.
St. John's had nice balance. Shenneika Smith led the way with 18 points. Eugenia McPherson, the tournament MVP, added 13 points with five assists. Da'Shena Stevens added 11 points and a seven rebound outing.
"We had players step up," Barnes Arico said. "With Nadriah (McKenith) out we needed that and it was big."
McKenith, a junior guard, was hurt in the Baylor game last week. An ACL injury was feared but tests ruled it out. The injury is not as severe and she is expected back soon. Even with players 'stepping up' her presence was missed. St. John's had 20 turnovers (a 32% TO rate).
"A lot of that was due to the pressure Memphis put on us," Barnes Arico said. "They pressure you well but with McKenith in the lineup I do not think they could have done some of the things on defense that they did today."
Defense was another topic of concern for the Red Storm. The test was passed against Memphis. The Red Storm mixed some man, zone and three quarter court pressure. Whatever the defense, Carter was a priority.
"I really think we defended Carter well," Barnes Arico said. "She scored two the first half off out of bounds plays. In the second half she hit two deep threes when we were zoning. Any other points she got, though, she really had to work for."
Credit for the defense on Carter should go to Smith.
"Today I challenged her (Smith)," Barnes Arico said. "Yesterday she did not defend as well. Today she had to step up on the defensive end and did a really good job."
Down the stretch defense proved the difference. As Barnes Arico noted her club had three consecutive offensive trips ending in turnovers. On the other end, each time St. John's was able to get the stop. A deciding factor in the outcome and victory for 7-5 St. John's.
The All-Tournament Team:
Eugenia McPherson, St. John's (MVP)
Da' Shena Stevens, St. John's
Shenneika Smith, St. John's
Jasmine Lee, Memphis
Brittany Carter, Memphis
Jasmine Bendolph, LA Tech
What is Chartwells? It is the catering company for St. John's per Kristin Duffy, the school's Assistant Director of Athletic Communications.