Good morning, everyone! Yes, morning. No, I don't like it either. But it's Field Trip Day in Jamaica, Queens, and that means an 11:30 tip and thousands of kids for the Red Storm's matchup with DePaul.
Honestly, would it have killed the Big East to reverse the order for DePaul and Marquette visiting St. John's and Seton Hall? Kids on a field trip don't care who the opponent is, and you could have gotten a lot more walk-ups for DePaul on a Sunday.
Fortunately, unlike last year's field trip debacle, we were able to complain loudly enough to the back office folks, and got seats saved over in our usual neck of the woods. (If you did not read about last year's field trip debacle: sitting directly behind the band is not conducive to a happy fun time experience. Forcing alumnae and men's players behind the band is not happy fun time for anyone after the game.)
So far they're loading the upper deck first. I think the local schools are waiting for the traffic to clear before they come in.
Okay, kids, please don't play with the light switches on the ads. Light switches are not toys.
I'm not sure how long the sign board with the flashing lights will last, but I like the enthusiasm.
And DePaul is probably wondering "what in the world have we gotten ourselves into now?" I think it's a good sign that Brittany Hrynko's hair is relatively tame today. Big hair Hrynko is usually best Hrynko.
Kimberly Spruill is doing a nice job dodging the little kids out for exercise during the educational portion of our program.
Selina Archer is walking around in a boot, which makes me sad. Again, this is not going to do much in the long run, but I feel bad for her.
Props to the school group that made their kids dress in red.
Yes, Aliyyah, we're here. We're always here. Well, at least I am. Except for that one time against Wagner.
I'm starting to understand Stephen Burt's analogy of ten thousand out-of-tune piccolos to describe school groups.
I think they're debuting new third jerseys today. Danaejah Grant is wearing unusual gray shorts with sharp red and white stripes down the sides. Very snappy. I like 'em better than the blue jerseys. (The tight fit is not a good look for Jade Walker, though.)
At halftime DePaul is up one, 37-36, on the strength of six threes and some mistakes by St. John's.
This MC is my new best friend for chiding the kids for not making enough noise to disconcert DePaul in the first half. Make the screaming piccolos work for you!
I love my team, but this game made it very clear that they are not the elite program they were with Da'Shena and Shenneika and Nadirah. Too many mistakes, too much hesitation, and above it all, the clear recognition that Danaejah and Aliyyah are the only two players that this team trusts to perform in the crunch- which of course becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
That is to take nothing away from DePaul. Doug Bruno is one of the best in the game, and has been for a very long time. DePaul made far fewer mistakes and capitalized well on the ones they forced. DePaul executed with crisp ball movement and very little hesitation. They hit the shots when it counted. That's what you do when you're a champion.
Mart'e Grays played briefly in the first half, and was not relevant to the overall flow of the game. Brooke Schulte has really great hands- she was active defensively, poking out balls and making moves. Megan Podkowa was a mismatch all day, using her height on the inside to pull down boards (and especially tear boards away from careless Johnnies), and then going outside and hitting threes, since her defenders were reluctant to head out beyond the arc.
In case you had not noticed, DePaul likes to have unlikely people take threes. On top of everything else that makes them good.
Centrese McGee has slimmed down and changed her hair, but her rebounding is still reminiscent of Jamelle Elliott (not that I ever saw Elliott play, but I've seen her on the sidelines and read of her legend in the UConn days). Brandi Harvey-Carr is a load down low, and she pulled down a couple of nice boards- not just that, but she boxed out very well, allowing Schulte and McGee to get the boards. Chanise Jenkins came up with the threes, but was a little too active on defense for DePaul's liking- she fouled out on a block/charge in the second half, and took her sweet time settling back down on the bench. (This may actually have worked in DePaul's favor, as it allowed for the mismatch with Schulte.) Jessica January put the cherry on top when she hit a wild lay-up under the basket late in overtime; it was one of those shots where you know deep in your heart it has just sealed the game. She's solid- made a really nice defensive play in the first half to break up a sure basket. Brittany Hrynko's skill is apparently not directly proportionate to the size of her hair, as she was hitting threes from the general vicinity of Moorestown, driving the lane at will, and generally being very good at basketball.
I love DePaul's ball movement, and their ability to get each other open. Not that it was always the screen or the shift- sometimes it didn't occur to St. John's that just because a player was tall, she wasn't going to live down low.
Tamesha Alexander, who was really digging the music pregame, played briefly in the first half to give Aaliyah Lewis a little bit of rest. I would have liked to see more of her- she didn't seem flapped by the DePaul defense, or by the crowd, and Aaliyah was having some trouble seeing over taller Blue Demons. Tonoia Wade was a defensive substitution for Jade Walker, and she was very active- her positioning has improved since earlier in the year, and she wasn't afraid to mix it up down low. I love her ferocity and I hope we see more of her.
Amber Thompson rebounded, but didn't do much offensively. Defensively, however, she's a beast and I love watching her beast. Jade Walker hit her jumpers, but was lax on the boards and on defense, hence why we saw so much of Tonoia Wade. I hate the way Danaejah Grant bails on defense so often, but I love her jumper. She carried so much of the offensive load for us. When she decides she's going, there are few powers on this earth that can stop her. Aaliyah Lewis was calm when it came to hitting shots late in the clock, and she had nice chemistry with Aliyyah Handford on the break, but she took a couple of hits without getting a call, and I think that got into her head a little bit late in the game. She looked like she was looking for calls. Aliyyah Handford just makes your jaw drop sometimes. She's got speed and she's got strength and she's got vertical and she's got a jumper and she's just amazing and I am out of coherency when it comes to her, except to delight in the fact that we get her for another year.
Let me put this in perspective for some of y'all who are more into the powerhouse teams: Aliyyah Handford pulled off Notre Dame's "Jewel-ie-oop" play in overtime. (Granted, it was our only basket in the OT. But what a basket.)
Officiating did not make or break the game. I thought Aaliyah Lewis got the worst of it, but it is what it is.
The problem with encouraging children to scream their brains out during timeouts: it's hard for players to hear the coaches on both sides. Jade and Amber had to go over the play coming out of timeout, and Tonoia looked like she'd been hit between the eyes with a hammer.
The place was packed for the first half. Literally standing room only. Thank all the gods that we were able to work something out with ops at St. John's to have our seats reserved, or we would never have gotten a seat, and these GNoD would have either never existed or have been so profane that they would never see the light of Swish Appeal. Groups left starting at halftime, and I salute those who were able to stay through the OT. Love the groups that wore red, especially the ones in the center court sections between the benches- they were really into it!
The hook to "Empire State of Mind" becomes curiously poignant when sung by thousands of children.
We keep doing the same thing over and over again. The Big East is a double round robin. You don't think Doug Bruno will be ready when we visit Chicagoland? You don't think Flanery has tape of this game for the rematch at Carnesecca? Someone other than Aliyyah and Danaejah has to emerge as a legitimate option, or everyone's just going to let them score and make sure no one else bothers to even try.