So it's that Sunday. The one I've been looking forward to and fearing for most of the season. The one where your intrepid blogger and her dashing husband find themselves at loggerheads. The big game. The one that could decide everything.
It's time for the second Awkward Bowl of the year. What, you thought I meant the Super Bowl? Aw naw, we're both rooting for the Seahawks and against the Patriots. I'm behind the visiting bench here at Walsh Gymnasium, wearing my St. John's red. He's behind the home bench, wearing his Seton Hall blue. And I don't know what the lady in the Rhode Island shirt is doing.
Stop looking at me like that, Tab. We've been through this before. I was a Johnnie long before you were ever a Pirate. If MTA fares go up exponentially, and if Joe Tartamella completely loses his mind, and if St. John's goes into a death spiral of fail and unwatchable offense, and if ticket prices get ridiculous, and if I think Team Jersey wouldn't hunt me down in the street for it, then we can talk about a palette swap. But all of that has to happen first for me to even consider it.
Road black today for the Red Storm. We really need to figure out if our third color is black or navy blue, because either would work, but you can't go with both. Black and navy blue clash.
Getting pretty full pretty fast- expected attendance is so far around 1100. No, I didn't slip a digit anywhere. RedZone is supposedly bringing a bus. We'll see about that. There's only one guy I trust to show up on the regular among the St. John's student section. Five or six if you count the guys from Sigma Chi Beta.
Okay, that was nice. The Seton Hall bench priest came over to welcome everyone behind the St. John's bench. He's a sweet guy with a good sense of humor.
Even with a butt pad, these bleachers are harder than the unyielding bedrock of the earth.
No halftime notes, because crowding.
That was an exciting second half! Shame that game turned into a ref show near the end. I shouldn't be petty about that, but a couple of calls can turn a game.
Tonoia Wade saw a fair amount of time when Jade Walker was in foul trouble, as inevitably happens. She had a lot of hustle, and she crashed the boards hard, but I think she had a little deer-in-the-headlights look to her at times- she should not have had the ball in the backcourt at any time, especially not when Seton Hall was trapping at halfcourt. Crystal Simmons spelled Aliyyah Handford when she was in foul trouble, but she was in over her head- afraid to shoot, almost as afraid to pass. The foul trouble was mostly intentional.
Danaejah Grant, I don't know what I'm going to do with you. On the one hand, when Nae gets hot on offense, you can't stop her, and she gives us an outside threat that we normally don't have. On the other hand, if you get half a step past her, she stops playing defense like you've slapped her off-switch. She did her best to finish the job Aliyyah Handford started in the second half run, but I think she ran out of gas at the end. Love the way she got to the line and converted today. Jade Walker, bless her heart. She got into foul trouble, including two calls that were highly questionable. (Ka-Deidre Simmons falling down after running into Jade isn't a foul, it's an application of physics.) She got off some good shots but couldn't get them down, but also got up some shots right at the rim that she should have hit. Solid game from her, but we needed more than solid. Aaliyah Lewis looked terrified by the press and the trap. The game slowed up when the ball was in her hands, much to the frustration of pretty much everyone wearing red. She played good defense on Tabatha Richardson-Smith, which is a tall order, literally. Amber Thompson brought the offense down low in the first half, and hit more free throws today than I think I've ever seen her hit in a single game. Don't mess with the big girl. You will get whooped. She wasn't quite as terrifying on the boards as usual, but only by a little bit, and honestly, I'd rather have a well-rounded game from her than one where she's pulling down a skillion rebounds and taking one shot.
Aliyyah Handford gets her own paragraph, because she's Aliyyah Handford and you're probably not. (Unless you are in fact Aliyyah Handford, in which case, hi, Liyyah, you're awesome.) She was getting defended hard for the first thirty minutes or so, doubled and basically shut down, and getting hit hard with no call while she was at it. It got to her. First, in the bad way: flat-out shoving Janee Johnson is not the world's greatest idea when you're a 5-9 guard of average build and JJ is a 6-0 stocky forward, especially when it becomes your fourth foul. Then, in the good way: she decided, perhaps not in these exact words, that she had had quite enough of this utter nonsense and was going to rectify it however she could. And 20 second-half points later, she came damn close to it. Geno had Diana and no one else did. We have Aliyyah and no one else does. I guess awesome power just comes with the number.
Joe, we need to talk about your control freak tendencies. It might not be necessary to call Aaliyah over to the sideline for every.single.play. Just a thought. Sometimes, you can just let Aliyyah or Danaejah free-lance.
I think Jordan Mosley only played, like, five seconds of game time. She came in to shoot free throws for Ka-Deidre Simmons when Didi went to the bench saying she was dizzy while doing the 'oh dear, I've lost a contact' dance. Tony is probably relieved at the free FT practice. Kathleen Egan came in to play a little bit of defense in the first half and was never seen again. Tara Inman hit a nice little corner three and ball-hawked. The SJU student section liked ragging on her. Tiffany Jones brought a different look in the post off the bench, extending the defense and creating more space for everyone to work. She's still a little too foul-happy for my liking (well, for my liking when I root for Seton Hall). Lubirdia Gordon got work done around the basket on both ends of the floor, shutting down the Red Storm's offense at the rack.
Chizoba Ekedigwe got the start, and I thought it was a bad sign when she actually took and hit a shot. But she wasn't as tough as Gordon and she wasn't as offensive-minded as Jones, so she got a little squeezed out. Janee Johnson got a little shot-happy, and I'm still a bit irked at her for her cheap shot on Aliyyah right in front of the St. John's bench. You're better than that, JJ. I know that. I know you. Tabatha Richardson-Smith was streaky from the field as always, and never got hot like I was afraid she would, but she more than made up for it on the boards. She worked her way into the crevices and cracks and ripped down those rebounds. Daisha Simmons ripped us apart in the first half, going down the lane like Moses parting the Red Sea, popping threes, the whole nine yards. She was quieter but still effective in the second half. But that was all right for Seton Hall, because Ka-Deidre Simmons took over in the second half. She decided that Seton Hall wasn't going to lose when the big run happened. She did her best to shut the door. She's so tough.
Play of the game: Amber Thompson pulls down the board off a Daisha Smmons miss, outlets to Aliyyah Handford, and it's off to the races. Fast break lay-up for Liyyah, right? Done it a thousand times before, right? She gets to the rim, and suddenly, BAM! from behind like the hand of an angry and righteous God comes the block from Daisha Simmons. Ball goes into the curtain over the stage, Daisha goes into the cheerleaders.
I can't give you the LOL of the game, because it's profane. Suffice it to say that someone normally soft-spoken expressed extreme displeasure with the officiating and believed that a specific call was comparable to bovine excrement.
Alumnae in the crowd. Nadirah McKenith came color-coordinated and everything, wearing her black St. John's jersey. Also got to see the awesome 3 before our current awesome 3, Da'Shena Stevens (and her adorable daughter, people younger than me are having adorable children, I am getting old argh). (For those of you new to the party: Da'Shena Stevens is awesome. Her class was the class that walked into Gampel and walked out winners.)
Very physical first half. Refs let 'em play a lot, but looking at the crew, Cissoko-Stephens is known for it. I thought we got robbed on a few calls, but at the same time, we started looking for calls before we were looking for shots. (Jade. I'm looking at you. Aliyyah. Looking at you too.) And then it all went to hell in a handbasket when Aliyyah was called for a fifth foul so egregiously bad that there were Seton Hall fans saying it was a bad call. Aliyyah's mom looked ready to storm the court on that one. I don't know if that ended it for SJU- Danaejah looked ready to take the mantle- but it definitely changed the course of the game. If Aliyyah's available for the last few minutes, I think we complete the comeback.
St. John's student section did show up, but I kind of regret it. Support your team, absolutely. Boo the anthem singer, taunt the cheerleaders, swear in front of kids, call the alma mater tradition stupid? We gon' fight. If I have to explain to you what a technical foul is, how many seconds there are on the shot clock, the fact that there's a halftime, and what a 1-and-1 is, why are you even here? Because you got a meal and a hoodie for five bucks, that's why. I'm being harsh, because for a good chunk of the game, they were as a group great and loud and fun to be with; I may also be more sensitive to trash talking the opponent when the opponent is one of my teams, and when I know how close the Johnnies and the Pirates are.
I love my team. I sometimes want to love them with a two-by-four, but I love them. I love what they are, and I love what they can be. This hurts, but we can get past it.