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Red Storm thunders back, stuns No. 1 seed; Title game next

DePaul had the upper hand in the game not just because they are the one seed in the Big East Tournament, however also being ranked at #18 in the nation. Even more so, the Blue Demons are the regular season champs. Post season brings a fresh start for many teams which St. John's had that thought process in the back of their heads as they haven't beat DePaul in their last five meetings. Tonight they came in with a sense of urgency to change that.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago, IL -- The lead changed eight times in the first half and was tied seven times.For the Red Storm, they were able to push through the tired feeling.

"We did a great job staying in the game. Having the legs and the energy in the fourth quarter to kind of just take over," St. John's Head Coach, Joe Tartemella's stated on his team's performance.

At the end of the first quarter, St. John's, Aaliyah Lewis stole the ball from Jessica January. No worries as DePaul's Brook Schulte demonstrated DePaul ball with her hustle. She was there to contest the shot and January grabbed the rebound, who found sophomore Ashton Millender ahead for the fast-break who finished it with a left-handed lay-up.

With three minutes left in the second quarter, the Big East Player of the year, Chanise Jenkins, was left alone for too long draining the shot to put DePaul up by two, 28-26. St. John's Imani Littleton answered with a hard-fought drive to the basket with an off the backboard shot. Jenkins wasn't done scoring as she hit her second straight three, bringing the score to 28 apiece.

The Blue Demons forced an enormous turnover with a little less than two minutes left in the second quarter. Millender finished with a three at the top of the key, her eighth point of the night. The Blue Demons went into the locker room with a 34-28 lead.

The Red Storm started making a bigger presence in the second half outscoring the Blue Demons, 47-32.

St. John's Alliyyah Handford had a switch go off, and she snapped statistically. Handford finished the night with five rebounds, four assists, one block, three steals, and 23 points--17 of those points came in the third and forth quarters. The senior guard was all over the floor, as she worked to bring them back against the top-seeded DePaul team.

The first play to get her going was in the beginning of the third quarter. Handford went back door to the rim, leaped up in mid-air for a pass from Aaliyah Lewis, finishing the play to pull the Red Storm within three, 36-33 DePaul.
On the other end, Jenkins drove into the paint to draw defenders.

Brook Schulte slid behind her uses Jenkins as a screen. While it might not have been pretty, Schulte banked in the wide open three. The biggest lead of the night would follow after that basket having the Blue Demons up by 10.

The energy in the room was electric tonight as the arena was split in half: St. John's fans were screaming offense, as DePaul's fans were chanting defense. The Red Storm definitely made the trip worth it for their fans playing on the Blue Demons' home court.

The most exciting part of the game was in the fourth quarter, which was like the climax in a movie when everything changes.

Once again Millender was in the highlights. She was hiding in the corner where she banked a sneaky three. St John's answers with an and-one play at the other end. Then, January who finished the night with seven points, had her third turnover of the evening. Handford capitalized with a wide open three at the top of the key. With the scored tied at 54, Doug Bruno called a much needed timeout to bring together his Blue Demons.

Right out of the timeout, the Red Storm's Danaejah Grant took the ball away from Jenkins and went coast to coast, finishing with an easy lay-up and regaining the lead once again for the visitors.

St. John's wanted to make a statement tonight, and they did just that.

"This is our last year. We fought all year. This is our moment," Handford said in response to what she was thinking as she started pushing ahead for her team.

Handford got her third steal of the night, euro stepped around defenders to find a wide open Grant, who then pushed the lead to six in favor of the Red Storm.

Grant spoke on how herself and Handford gelled together saying, "We compliment each other. When she is on, the defense goes to her which makes me open, and the same when I'm on." Grant ended the night with a double-double,  22 points, 10 rebounds.

As Handford made her 20th point, she flexed over to the crowd not only getting them fired up, but myself as well, which I didn't think was possible.

"When I scored that bucket, I was just more than happy because we kept getting up."

Number one DePaul fell short to the number four-seed St. John's, 75-66. Millender ended the night with 15 points for the Blue Demons, followed by Jenkins with 14 and Megan Podkowa and Jacqui Grant with 13 points apiece.

DePaul's Head Coach, Doug Bruno gave the Red Storm praise. "St. John's is a really good basketball team. It just really shows to me how good our players are, how good our team is, that we beat that team twice this year. That we were able to beat that team, twice this year is just a statement as to how good our team can be when we play really well."

The number four seed, St. John's Redstorm will take on the number seven seed, Creighton Bluejays tomorrow night at the Phillips- McGrath Arena for the Big East Tournament Championship. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.