So it's that time of year again. The season starts to wind down, the last this, the last that, until there's only one ticket left. Senior Days always get me right in the gut- or, to borrow internet parlance, right in the feels. I can go to a team's game for the first time all year and get verklempt for their seniors, so you can only imagine how it is with my own team.
For the first time, though, we have a senior that I really don't know well. What can you say about a player you've only had for one year and who's spent a recent chunk of that time injured? I'll miss Kyra Dunn's shot-blocking, and her uncanny ability to find a teammate to tap the ball out to when she can't get hold of the rebound. But I don't have a strong enough sense of who she is in real life to miss the person she is. But with a Cal undergraduate degree in her back pocket, I know she'll succeed wherever she goes and whatever she does. Which may be another year here, since she wasn't part of Senior Day.
Selina Archer made me root for a different team. I think I told this story both when it happened (appropriately enough, against Georgetown) and in the game that resulted, but I'll tell it again. So we're sitting in our usual seats, and we notice a whole bunch of people in St. Francis Red Flash gear sitting in our section, and they're cheering like crazy for Selina. Seems kind of random, since Selina's from Florida and St. Francis is from Pennsylvania. Turns out that Selina's sister Corissa plays for St. Francis. We get to chatting with them, and I sort of end up promising to hit LIU for their game. Fast-forward to LIU, and there I am in a red shirt and my ever-present St. John's scarf, cheering for the Red Flash and saying hi to Selina. At the end of the game, three or four St. Francis players come up to me, thank me for coming, and hug me. And then the coaching staff takes a shine to us. But anyway. Injuries have really messed up Selina's time with us, and I'm sorry I didn't get to see more of her clearing out the lane and causing opponents to suffer. She's a sweetheart, and I wish her all the best.
While you were reading this sentence, Amber Thompson rebounded something. She's always been solid on the boards and on the block, but she's taken it to another level this year. In a draft like this, maybe that'll be enough for her to get a look. I love how expressive she is, whether it's her death glare right before a shot ends up out of bounds, her 8-O face when she gets called for a bad foul, her 'oh God stop' look of despair when her mom's embarrassing her, and her big huge enormous giant smile when she's happy (said big huge enormous giant smile is on the poster across from me, and it lights up her face like you wouldn't believe). I'm going to miss her interactions with her ridiculously proud mom, who loves and adores her even when Amber might really not want her to. (I don't know if it's a complicated play they put on for outsiders, or if Amber is really that uncomfortable with public affection, but they're adorable.) No one holds it down in the paint like Amber does. She's grown and matured as a Johnnie, and I hope to see her again in the summer.
So, Senior Day. The schedule posters, with Amber and Selina and Joe, were out in force, but there were no proper scorecards. The ceremony was very bare-bones and brief, and Amber still started tearing up by the end. There was a brief intro for each player and her family, a white-and-pink jersey, flowers, and photographs. I would have liked a little more time spent on each player's accomplishments- Selina's intro didn't even mention that she had been at another school. It seemed like they were trying to get it out of the way in a hurry.
Georgetown is not a good team. Not yet. They have height, and they have potential, but they are (to borrow a phrase from Clay Kallam) raw as a side of beef. They committed a lot of sloppy turnovers, traveling almost constantly and getting dinged for three seconds plenty of times. Natasha Adair seemed unnaturally calm on the sidelines, almost to the point where I thought she might be on medication. She had her foot in a boot, so maybe that's why she didn't get up very often. They used their length well in the passing lanes.
Yasmine Belk brought a lot of physicality and size off the bench. Katie McCormick hit a three as part of Georgetown's run, but mostly demonstrated that at some point in her life either she played, or she should have played, softball- she executed a perfect take-out slide. Justyce Swango is very tiny, but is very aggressive on defense- there was one possession where she was stuck to Amber Thompson like a burr, to the point where no one on St. John's felt comfortable passing to Amber despite the gross size mismatch. Brittany Horne hit an early three and moved with grace. I didn't even realize Jade Martin played, so I apologize to her.
I'm not sure how DiDi Burton ended up pronouncing her name Dada, but that's how the announcer said it all day, and no one from Georgetown attempted to kill him, so whatever makes you happy. She brought the ball up, but I don't think they really had a defined point guard, someone to take the reins and make the team answer to her. Faith Woodard found her offense in the second half, getting into the paint- but then usually traveling. Logan Battle also found her shot in the second half, but also had a case of happy feet. There were a lot of travels today. Somewhere, Bonita Spence is nodding in approval. Dominique Vitalis sliced us up inside, going in on St. John's defenders all day. She had Kyra Dunn for lunch and even had her way with Amber Thompson. But having Jade Walker come in on the double did the trick. Dorothy Adomako is the real deal. She's a volume shooter, but she's got size and perhaps not all the moves, but more than a freshman's fair share of said moves.
St. John's keeps slowing down the offense, and I don't know why. You have players who play best when they're running. You have a super-fast point guard. Why pound the dribble for 15 seconds? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY GOD WHY?
Imani Littleton sighting! She needs to improve her court awareness, but she did decently enough on the boards. I'd like to see her be more assertive. Tonoia Wade got some time in the second half, but did little with it, but it wasn't a lot of time. Crystal Simmons took a couple of hits and missed some easy opportunities. Kyra Dunn was tentative on defense, but pulled down one wicked rebound. Tamesha Alexander gave Aaliyah Lewis a little break.
(As an aside: three players on St. John's were wearing unusual socks, and none of them were the kid nicknamed Sox for her unusual socks in high school?)
There were a couple of early attempts to force feed Amber Thompson on this her Senior Day, but ultimately, we should have all known her first basket would come on an offensive rebound and putback. She killed it on the boards, because that's who she is and what she does. She was impractical with her elbows- no matter how much a Hoya annoys you, you can't chuck an elbow into her chest after the play, away from the ball, in front of the ref. Jade Walker got her some buckets, and as questionable as her defense might have been in the first half, she came up with big boards and big stops down low late. I love it when a big girl decides she's going to make someone's life miserable down low. Aaliyah Lewis played tight defense and came up with some pretty passes. Danaejah Grant did that thing where she shuts down on defense, as opposed to shutting down her assignment, but she got buckets, especially in the second half. She did work getting to the line and hitting smooth jumpers. Aliyyah Handford did everything, because that's how Liyyah rolls. She hit jumpers. She hit lay-ups. She found her teammates. She got rebounds. She took a ridiculous amount of contact. She caused mild officiating errors. She's awesome and adorable and thank God she's only a junior.
Play of the game for Georgetown: Aaliyah Lewis goes up for a jumper. Katie McCormick channels her inner Ewing, Mutombo, and Mourning and smacks the living daylights out of the shot.
Play of the game for St. John's: Tamesha's sweet pass to Aliyyah for the bucket.
"Y U NO?!" moment of the game: Jade Walker is on one of the Georgetown forwards, I think Vitalis. Joe is screaming, "LEFT SHOULDER! LEFT SHOULDER!" at Jade. Jade is not listening. Vitalis goes over the left shoulder. Swish.
Not Top Ten moment: Late in the first half, Aliyyah Handford is at the line. She misses the first free throw and charges after it immediately to try and put it back up. Why is this a Not Top Ten moment? Because Georgetown by this point in the game was up to their 13th foul and St. John's was in the double bonus. It was a dead ball. The really bizarre thing? Somehow, the officials' decision on the matter was to forfeit the second free throw and have St. John's inbound on the baseline under the basket. Of course, then Danaejah committed an offensive foul to turn the ball over, because that's how we roll.
I think the refs were watching Rutgers-Michigan State in the first half and Seton Hall-Villanova in the second half. The foul splits in both halves were obscene. 13-3 Georgetown in the first half, 13-9 St. John's in the second half, with a stretch in the second where it was 5-0, and another 7-3. Inconsistency in officiating is going to get someone hurt one of these days.
Use the window, children in shooting contests!
It was Women in Sports Day, which meant pregame clinics, which meant Kym Hampton and Teresa Weatherspoon sitting in the courtside VIP seats for the first half. I sort of envied Kym's daughter A'riel, because it looked like Spoon was talking basketball with her and coaching her up through the game, and oh my gosh wouldn't that be awesome?
Shoutout to the kid from Queensborough I ran into at the bus stop.
I'm thrilled for Amber (and for poor lonely Selina in her sweatsuit on the bench) that we pulled out the win on Senior Day. It's off to the Northwest Territory (not the Canadian one) for Xavier, Butler, and the Big East's Little Dance. Go St. John's! Make us proud!