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#25 Pirates swept away by Red Storm

Second place in the Big East was up for grabs as St. Johns and Seton Hall met to decide who would taking that standing. Initially it was all St. Johns, but then Tabitha Richardson-Smith happened giving the game an exciting finish.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

St. John’s hosted Seton Hall in Carnesecca Arena this afternoon to determine which of the two rivals would take second place in the Big East Conference. Seton Hall began the game with a foul against Danaejah Grant, and though it went without a call, this immediate clumsiness seemed to jar not only the tip off, but the Pirates’ entire performance out of the gate.

Taking advantage of the Pirates’ sloppy start, St. John’s kept a tenacious tempo to maintain this advantage in the first quarter, storming with a confrontational defense and hoping to force more mistakes. St. John’s Aliyyah Handford was comfortable with the quick pace and managed to steal three possessions in the first quarter. Despite the initial mistakes, Seton Hall rallied to tie the Red Storm, 19-19, by the end of the first.

The dysfunctional ball movement continued in the second quarter; Seton Hall’s time with the ball was mostly marred by a missed attempts and lost possessions. Unconcerned with taking on bigger players, St. John’s Danaejah Grant, seemed able to slip underneath the net at will, muscling her way to the net and creating opportunity either by layups or forcing favorable fouls.

The last possession of the first half summed up the dynamic of this rivalry match-up best. The Pirates found themselves stuck in the paint, once again making attempt after attempt without any conversions.

St. John’s made sure to box in the Pirates, frustrating any chance they had to steady the chaos. It wasn’t until a foul from Handford’s aggressive defense was called, that Seton Hall could take a step back from the cluster and allow Seton Hall's Shakena Richardson, to get the lid off the net and make a field goal to end the first half. With a 21-6 run, the Red Storm maintained their lead and ended the first half, 43-29.

Without St. John’s disruptive defense, Handford wasn't able to get her hands in the mix due to this foul trouble. Seton’s athleticism regained some grace and redeemed some of their deficit quickly.

Returning with renewed fluidity, the Pirates made a 15-2 run of their own to begin the second half, with the help of Lubirdia Gordon and Tabitha Richardson-Smith, leading the Pirates in points that they had not been able to claim in the first half.

In the final quarter, seniors Aliyyah Handford and Danaejah Grant, made a spectacular duo for St. John’s, countering Richardson-Smith scoring and Gordon’s bulky guard at the rim. This Titanic of the Northeast showdown couldn’t last, however, as Gordon and Handford both quickly fouled out with three minutes to go. Not to be deterred, Richardson-Smith took two separate three-pointers, closing the gap to a one-point game both times.

Despite these powerful veteran performances, free throw shooting made the final difference in the last seconds of the game, each team alternating turns at the foul line, hoping to chip away an advantage.

With 34 game points, Tabitha Richardson-Smith overshot her final hail mary three-pointer with three seconds to go. With the relentless leadership of their seniors, Grant and Handford, the Red Storm laid claim to second place in the Big East Conference with a 71-69 win.