Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Red Storm protected Tesia Harris and Da'Shena Stevens's Senior Day with a 69-49 win over Villanova. Stevens led all scorers with 21 points (13-16 FTs), one of four St. John's players in double figures. Lindsay Kimmel led Villanova with 11 points, nine in the first half, while Emily Leer's 10 were all in the second half.
For flowers, free throws, signs, Philadelphia sports fans, free throws, the false assurances of the Missouri Tigers, and bobble-heads in high heels, join your intrepid and slightly melancholy blogger after the jump.
The end of the season brings with it a sense of fading. It starts slowly, with the ticket pile dwindling and talk about the tournaments ramping up. The last this, the last that; the last weekday game, the last TV game, until on a blustery, cloudy Saturday you reach into your Shock Wheaties box and realize that the rubber band is around a single lonely ticket. And that's it. That's the last home game. It might not be the end of the ride, or even the end of the season, but it means the lights go out.
I'm honestly not sure what to say about Tesia Harris. We've only really had her for one year, so she hasn't had as much of a chance to make an impression on us as her classmate has. But in this one year, she's been a crucial piece off the bench, bringing well-timed shots and impressive offensive rebounding for a guard of her slim build. We had the opportunity to see her get her 1000th career point, and that was awesome. I think she was expecting more of a role with St. John's, but she's played the role that she needs to play. We're happy to have her, and I sort of wish we'd gotten her the first time around.
And then there's Da'Shena Stevens, the Connecticut girl whose career has, essentially, been bookended by UConn. Her freshman year, she burst onto the scene with a huge game against the UConn team that had Montgomery, Charles, and Moore, out-dueling her classmate Tiffany Hayes and keeping the game close single-handedly. Her senior year, she came up big, setting the screen for Shenneika Smith and the big three that took down the Huskies at Gampel. She's taken more contact than anyone should ever have to, and every time she gets knocked down, she gets up again. It's rare to find a player whose mean and median are so close together, but Day is that player who can be relied on for a solid eight and four, then built on for much, much more. She's committed to improving and being a leader by example. She's been the face, the star, the center of attention, and she's answered the bell time and time again. She's a gamer, and she's been the crucial player that has made St. John's into a team to be reckoned with.
(My husband made the signs. He's good with graphics.)
Senior Day ceremonies were short and sweet. Poor Tesia Harris- it's not like T doesn't have her CAA accolades and stats, but when you're classmates with one of the top players in St. John's history, it's not easy to look good in comparison. (Sort of the problem Jennifer Blanding will have next year.) I'm surprised I didn't cry. I expect to bawl next year.
I refuse to applaud a recorded version of the anthem, but the band didn't really have a chance to get set up, so I'll give them a pass. And I'll give the band props for speeding at the speed of light from the Garden game that ended at 2 to get in before tip-off. They're awesome people and they get into the game. They've taught us a lot.
I was very, very impressed with Emily Leer off the bench for Villanova, especially in the second half. I've never seen a player that young with such a beautiful and consistent hook shot- she put up a sky hook that reminded me of Elena Baranova. An inside player? For Harry Perretta? Do you think she'll finish her career at Villanova? I wasn't thrilled with the forearm to Amber Thompson's throat, though. Taylor Holeman committed a lot of fouls. That's about all I remember of her. Kendall Burton got going a little near the end of the game, as did Emily Suhey, just to give the Villanova fans something to celebrate. You'd think I'd remember more about Megan Pearson, given how much she played, but mostly I remember the back of her jersey as she tried to work on defense.
Laura Sweeney looked good early, but didn't necessarily play well, if that makes any sense. In the second half, she got frustrated and started fouling Da'Shena Stevens. Lindsay Kimmel got hot very early, but we switched our defense up (for some reason 5-7 on 6-0 just doesn't work) and we shut her down afterwards, except for one lay-up in the second half. Rachel Roberts is always a threat, but she only hit one today. Jesse Carey made more of an impact on defense. I don't even remember Lauren Burford.
Villanova, it's a lot easier to remember individual players if you aren't all doing the same thing. Live by the three, die by the three. Or the Leer hook shot, I suppose.
Zakiyyah Shahid-Martin! Oh my God, it's been forever! She even got to the line and put a point on the board. If Jennifer Blanding had been able to handle the entry pass, or if everyone in the building hadn't known that the team was trying to put her on the board, we might have lit the tree. But Nova went in hard on her, so she didn't score. And we were all sad, because Big Love is a fan favorite. Keylantra Langley helped make a difference by presenting a different look on defense and coming up with a couple of big shots. Her sense of timing is occasionally wonky, but when it's on, she's the one I want taking the shot with 1 on the shot clock. Briana Brown looks like she's trying to become the three-point shooter we need, though I don't know if this is the time to demonstrate it. She got a lot of minutes today for ball-hawking and because Tesia Harris got the start. Amber Thompson brought great rebounding off the bench- she needs to be more assertive as an offensive option, but I absolutely love her work on the boards.
Clearly it's the Queen Mother's fault that Eugeneia McPherson hasn't had her offensive flow going lately. Sorry, Gina. Mom managed to make today's game, and Eugeneia was suddenly hitting all those shots she'd either been missing or avoiding. We need her to be a scorer. That's her best skill, and one that complements her teammates well. Go for the basket, Gina. You can do it! We believe in you! Tesia Harris got the start, not just because it was Senior Day but also because there was an open spot in the lineup thanks to Mary Nwachukwu's nose. She played okay, a little in over her head but she got a couple of baskets to get the crowd behind her, and she did her work on the boards. Shenneika Smith brought a little bit of the flash and a whole bunch of the rebounding- she's improved by leaps and bounds in that category, both literally and figuratively, and I think she realizes that if she's going to be a forward instead of a guard on the next level, she's going to have to be a rebounder (and if she's going to be a guard, being a superb rebounder will be a plus). Nadirah McKenith ran a solid offense, had a nifty pickpocket, hit a big shot while falling down, all of the usual that we've come to expect from her. Nana's really going to have to crank it up next year to top herself this season. But, appropriately enough, the day belonged to the senior called Day, Da'Shena Stevens. She was quietly solid in the first half, with nine points- and then the second half happened and she started getting fouled. More importantly, she hit her free throws. Whatever scouting report Villanova was using where they considered it a good idea to foul her might have been a little out of date. There was no way Da'Shena was losing on her senior day. When she gets that bit between her teeth, she's unstoppable.
I understand that Carnesecca Arena is general admission and that therefore you can sit wherever you want. There is a chasm of difference between "can" and "should". If you're a visiting fan, and you have been informed that you've just taken up residence in the same section as the home coach's family and the home point guard's family, you can stay where you are. You probably shouldn't, though, not unless you want to be called out, screamed at, surrounded by home fans, yelled at, and have the band playing in your ear the whole time. We were fairly irked at the ones in the next section over, which was close to center but on the STJ side of the midline- but the ones in our section had both of us seeing red, and not in a Storm kind of way. The fact that most of the seats across from and behind the Villanova bench were empty proved to us that they weren't interested in following the usual rules of engagement that occur in college basketball, rules that Rutgers and most Notre Dame fans followed.
I'd make a comment about Philadelphia sports fans here, but there might be kids reading this, and we've already taught too many kids bad words.
The Kim Barnes Arico bobble-head looks more like Megan Duffy, but it's still pretty cool. Mine is currently chilling out with Johnny Thunderbird, while my husband's bobble-head is having a coaching conference with Richie Adubato and Brian Giorgis. (The consensus: stop going baseline.)
I know the ride isn't over yet. We're going to the Big East tournament, and I'll be there with my team and my laptop, writing about all the Sunday games. And I know now that my team will be in the Big Dance. So I can't truly say goodbye to Tesia and Da'Shena yet. I can't write the usual soppy farewell to the team, because this isn't the last game.
But I can write a fond farewell for the 2011-12 season to Carnesecca Arena, my home away from home. I will miss row JJ, where we have stomped many a stomp and cheered many a cheer, where I have dug my phone out from behind HH and fished out my things from KK. I will miss my guys at security, Phelan and the rest, who send us through with flying colors and ignore the occasional escaping sandwich, who ask after the team before games and wish us well after them. I will miss Angela Clark and Justin Burrell's jerseys in the dress and dribble contest, and ducking flying pink ducks for charity. Carnesecca is home away from home, and the lights go down on it for the season. We'll see you in November, for all of the games, all the way through to the Big Dance.
But the ride's not over yet.