Monday, March 20, 2017

March 19th, 2017: Harvard at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Clutch free throws and critical stops helped St. John’s hold off Harvard, 62-57. Aaliyah Lewis of St. John’s posted game-highs of 16 points and eight assists, with Maya Singleton adding 13 points and nine rebounds. Katie Benzan led the Crimson with 13 points and seven rebounds; classmate Jeannie Boehm notched 11 points and seven boards before fouling out.

For tortured puns, alumna assistance, promising underclassmen, an unfortunate silence, going for broke in senior year, and teams not wearing colors they’re named after, join your intrepid and mildly confused blogger after the jump.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! We’re coming to you on the usual delay, though hopefully not as protracted a one as last game. It’s the second round of the WNIT, and this time the Red Storm play host to the Crimson of Harvard.

It’s a nice touch that Harvard has their school’s academic motto on the back of their warm-up shirts. Something about the material or the printing is rubbing me the wrong way, though that might just be a Nike thing. Nike’s equipment doesn’t usually match up to Adidas or Under Armour.

Harvard gives off this air of going through the motions, like they don’t want to be in the WNIT but feel honor-bound to represent the Ivy League and their institution.

Hi, Sky! Oooh, that’s a faux pas, you are not supposed to wear team colors if you’re broadcasting the game, and that sleeveless top is perfect Johnny red. Don’t get me wrong, Sky’s making it look good, but I don’t think this is supposed to be a home team broadcast.

So far it appears that Harvard has not brought any spirit groups. Given the propensity for Ivy League bands to gravely offend opponents, I’m not completely sure that this was willingly.

At halftime St. John’s is up 32-26, after Harvard went on a second quarter run. Scoring is fairly balanced on both sides. Lots of people have five points each. Early foul trouble on Maya Singleton and Jade Walker led to a lot of small ball.

I don’t think I like Kendyl Nunn as a first option on offense for four straight possessions. It’s not even like you’re planning for next year doing that. She was channeling Amber Thompson for a while on the inside, though.

Joe. Do not ever wear blue plaid pants again. Burn them or sell them to a vintage store.

Shoutout to Shenneika Smith still helping the squad by trying to sweet-talk the ref into reversing an out-of-bounds call.

I think we’ve got some of Jade’s family behind us. They’ve been on the refs, especially when the First Rule of STJWBB comes into play.

I’m not feeling this remix/cover/mash-up of “It Takes Two”.

That was closer than I felt it needed to be. Every time we made a run, Harvard was ready with a long-range jumper or a good find in the paint. They never gave up. I’d like to appreciate that about them, but I don’t think I like them enough to do that. I think they’ve got a lot of potential for the next couple of years, though; they have some very good freshmen.

Somewhere, there is a joke buried about Taylor Rooks transferring from Stanford to Harvard- wanted to be on the winning side? not challenged enough by the academics?- but I am too tired to find it properly. She gave them some good minutes off the bench. I didn’t even realize Mackenzie Barta played, and now I’m curious if she’s related to the Barta at Gonzaga. Nani Redford was an offensive spark in the first half. I really liked the sophomore guard Sydney Skinner. She might need to trim down a little bit (though she does know how to throw her weight around) but she’s got a really good head for the game, and spent a lot of time being in the right place at the right time. She’s going to be big for them, if this game is anything like her regular play. She put together a nice defensive takeback after Akina Wellere got a rebound, one that led to a trey for the Crimson.

I work in print production, which means I do a lot of work with graphics. Somewhere, there is a convoluted joke involving raster art versus vector art that I could cleverly apply to Madeline Raster. But I can’t quite get there. She set up outside quite a bit. Kirby Porter got on the board early, but she did most of her work in the first quarter. I think she was the player shuffled out to get Skinner and Rooks more minutes, especially in the second half. Katie Benzan is fearless, and tiny. These are not necessarily well combined when a a 5-6 guard attempts to go against post players. She has incredible speed- she was driving our players nuts most of the day. Her release is really fast too, and she showed good range. If this game wasn’t the outlier, she’s going to be something special for them.

Destiny Nunley had a nifty deflection late in the game, and set a good pick to open up Redford for a three. I’m not okay with her taunting after a bad out-of-bounds call went Harvard’s way, though. The petty part of me wants to tell her to pull her shorts down, and the really petty part of me wants to say, “well, she just played her last game, so her shorts don’t matter”, but I recognize that this is exceptionally petty. She’s good, and she was pretty solid for them. Jeannie Boehm has a lot of potential. They posted her up well, and she took advantage of her height. She has better body control than I would expect from a long freshman forward- she contorted her way around the defense multiple times. She was very physical, to the point where our players were getting frustrated at the non-calls.

I’m not sure why Joe has suddenly started trusting Kendyl Nunn in the last few games of the season. Is he making up for lost time or something? I’m happy to see her getting time, I’m just surprised and a little confused. It worked the first two times, and then she started taking jumpers. This did not go well. Jordan Agustus got early runin the first quarter. It was a little awkward, but she looked a lot better going to the basket than she had earlier in the season. She actually passed up a bad shot and fired off a good pass to Aaliyah (who promptly missed the shot). Crystal Simmons brought the defense, and I feel like maybe she’s starting to feel more confident in her offense? That would be cool. I’m worried about Andrayah Adams, though. She looks like she’s taken a step back.

After Jade Walker picked up the second foul in the first quarter, Joe sat her for the rest of the first half. Harvard sent the defense at her and never really let her get comfortable. She had a couple of strong post moves, but this wasn’t her day. It didn’t really need to be, though. Maya Singleton was efficient, though it was painfully clear that she doesn’t have a jump shot. That rather limits her offensive effectiveness if she can’t get at the basket. She makes so many great plays with her strength, though. Do not mess with Miss Maya.

I think I said this on Friday, and I’m going to say it again: Alisha Kebbe’s not going to take your breath away. She’s not going to be the star of the show. But she does everything, and she does it well. I especially love her nose for loose balls. The only thing I really worry about for her is durability- she’s been injured, and she seems to cramp up easily. (Da’Shena Stevens had similar problems, if I recall correctly- maybe now that Day is Coach Stevens, she can provide advice?) Aaliyah Lewis got a little jumper-happy, and I’m not sure how I feel about her becoming a primary offensive option this late in the game. You take what the defense gives you and all that, but I get the sense that she’s trying to go out with a bang. The season is finite; its absolute end is determined, and it can be cut even shorter at a moment’s notice. Akina Wellere has to work on her inside game, and on her handle, but she was great on help defense. That’s good to see out of her; much of her game has been, or at least has seemed to be, focused on the offensive side of the ball. I love when offensive catalysts find that second gear on defense. (See: Crystal Robinson.)

We were just stalwart enough against Harvard. The decision to go small for stretches was interesting. I think it gave Harvard too much momentum at the end of the first half. But Harvard in turn committed a grave error late in the game by having someone with four fouls marking Aaliyah; they lost about twenty seconds because they didn’t dare have Benzan foul and foul out.

Officiating was a pile of hot garbage, though I think Jade’s family might have influenced my perceptions slightly. On the other hand, I’m fairly certain booty-bouncing one’s opponent is supposed to be frowned upon. I was uncomfortable with the type of physicality that was being allowed- trips and elbows are not cool. And I don’t know what Destiny Nunley did that had Aaliyah riled up, but when Aaliyah looks like she’s about to slap the taste out of someone’s mouth, something has gone wrong.

Survive and advance. That’s the name of the game. Survive and advance. On the road we go now, to see familiar faces in unfamiliar places, and thank the sweet hypothetical baby Jesus I don’t have to choose in person between the team I love and the friends I’ve made. (No, I’m not going to Ann Arbor. Not at this point.)

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

March 17th, 2017: Sacred Heart at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma’am: St. John’s erupted for 29 points in the third quarter to take control over Sacred Heart, winning their first-round WNIT game 72-43. Jade Walker and Akina Wellere each had 18 points to lead the Red Storm. Hannah Kimmel had 13 points and 14 rebounds to pace the Pioneers.

For lateness, similar colors, inappropriate drumrolls, and finding another gear, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

Good evening, everyone! So we didn’t make the Big Dance. You blow your chance to win big games, that’s what happens. So we’re in the WNIT, what I like to call the Medium Dance. It’s Sacred Heart tonight; let’s hope the box score doesn’t mix them up with that other SHU like they did last year.

Buses are terrible evil things, so I missed the entire first quarter. All I know is that St. John’s is up 27-25 at the half, and Jade Walker needs help with that recto-cranial inversion again, and I love Maya Singleton so much.

Someone needs to remind the Sacred Heart drummer that you’re not supposed to be active during play. Lay off the drumroll after every basket.

What exactly makes visiting fans look at a section, see the home band, and look across at the home bench, and decide this would be a great place to settle down? Honest question. I see it more and more, and it is super annoying.

I see you behind the bench, Shenneika Smith. Don’t think I don’t remember. I’m not sure who the woman behind her who looks vaguely like Cappie is, but she looks familiar too (though maybe because, y’know, she looks vaguely like Cappie).

These kids in the biddy game are hitting the floor for loose balls harder than half our starters. Someone needs to have a pointed talk with Jade about hustling for boards.

So after halftime, St. John’s decided to start taking the game seriously, and the offense roared to life. Sacred Heart couldn’t contain the shooters, and the defense of St. John’s firmed up.

We saw a lot of the deep Pioneer reserves in the fourth quarter. Madison Cheatham looks like she can be a very interesting player for Sacred Heart if she settles into her body and maybe tones up a bit. She seems awkward, but she’s a freshman post- that’s always a tough combination. Allyson Murphy had a cheering section in front of us, so I couldn’t be mad when she got to the line. Kiana Ye was last off the bench, and unmemorable. Tykera Carter brought speed and on-ball defense- she had a beautiful steal for a fast break lay-up. I guess I shouldn’t feel so bad that she did it to both STJ and LIU. Erin Storck got blocked a lot. She hustled hard after loose balls- there was a save she almost made that turned out to be a turnover that was still really tough.

Hannah Kimmel saved the day for the Pioneers. She was everywhere on the glass, and solid on the inside. She was the star of the show. We threw a few different looks at her (my favorite was when Aaliyah Lewis was on her). I feel like I should remember more about Adaysha Williams- she was out there a lot, and I remember seeing a lot of the back of her jersey, but I don’t remember anything particular she did. Katherine Haines brought good interior offense, at least after I showed up. She got good post position and took advantage of it.

Kelcey Castro wasn’t afraid of contact, and with her build she’s pretty good at taking it. She drove headlong into the St. John’s defense, which did not always work out well for her. Driving directly into Jade Walker is not a good plan. Shelby Hickey was active, but unmemorable. I think I mixed her up with Kimmel a few times.

I have a hard time wrapping my mind around this game, because I missed the first quarter and because it took such a sudden turn in the third quarter. I never really got a grasp on the Pioneers. They relied on their seniors to carry them, and I think they’re going to change their style a good bit with the personnel they have returning next year.

We also saw the deep Red Storm reserves in the fourth quarter. I will miss the sheer joy Kendyl Nunn plays with. Her shot is quick, but not necessarily accurate. Jordan Agustus, still rocking the goggles, pulled down a rebound, almost by accident, and brought the hustle. The starters chilling out on the bench really wanted to see the reserves score, but especially Shamachya Duncan, and they were disappointed when her three fell short. I also still heart Tamesha Alexander, even if she’s over-aggressive on defense in blowout games. The kids aren’t ready for primetime, but I think Machi will be next year.

I do not like the plan of trying to turn Andrayah Adams into a point guard. She’s not a distributor. Her strength is in her scoring. Yes, her shot is inconsistent. She needs to work on that. But the solution is not to take that decision out of her hands. She doesn’t look comfortable as a distributor. Crystal Simmons was a one-woman fast-break destroyer. She blocked shots like no one’s business and was extremely disruptive on defense, even more so than usual.

Jade Walker was really frustrated for much of the first half. She was missing both inside and out, even during the halftime warm-ups. Akina Wellere had to try to take her in hand. Whatever Akina said, it worked. Jade came out much more confident and much more physical in the second half, going hard to the basket and all but abandoning the jumper. (I am okay with her abandoning the jumper until after she establishes her paint game.) Maya Singleton was fierce on the boards. I love her defense, and her rebounding, and her toughness, and her strength. She blocked shots with authority. Akina Wellere found her offense in the third quarter- nothing flashy, but steady and efficient. She’s got to be more careful with the ball, though.

Alisha Kebbe does a little bit of everything, and does it all well. I’m so looking forward to three more years of her. She’s not spectacular. She’s not necessarily going to do anything that’s going to make your eyes pop or make you gasp. She’s just going to do everything. Aaliyah Lewis hit big threes in the third quarter, but for a change she was more the recipient of pretty passes than the provider of them. She ran the offense effectively and kept the speed and pressure up so that Sacred Heart couldn’t keep up. (Also, Aaliyah as a screener is perhaps not the most effective option.)

I love the defense of this team. I love the players who go to the floor for loose balls. I love the leadership some of the young’uns are showing, as they realize they’re not going to have Aaliyah to rely on for that next year.

I had no real issues with the officiating. The Sacred Heart fan behind me did, and there were a couple of times when I thought he might have a point.

I don’t know how I feel about pep band Ricky Martin; on the other hand, “The Cup of Life” is certainly appropriate for a sporting event. I still don’t think I like this bit where other teams are sending their band and cheer to our house. It certainly threw off our cheer squad.

There will be no arriving late for the next game. And maybe the GNoD will actually be on time? Sorry, guys.

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

February 26th, 2017: Seton Hall at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma’am: St. John’s came up with stops late to put away a pesky Seton Hall squad, 77-71. Alisha Kebbe’s 17 points led four Johnnies in double figures. JaQuan Jackson led all scorers with 32 for Seton Hall, with LaTecia Smith adding 13.

For shutdown blocks, fun posters, mild freakouts, seniors, questioning long jumpers, and alumnae, join your intrepid and haunted blogger after the jump.

So here we are. I love the place, but I hate the time. It’s the last guaranteed home game of my scattered season, and it’s Senior Day, and it’s the Awkward Bowl.

And it looks like Sandra Udobi has retired. If she’s not in uniform for a token Senior Day start, then she’s not playing. Awwww, Sandie.

The Liberty are participating in the pregame sports clinic, so the season ticket people are out, with schedules and all the leftover giveaways from last year.

Oh, for heaven’s sake, Aaliyah, put a shirt on.

Jade Walker will definitely have a large cheering section in this one. They were here before the gates opened.

I could be wrong- I often am- but I’m pretty sure Shadeen Samuels is back with Seton Hall. Either that, or Coach Bozzella brought in a walk-on for, like, one game.

Oh, dear. I don’t see Lubirdia Gordon out there for Seton Hall, and what I’m overhearing is not good. She’s been through way too much this year, and if she has to miss her last regular-season game, I am going to have a Talk with Someone Upstairs about when enough is goddamn enough.

The fine art of not looking people in the eye and being able to look away when people are looking at you has been very helpful with Seton Hall warming up right in front of us. There is a reason I call it the Awkward Bowl, and it’s not just because of those times when we dealt with the threat of physical violence.

Seriously, y’all. Never fall in love with two teams from the same conference. It never ends well.

Dear Seton Hall: why have you been hot trash on a platter against every team in the conference but St. John’s? You’re really not helping.

At halftime, it’s 37-36 St. John’s. We’re not switching well on defense, which has led to multiple situations where our de facto center is attempting to guard a tiny point guard with speed and moves. Maya on KK is a bad plan, Joe.

Fortunately, I don’t have to fight with God. Bird Gordon made it back and played.

Because the Awkward Bowl needed to be even more awkward than usual, Kaela Hilaire’s whole fam damily has set up shop in our section. Guys. Unless I have learned different etiquette than everyone else, you sit by your own bench on the road.

Senior Day ceremony was nothing to write home about. Jerseys, flowers, a composite highlight reel. Same as it ever was.

I’m not sure, but I thought I saw Kia Wright in the stands across the way, and Keylantra Langley may be wandering around again.

Oh, come on. This is the second biddy game I’ve seen this year where one of the kids has gotten hurt. And now they’re making the team with the injured player play 4-on-5, this is not fair. At least the kid came back.

That was closer than it had any real right to be, but I’m comforted by the fact that the defense dropped the hammer in the last couple of minutes to seal the deal. That’s the St. John’s team I know and love.

Seton Hall kicked our butts on switches. Too many possessions ended in mismatches (why in any universe would Aaliyah Lewis be guarding Lubirdia Gordon?). Much as Washington did with Kelsey Plum yesterday, the best plan for the Hall was to give the ball to Quanny and get out of the way.

Skyler Snider played very briefly when Coach Bozzella had nowhere else to turn amongst his forwards, for one reason or another. Lubirdia Gordon arrived late, and she was her solid self down low, setting screens and finishing at the rim. She also embraced her role as senior leader and mother hen when she took the T for arguing with the ref. We’ll go back to this later. Shadeen Samuels was back, and moving better than ever. Her offense hasn’t fully arrived, but that will come with time. Her defense and her screens are already there, though. I’m really glad to see her back. She took a lot of hard fouls, and I’m not sure if it’s something she said, if it’s a consequence of her style of play, or just a coincidence.

Jayla. Honey. When Tony told you to use your head, he did not mean that literally. Jayla Jones-Pack was called upon to step up because of fouls and injuries, and she did not answer the bell. Part of it wasn’t her fault; her pass-catching has never been top-notch, and whatever injury to her wrist caused her to need to wrap it can’t be helping. She started out of necessity, and didn’t start the second half. Claire Lundberg somehow managed to lead Seton Hall in rebounding. I still don’t know how. She has the inside size and outside game that Jade Walker has, but that doesn’t mean that she’s the right person to attempt to defend Jade. Offensive skill set =/= defensive skill set.

Today, of all days, we got the good Quanny. Why did we have to get the good Quanny? She was on fire. A lot of it was because her teammates set her up with screens- both Bird and Shadeen had wicked picks to open her up for threes. And once she’s feeling confident in her offense, she’s stronger on defense, more willing to take risks to get steals to convert to fast breaks. What the defense gave Seton Hall were looks for JaQuan Jackson, and SHU took full, full advantage. Kaela Hilaire still has work to do, but she seemed to play more within herself for the first three quarters of this one than she did at the game at Walsh. She stumbled in the fourth, losing control of her dribble under pressure. I do wonder if she felt pressure to perform and show off in front of the family; I don’t think a lot of them make the trip out to Walsh very often. LaTecia Smith was quietly efficient. She was in and out more than usual as Coach Bozzella tried some larger lineups against St. John’s. (I’m amused that our announcer calls her TT, but Seton Hall’s announcer insists on calling her the full LaTecia.)

My Johnnies are going to kill me one of these days, but it will be with love.

Jordan Agustus rocked the protective glasses. She didn’t play much, but she looked stylish doing it. Andrayah Adams brought the sweet jumper, but her defense was not where it needed to be. She didn’t have the hustle, that extra edge that leads to chasing loose balls. Maya Singleton did. She laid out for balls on the ground, and she owned the boards. She made a huge block on a late three attempt by JaQuan. She’s been so huge ever since Imani Littleton injured her knee, and I don’t know where we’d be without her. Crystal Simmons brought the defense, including a couple of big blocks on driving guards late. I’d like to see her be more confident in her shot, but I’ll settle for her amazing defense.

Kendyl Nunn got the ceremonial Senior Day start, which was a relief. (Coach Tartamella has occasionally overlooked this aspect of Senior Day etiquette.) She’s not a Big East-level player, and I don’t think she ever was, but I’m still happy that she got out there to make some hustle plays and get a bucket. Aaliyah Lewis didn’t have as secure a handle as she usually does- she had a couple of fumbles out of bounds. I think playing against two similar players in KK and TT hurt her. She hit the free throws when it counted at the end of the game. Little bitty thing always comes up big when we need her. Alisha Kebbe got hot from outside, and I think it surprised her almost as much as it surprised Seton Hall. She was rock solid today, just when we needed her. I love the way she’s developing- there are so many facets to her game, and every game seems to showcase a different one of them. I’m really excited about her potential.

The tournament version of Akina Wellere seems to be back, for the most part. She’s still got to hold on to the ball better- she and Alisha both had trouble fishing out passes that weren’t perfectly thrown. And Seton Hall did a good job of taking away her angles on the outside so that she couldn’t get off three-pointers. That just forced her to go to the rack, where she converted with efficiency and a bit of élan. Jade Walker had the jumper working today, though her inside game wasn’t as on point as I would have liked. The Seton Hall defense collapsed on her whenever possible.

It’s hard to say this with a straight face, given the shooting percentages in this game, but defense won the day for the Johnnies. We made big plays down the stretch and kept Seton Hall from getting the buckets they needed.

Take that will not make me popular in most parts of Queens: Maya should have been called for the foul against Kaela, and Bird did the right thing by getting in the ref’s face about it. The technical was costly, in its own way, but I think it was more important for Bird to take control of the situation and keep KK from saying anything she might regret later.

The school encouraged alumnae to come on out to the game, and boy did they ever. You don’t realize how much you miss someone sometimes until they’re mentioned, and then I got to missing Greeba Barlow, and Tara Walker, and Monique McLean, and Amber Thompson, and all the others I’ve seen come through St. John’s. Not everyone on the list was in the picture, and not everyone in the picture was on the list, but it was good to see everyone.

Officiating was the usual mélange of inconsistency. They really let the teams play, for the most part. Both coaches registered high on the Adubato Scale at times.

There comes a point in one’s life where everyone looks a little bit like someone, right? I’m not the only person this happens to? So you can imagine the sensation of my heart in my throat when I thought I saw... a certain Seton Hall alumna who prefers I not mention her... hanging out in the arena after the game. But the woman didn’t react, so it had to have been a coincidence, similar features and a similar hairstyle. That would have put quite the damper on the day.

They added an autograph session after this game, so we got to wish the ladies good luck and chat them up about the game. Go forth and be awesome, Johnnies! (You too, Pirates, but, uh, y’all haven’t given me as much reason to expect it this year.)

There’s a sense of finality about this game, but a tenuous one. At Seton Hall’s Senior Day, I knew I would see them again at St. John’s; at LIU’s Senior Day, I knew I would see them at St. Francis. But this is it. This is all that we are guaranteed. The Big Dance is the most distant of dreams. The WNIT is uncertain. All that we know we have is the conference tournament. My teams are now relegated to television, and that’s never a fun feeling.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Senior Tribute 2017

Senior Days hurt. They give us four years of their lives (or fewer, or more, depending on circumstances) and we give them our hearts. And the funny thing is that we keep doing it. It’s insane. It’s illogical. It’s basketball. It’s love.

This year, the Senior Days are not all stacked up against each other like a flurry of punches to the heart. They’re spread out across the coldest, shortest month, pacing out the nostalgia and the bittersweetness- bitter because we’ve reached the end of the journey together, sweet because we’ve watched them grow up and because we know they’re coming out of this with a degree or two.

But I enjoyed writing the senior tributes so much last year, even with the unexpected turn one of them took after Chicago, that I decided that that’s how I’m going to roll with these going forward, instead of inserting them into the game notes. These kids (kids, said the thirty-something about the twenty-somethings) deserve their own place to shine.

 



Michigan is the most distant of my teams, and I don’t think I’ll ever see one of their Senior Days. But I can’t let a senior tribute go by without a nod to the three-point sharpshooter and floor leader Siera Thompson, or to the defensive leader who wormed her way into my heart on first look, Danielle Williams.

Someday the schedules will align and I’ll get to know these Wolverines I claim loyalty to better. I can only appreciate them from afar for now, and wish them all the best as they take on the world: victors valiant, leaders and best.

***


First up this year on the Senior Day schedule is Seton Hall, and for these seniors I’ve chosen to skip a St. John’s game. If y’all have read the ongoing saga of this rivalry and our place in it, you know what that means. But these three have missed so much and sacrificed so much and hurt so much, that a game is worth it. I promised them I’d be there. I’m keeping that promise.


Kathleen Egan’s not on the roster anymore. But Kat’s still a Pirate. ACLs are the worst, and she fought back through them again and again until she had to leave the fight. Sometimes the hardest fight is the one you choose not to keep taking up.

I remember her fondly for her hustle on the floor. Her team needed her to get stronger, so she built herself into a power forward. She scrapped for rebounds with the best of them, and she stood her ground on defense. I think Seton Hall’s still looking for someone to step into those shoes. They’re not as easy to fill as you might think.


Tara Inman is still on the roster, but she no longer plays. ACLs again, repeated and recurring. Those three letters have derailed more seasons and careers than I care to count. We’ll be seeing them again.

Seton Hall has a lot of fun, exciting guards who work their butts off and around whom no basketball is safe. This is not to take anything away from Quanny, or Kaela, or TT, or anyone else. But I miss watching Tara in that low stance on defense, hands out, watching the ball, ready to pounce.

She grew on me. I wasn’t impressed with her in her first couple of years, but like many a young guard before her, she blossomed. She figured out who she was and what her role was, and once she knew she was a ball-hawk and occasional shooter, she flourished.

There’s no doubt in my mind that she, and Kat, deserve Senior Day honors as much as anyone who still suits up on game day.


We see a lot more of Lubirdia Gordon than we do the other two Seton Hall seniors, and that’s not just because Bird’s the only one of that trio still active. Bird brushes with greatness on a regular basis in the summertime, rebounding for none other than Tina Charles on the Garden floor.

Country roads took her down to Morgantown, and country roads brought her back to the Tri-State. But while you can take the kid out of West Virginia, you can’t take the Mountaineer out of the kid. Bird hits hard and plays hard, like most posts who spend time in Mike Carey’s system.

She’s still a Pirate, though. She knows her role. Jump shooters miss shots. It’s inevitable. Someone’s got to be there to put those misses back. Someone’s got to be the person that everyone overlooks in the scouting report. Bird has been rock solid in the middle this year, holding the paint down for the Pirates on both ends of the floor.

It hasn’t been an easy year for her, in more ways than one, but she’s perservered and thrived. You can’t ask for anything better than that. College is supposed to be about growing up and learning to overcome obstacles, right?

These are my senior Pirates, and I love them, for all they are, and all they have been, and all they should have been.

***


Fordham is one of my more recent adoptions. That being said, it’s not so recent that I haven’t seen this class through all four of their years. We have a more distant relationship, your intrepid blogger and these Rams who play at Rose Hill. But when the time is right and the stars align, we go to the wall together against the best the A-10 dares to send to the Bronx.


We got our first look at Danielle Padovano her freshman year when we were keeping an eye on the former Johnnie Mary Nwachukwu, who had taken her graduate year at Fordham. And what we first noticed was that this tall, rebound-happy, freshman was taking the minutes we had expected to go to the tournament-seasoned grad student.

This Danielle is a matchup problem beyond the arc and fierce on the boards. As she’s gotten older, and as the team has changed around her, she’s become more of a situational player, her minutes fluctuating as the opponent’s style dictates. It takes a special kind of personality to adapt to that and to accept your minutes declining to a part-time role.


We got our first look at Danielle Burns her freshman year when we were keeping an eye on the former Johnnie Mary Nwachukwu, who had taken her graduate year at Fordham. And what we first noticed was that she was a shooter and she wasn’t afraid to shoot.

(As a matter of fact, I do tend to refer to Ms. Burns and Ms. Padovano collectively as the Danielles, or as las Danielle.)

Danielle has really grown into a role as a top-notch scorer for the Rams. Her game is well-rounded, and she's stepped up. It's been a pleasure to see her develop, intermittent as my involvement with Fordham has been. I've said it before, and I'll enjoy saying it again and again: part of the joy and the thrill of college basketball is watching the development of young people and seeing who they become.


Hannah Missry comes pre-equipped with a nickname. When she's raining threes upon the enemy, she becomes "Miss Misery" to them.

Sometimes, a player gets really good at a single thing. There are a lot of bad things to be said about crippling overspecialization. I've said a lot of them about Hannah in the past. And there are times when it's abundantly clear that her priority is getting open for three and sinking it. I've called her out about her defense in the past. To her credit, she's made some strides this year towards diversifying her game. But this isn't the place for that.

This is the place for celebrating three-pointers from all over the court, from any distance, at any time. This is the place and time to talk about Hannah Missry as the game changer she can be when that sweet, sweet three is dropping and she brings it back down the court with her swagger. When she lights it up, she electrifies the entire team and fires up Rose Hill.

Bring it on home, Miss Misery.


These are my senior Rams, and I love them for everything they are, and everything they’ve become.

***


We’ve been on-again, off-again with LIU, our love for city teams sometimes conflicting with the simple exigencies of mundane life. With Coach Oliver on board, and one of my favorite Rutgers alumnae beside her on the bench, we’ve taken the Blackbirds to heart. They are not the best of our teams, but they are certainly the feistiest when they set their hearts to it, and this senior class is one of the biggest reasons why.


Dionne Coe’s only been in Brooklyn for this single season, her graduate transfer season. In a way, a player being a graduate transfer says a lot about her. It says that she’s prioritized her academics. It says that she’s taken advantage of her scholarship to get a degree. It says that she wants more than just a bachelor’s, that she sees the opportunity she’s been given and she’s going to take it.

I’ve said a lot of unkind things about Dionne in the GNoD, and I will defend them. But this isn’t the place for them. Welcome home, Dionne. I’m sorry we didn’t get to know you better and see more of you.


I don’t think any player on this LIU squad personifies the grit they can bring on defense and on loose balls than Brianna Farris. She’s hard-nosed and tough, one of the best defenders we have to offer.

I remember the first time I saw her, back when she was a freshman, in LIU’s Thanksgiving tournament. She scared me a little back then, with that stone game face; even her short black hair seemed to bristle with “don’t f- with me”. She’s grown her hair out, so it doesn’t bristle as much, but the game face is still as tough as it ever was.

She was almost the hero against St. Francis this year. She would have deserved it, of that I have no doubt. Her threes from the corner are streaky, but when she’s on, she’s on. And she always brings the tough, physical defense. I don’t think it’s been easy for her to accept playing fewer minutes this year, but she’s done it, and she’s spearheaded comebacks from that position.


Almost to a fault, Shanovia Dove has been the offensive catalyst for the Blackbirds. It hasn’t mattered whether she started or came off the bench- Novi will get her points and she will force you to respect her. Whether it’s from deep or in the lane, she can score and does so often. Part of Senior Day included the milestone ball from her 1000th point.

She’s tough, too, though she’s more of a determinator than someone who will get in your face. But when she starts, she doesn’t stop until she’s finished. If something’s in her way, she’ll get it out of her way. I don’t know where she’s been, or what she’s gone through, but whatever it is, it’s made her very goal-oriented.

As bad as LIU’s been this year- and let’s face it, we’ve been pretty bad- I don’t even want to think about how bad we’d be without Shanovia this season. I wish her all the best, and I know she, and her classmates, will make their way in the world, whether the world likes it or not.


These are my senior Blackbirds, and I love them for everything they are, and everything that they strive to be.

***


Iona was the team we thought we were going to cut out of our ever-expanding circle. We lost all our connections there, after all, and we didn’t exactly get off on the right foot with the current regime. But we stayed for the players we knew, and then we got attached to the new class coming in, and we rebuilt that relationship. I’d say that Iona is now only behind my Big East teams, and I don’t want to find out how I’d feel if Iona ever played Seton Hall or my most distant Michigan. Iona’s seniors took the long road to New Rochelle, through Milwaukee and Madrid, Philadelphia and Lubbock.


It took the better part of three years, but at long last Karynda DuPree has come into her own, and it is glorious.

The first couple of years we saw her at Iona, she was the most frustrating player on the floor. Here was this center with a fantastic low-post build- a 6’4” solid body that probably half of the post players I’ve ever watched would have killed to have- and she was on the outside chucking threes while the guards and Joy Adams did the rebounding. Long-time readers of the GNoD know exactly how I feel about post players taking perimeter shots- you need to be good at it or you need to stop, and you still need to rebound and do work on the inside.

Sometime in the second half of her junior year, the pieces came together. She’s not perfect, but she stopped taking the threes and started taking the ball inside. She discovered her strength as a center both on offense and defense (though I will say she’s always been a shot-blocker, even when she was being a shrinking violet on offense). Now she’s going up with authority. Now she’s tearing down rebounds. She has blossomed, and it is wonderful to watch.

This version of Karynda has been an absolute joy to watch, and I’m sorry that we didn’t get to see more of this side of her sooner. But I’m still thrilled that we got to see this part of her journey.


Of all my seniors, the only one I’ve ever seen before she was one of my players is Marina Lizarazu. She made an impression when she was a Red Raider and Texas Tech came to Brooklyn for a tournament. I didn’t say it was a good impression- she was a risk-taker, in over her head, with questionable judgment. I don’t know how she would have developed if she had stayed at Texas Tech.

I do know who she is now, and in some ways she’s still the same. She takes risks, she makes mistakes. But her command of the floor has improved dramatically. She’s matured into a true point guard, one who commands the offense and owns the court as soon as she steps on it. She’s a slick passer, a capable facilitator, willing and able to take over the offensive load if and when her team needs her. She’s fearless.

That’s the thing that sticks with me most with Marina- she’s fearless. She drives the lane without fear. She takes the big shot without fear. She’s not afraid of the clock. She makes the clock roll over and beg. That’s huge for a point guard.

I think we’ll be hearing more out of Marina in the next few years. Maybe it’ll be in the W. Maybe it’ll be on the international stage. But something tells me we’re going to be hearing her name again after she graduates.


These are my senior Gaels, and I love them for all that they are, and all the places that have made them.

***


Last, but never, ever least: my Johnnies. This is the team that owns my heart, the team that I will go to the wall for, the team that trumps all other teams, the team I have the deepest connection to. This is the Senior Day that always breaks my heart (even though sometimes it’s because they get the shortest shrift from their school).


I’m sorry we haven’t gotten to see more of Kendyl Nunn, both in minutes and in years. I’d heard so much about her shot that I wanted to see it in action in a St. John’s jersey. I know she’s taken the long way around to get here.

Most of all, I’d have liked to see more of the sheer joy she brings to the floor. She always looks happy to be out there and playing. She scraps for loose balls and takes her opportunities when she gets them. You can’t ask for more than that from a deep reserve, especially the positive attitude. I’m going to miss that smile.


There’s a Big East commercial that runs ad infinitum et ad nauseaum during the digital broadcasts, and it talks about how big isn’t just visible on the court. That’s where the conference uses the image of Aaliyah Lewis. But I think that’s the wrong spot. Because it goes on to talk about how big lives in our attitude, and I can think of no player (except perhaps one) who exemplifies the big-city, big-conference, big-game attitude like Aaliyah does.

We used to have a recurring gag that Aaliyah- slightly-built, 5’5” in media guides and high heels Aaliyah- was everyone’s mother’s favorite player because she was so goshdarn cute. I’m not sure if that’s the case anymore, but if it’s not, she’s picked up more than enough fans to make up the difference. Odds are, she’s going to make a no-look pass, or break someone’s ankles with a wicked crossover, or cut through the paint with a burst of speed like a sports car for two and the foul- one way or another, she’s going to be the first favorite player a new fan has.

Aaliyah came into our program with huge shoes to fill. What’s that? You want to be the point guard after Nadirah McKenith, the one Johnnie to make it in the W? Have fun. She took on the challenge, and the role, and answered the call. She adopted the swagger, internalized the city attitude, and took charge.

She’s a little crazy, and a little reckless, but that’s part of why we love her. She’s our point guard.

And despite her size, she’s going to leave some pretty big shoes to fill.


So you know how I said above that maybe one other player might be more appropriate for the “big lives in our attitude” line? That player would, of course, be Jade Walker.

With Jade, big is very visible on the court, and from all over the court. The Red Storm’s intro video talks about her as a match-up nightmare, and they’re not lying. She has a sweet jumper that she’s not afraid to use from the midrange or from beyond the arc. But when she puts her mind to it, her strength inside is even more impressive. She combines power and finesse on the floor, and when she’s on, no one is stopping her.

She’s developed that jumper and lengthened its range while at St. John’s, but in the last year and change, she’s also improved as a defender. It takes a good amount of maturity- or at least an eye on one’s future- for an offensive powerhouse to develop their defense. She’s still got some ways to go in terms of maturity, but I’m pretty sure most 22-year-olds do. I’m pretty sure I did. She plays with emotion and passion, leaves her heart on her sleeve- and sometimes that costs her. She gets into her own head, and with time she’ll learn to get out of it.

But we love her for her unabashed emotion. When Jade emotes, the whole world knows it. There’s never any doubt she’s giving it her all.

Maybe someday I’ll even find out if she let her teammates have a turn with the trophy, or if trophy is still bae to her. :D


I had written the conclusion to this and then realized I forgot Sandie. That is a terrible oversight. I choose to believe that some subconscious part of my mind refuses to admit that Sandra Udobi is a senior and will be leaving us after this season.

Knee injuries robbed Sandie of her mobility and her playing time. When she was on the floor she was a solid defender and a solid teammate, bringing the occasional elbow jumper or strong post move to diversify her game. But torn ACLs are even crueler to posts than they are to guards. She’s seen the writing on the wall.

But of all my seniors, Sandie is the one I will miss most as a human being. She’s brilliant. I truly believe that she’s going to make a big positive change in the world once she graduates with her degrees in hand. Others will have success in basketball, whether it’s on the court or beside it. I think Sandie dreams bigger; if she makes her mark through basketball, it’s because she’s at the grass-roots level, changing the world by affecting culture. She’s on the macro level.

And how often are you blessed to know someone you’re absolutely certain is going to make the world a better place?


These are my senior Johnnies, and I love them for everything that they are, and everything that they choose to be.

***


These are my 2017 seniors- from New Jersey, and New York, and Tennessee, and Florida, and Wisconsin, and Illinois, and Arizona, and California, and Spain, and Nigeria. I love them despite their flaws; I love them because of their flaws. I love them for all that they’ve done, for all that they should have done, for all that they want to do. I love them for everything they are, and everything they have been, and everything that they will be.

Thank you for one, or two, or four, or five, years. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us.

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February 22nd, 2017: St. Peter's at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Marina Lizarazu’s driving lay-up with 3.4 seconds left was the deciding basket in Iona’s 51-50 comeback win over St. Peter’s. Lizarazu finished with 17 points and five assists. The Gaels were led by Alexis Lewis, who had 25 points, 11 in the fourth quarter, to go with 10 rebounds and six steals. St. Peter’s got strong performances from Sajanna Bethea (19 points, nine rebounds) and Zoe Pero (18 points, nine rebounds) in the loss.

For crutches, swag, hashtags, accepting small children, trains (but not planes or automobiles), last-second shots, and just a soupçon of fear, join your intrepid and introspective blogger after the jump.

Today’s not Senior Day for Iona, but it’s still the last home game of the regular season. The day off was already scheduled, so here I am on an uptown 6 train, working my way towards Pelham Bay Park and the 45 bus that will take me to New Rochelle.

Going to games alone is a quieter, but still thrilling experience. There’s not as much pressure to be loud, but at the same time there’s more freedom.

I am not okay with this stop and go on the 6 line. I have a bus to catch, y’all. What is with this holding us for no good reason?

Made the bus. Spent a good part of the afternoon in New Rochelle just chilling and catching Pokemon. The taco grill near Iona is pretty good.

Fun fact: Barnes and Noble gift cards can be used at collegiate bookstores if those bookstores are run through BN College. Fun fact: friends and family who don’t know what to get me get me Barnes and Noble gift cards. Swaaaaaaaaaaaag.

This is not of the good: starting forward Treyanna Clay is on crutches, with her right foot in a boot. Tilasha Okey-Williams is out of the sling she was in last game, but she doesn’t appear to8e active either. St. Peter’s is not good, but one of their star players just happens to be a bruising post, Sajanna Bethea. I’m not real thrilled about this turn of events.

I like Iona’s new warm-up shirts with the #MindOn2 hashtag.

Tilasha, don’t play with your saran wrap.

At halftime, it is 26-23 St. Peter’s, and I am not here for this. There’s a hotshot freshman for St. Peter’s, Zoe Pero, who has 11 for the Peacocks to power them ot this lead. The rebounding has been hot mess for Iona. I am not amused.

I am, however, completely and totally here for Marina Lizarazu hitting game-winning shots. (Yes, she traveled. Yes, she pretty much just pretended she was playing running back. Given how bad these refs were most of the night, I will take it and you will like it.)

Imani Martinez played very briefly near the end of the third quarter, as another big body to throw at Iona. They were not impactful seconds. Samantha Meier brought physicality on the glass. I’m surprised they don’t use her more, but then again, that means fewer minutes for Pero and Bethea, and that might not be good for the Peacocks’ future. Alyssa Velles is very offensive-minded- she’s in the game to chew gum and shoot threes, and I think she just ran out of gum. She tries on defense, but for the most part, she was the offensive side of offense-defense substitutions. Something about the way Janelle Mullen reminds me of a cat- maybe it’s her eyes, maybe it’s the way she holds her hands out. I don’t know. But she’s quick and she sees the angles. If she could finish at the rim, we’d be talking about St. Peter’s breaking their losing streak, and these notes would be much angrier. I’m not sure what year she is, but I know she’s not a senior, so she has time to work on finishing through contact (and without contact- there was no excuse for two of her early misses).

Pat Coyle apparently believes the children are her future, because she started three freshmen, and I don’t know if I’d start Lochner or Tarabocchia over Mullen based on what I saw tonight. Brianna Tarabocchia brings effort on defense, which is a good sign out of a freshman, and she was the one to come out of the scrum with rebounds time and time again. Sammy Lochner was unmemorable. Talah Hughes seemed to caught between positions, unsure whether she should be taking jumpers or going inside. I’ve always thought of her as a forward, but St. Peter’s lists her as a guard. I’m not sure if that’s new, though.

Zoe Pero made one heck of a first impression, scoring inside and out to the free throw line. I don’t know if she’s that good or if she just wasn’t on the scouting report and we left her open. She did a decent enough job of hitting contested shots that I’d like to believe she’s just that good. I mean, this is St. Peter’s, and this is Pat Coyle’s team, which means if she’s good she’s going to get buried on the bench in the very near future. Sajanna Bethea has a nicer midrange jumper than I remembered, and still brings the physicality inside. She can be reckless when she drives- her first two fouls were both offensive, for running over Iona defenders. Getting run over by Sajanna Bethea is probably even less fun than getting run over by your average offensive player.

It’s late in the year to say St. Peter’s is a team in transition, but maybe they’re getting a head start on 2017-18. Pero is promising, and she and Bethea will be a very dangerous frontcourt next year if the Peacocks can get out of their own way. (Which is not guaranteed with a team coached by Pat Coyle. Me? Bitter Liberty fan? Naaaaaawwwwww.)

It’s good to see Philecia Atkins-Gilmore back on the floor, bringing the energy. I admit, she’s even fun to watch on the bench, cheering her teammates on. Phee’s going to be a coach someday, mark my words. Kristin Mahoney was surprisingly solid. I’m wondering if she’s made the quantum leap. She seemed confident running the point when the Gaels were forced to go small. If she’s found her confidence instead of looking like a deer in the headlights, I’m thrilled for her. Tori Lesko brought the hustle, scrapping for loose balls on the floor and disrupting plays. I love her heart, even if I don’t love her pass catching abilities.

Amelia Motz has shoulders that make me need to go to the gym. It’s not that they’re crazy over-built like Loree Moore’s, but the definition is eye-catching. I’d like to see her be more assertive, but that will probably come with time (and perhaps with Lexi not chucking as many shots). Treyanna Clay showed us her heart today- I suspect she had no business playing in this game, and she gave us 33 minutes of defense. She had trouble hanging on to the ball, and she seemed more tentative on offense. All things considered, I don’t care. Get well soon, Trey. Karynda DuPree, for three quarters, regressed back to her sophomoric self. She was missing bunnies and letting them get into her head. She was softer on the glass than she should have been. But in the fourth quarter Karynda was all business. She found her groove on the inside. She rebounded harder. She shut down Janelle Mullen with a tough, tough block late in the game to help seal it.

Alexis Lewis is as capable of shooting us out of a game (like she did in the first half) as she is of shooting us back into it (like she did with three threes in the fourth quarter). What makes the difference for her, and why she’s so critical to have in the game whether she’s hitting or not, is her ferocious rebounding. Lexi doesn’t care whether you have the ball. She’s going to make sure you don’t have it anymore. She taps. She pokes. She deflects. She makes the plays in the air that either she or one of her teammates can finish on the ground. She’s enigmatic sometimes, and frustrating sometimes, and glorious so much of the time. Marina Lizarazu carried the load for most of the game. I think she was frustrated at the contact that wasn’t being called on St. Peter’s. We’re going to miss her when she’s gone, but let’s enjoy her while we have her.

Something that struck me tonight that I don’t think I’ve had the opportunity to see from Iona often- their ballhandling on the ground was phenomenal. There were three sequences- one from Tori, one from Lexi, one from Marina- where the Iona player was on the ground and still maintained her dribble. Given how much fun the officials were having with the definition of travels tonight, that was critical to curtailing the turnovers any further.

I didn’t see how Trey went down. I saw her sort of halfway down and not able to get up. She tried to put weight on her legs- you could see them trembling, though. She was walked off to the locker room with support from some of the bench staff. She came back to the bench for the end of the game, but she had the crutches again. Trey :(

Officials. Oy gevalt. All I ask for is consistency. If you call the light touch on Iona, call it on St. Peter’s. If you’re not going to call St. Peter’s for forcing the infraction, don’t call it on us.

Free throws win ball games! Both teams missed more than their fair share.

The kids behind me were annoying to start out with, but once they got into the game, the extra noise ammo was appreciated. And they played a decent biddy game. (Go into the paint, though.)

I think, though I’m not sure, this is the first time I’ve ever heard a pep band attempt to play “Everybody Dance Now (Gonna Make You Sweat)”. If it was, it was surprisingly awesome, or awesomely surprising, one of those.

So in the end, it turned out to be worth the day off, and the sleep that will be short when I get home, and the staggering array of public transit vehicles I have taken today. (Two buses, three trains going up; one bus and two trains going back.) It was a worthy farewell to the Hynes for the season.

See you in the fall, Gaels. Keep fighting the good fight.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

February 20th, 2017: LIU at St. Francis

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Dionne Coe’s back-to-back three-point trips in the fourth quarter sealed a 62-58 win for LIU Brooklyn at St. Francis College. Coe finished with 12 points, 8 in the second half. LIU was led by Shanovia Dove’s 31 points. St. Francis got 20 points from Olivia Levey and 15 from Rachel Iozzia to fuel their offense.

For physical post play, holding, falling down, serving up crow, clutch free throws, awkwardly trying not to meet people’s eyes, and the Marist alumni reunion, join your intrepid and easily amused blogger after the jump.

A three-day weekend is just an opportunity to squeeze in another game. St. Francis hosts LIU in the return match of the Battle of Brooklyn, and your intrepid blogger is settled on the bleachers and ready to fly solo.

I’m thinking that Stylz Sanders and Aja Boyd might need to show Gabrielle Caponegro that drill they do where Stylz bodies up on Aja going ot the rim

I’m also starting to think that Seneca Richards suffers from a case of RBF. She looks substantially less cranky when she’s animated.

It is too nice a day out. It’s cooler than it was yesterday, but it’s still not mid-February weather and I am still not okay with this.

The seat cushions at the SFC press table reflect the different evolutions of the St. Francis terrier, and I’m not sure if it’s intentional or they just didn’t want to keep replacing the cushions. I think it’s the former, because those cushions would be a custom job, and it’s cheaper to do those in bulk.

Last year, when the game at St. Francis was the trophy game, LIU brought the spirit squad. It’s 20 minutes before tip, but it looks like that’s not happening.

It’s a super-fast remix, but I’m amused that SFC is playing “Bombs Over Baghdad”. I’m not entirely sure they realize that’s got a wee tiny bit of political overtones to it.

That may have been the worst anthem I have ever heard. The singer seemed to think she was the lovechild of Mariah Carey and Adele. She sang like she had just learned the words two days ago, wandering up and down the scale like a drunken bum wailing in the middle of the night. I couldn’t keep a straight face, and I wasn’t the only one.

At halftime, SFC is up 29-23 behind three-point shooting in the first quarter and defense at the right times. Shanovia Dove has 10 points to power the Blackbirds.

This is not good basketball. But this is one of my teams and I will ride with them until I drop (or something forces my hand).

And someone needs to tell me what’s up with De’Angelique Waithe, or I may go a little bit psycho. We could use her against Olivia Levey.

*tries not to be a creepy stalker*

*ends up in line behind half the team at Chipotle*

My life, y’all.

That was one heck of a finish. Coach Oliver said I bring good luck because I was sitting behind the bench when we walked into Brooklyn Heights and walked out with a win last year. Given how the SFC-SFU game went, I’m thinking it might be more being bad luck to SFC, but I’m okay with that.

Kat Phipps still needs to pull her shorts out of her you know what, but I like her grace in the clutch, especially for a sophomore. Tori Wagner seemed genuinely surprised that she was being called for a foul for putting a forearm in Aja Boyd’s throat. You can’t do that, y’know. Lorraine Hickman brought good size off the bench but didn’t seem particularly assertive. Someone’s going to have to be that big body when Olivia Levey graduates in the very near future, and I don’t know if any of these young posts are ready. Dana DiRenzo had a basket that I think was off an offensive rebound, but I’m not sure, only because the wi-fi at this Chipotle isn’t great. It’s actually the wi-fi of the bank next door, but I won’t tell if you won’t tell. Etta Andersen is as unmemorable as the average small ponytailed blonde tends to be.

Look, SFC, if you want me to be able to differentiate your players on a regular basis, either recruit something other than blondes or put names on your jerseys.

I do not like Rachel Iozzia. It’s nothing personal and it’s not based on anything negative she did on the court. That is the “I do not like this person” of respect because they have a distressing tendency to do good things against a team that I am rooting for. In this case, it was hit straight-away threes at a shockingly efficient rate, and convert on and-1s. SFC has outside threats, but someone’s going to need to step up big time when she graduates in that very near future. Maria Palarino was a little bit obnoxious and a lot physical. (I may be prejudiced against her because of the PA announcer, though.)

As usual, Alex Delaney managed to find herself in the middle of tripping plays and foul trouble. I have no idea how that just keeps happening around her. [/sarcasm] I would like to respect her hustle and her ability to rebound, but somehow she always seems to end up doing something that makes me want to pull someone’s hair out. Samantha Keltos was unmemorable, and got switched in and out a lot. Olivia Levey was a match-up problem for us because of her build- she was able to power right through both Aja Boyd and Gabrielle Caponegro, who both had the dubious honor of attempting to guard her at various points in the game. If she could finish more consistently at the rim, she’d be an even bigger threat, but as she is, she’s very hard to check without fouling. She played like she knew it was her last home game.

SFC was able to recognize who the hot hands were- the two seniors- and fed them accordingly. Their defense swarmed, but they had trouble rotating, and in the end that was their downfall. Their passing and receiving weren’t crisp, which led to turnovers.

Someday I think we need to organize a field trip to a Sun game. The husband and I will get together, round up Janee and Philecia and Coach Oliver, and go watch a game that we have no emotional investment in. I get the feeling it would either be an absolute blast or we’d end up banned for life, but it would be worth it either way.

Drew Winter played very briefly in the first half, but I don’t think Coach Oliver was happy with her judgment on the floor vis-à-vis shot attempts versus passing. Unsurprisingly in that case, Drew didn’t play in the second half. I like Autumn Ashe defensively, though Coach seems to prefer her offensively. I’m worried about her communication skills, though. There was a sequence where either she or Seneca Richards clearly didn’t know the play- Autumn set the screen, Seneca almost ran into it, gesticulation occurred. There was another sequence on the bench where it didn’t look like Autumn was listening, either, but now we’re getting into eavesdropping territory. (Though is it really eavesdropping if you say it loud enough for the fourth row to hear?) Victoria Powell seems to be on an upswing, penetrating the paint and showing less fear than she had in previous games. Defensively, though, she wasn’t able to keep up, and that meant fouls. And that meant Coach stomping her heel.

I could have sworn Brianna Farris hit the first shot of the game, but she faked it just that well. She brought the defense early on. It’s fun watching her- she’s so intense. Shanovia Dove was the offensive catalyst, as she usually is- she drove fearlessly, to the point of running headlong into a swarm of white jerseys multiple times. I think this was when Coach let out the “shoot for the points, not the foul!” that made me a little warm and fuzzy inside. (It’s one of my favorite rants, if a rant can be said to be a favorite.) Dionne Coe, for all the smack I’ve talked about her this year, was undoubtedly the hero of the game. She hit the three free throws late, then followed up the Terriers’ answer with a three-point answer of her own. She’s not perfect, and she had a lot of pace and tempo issues in this one. But what a finish!

Aja Boyd did not have an easy time of it in this one; Olivia Levey is a big body underneath, and SFC sent multiple players to help just in case. She needs to go up strong and go up hard. She has a world of potential that I want to see her unlock. Gabrielle Caponegro rebounded well, but she’s still too hesitant with the ball. She needs too much time to think about what she’s going to do, and by the time she’s come to a conclusion, there are two defenders swarming her. Combine that with hands of stone, and you have a recipe for disaster. We’re lucky her fumbles didn’t lead to more turnovers. She’s got to work on that.

I understand a staff’s frustration when the team doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do. But it seems a little either petty or counterproductive to express that frustration even when the thing that wasn’t supposed to happen works out.

Officiating was… not of the good. I don’t think Coach Oliver likes Rachelle Jones very much, and I think the feeling might be mutual. Jones seemed to be blowing the whistle on LIU more than her compatriots, and less on SFC. When Brianna Farris gets knocked down with no call, and then gets called for the foul for the audacity to be knocked over, we’re going to get annoyed. If you make the call, the coach won’t yell at you.

I’m not saying, I’m just saying: most schools I go to, the basketball team is majority-minority and the dance team is all white girls with long straight hair.

I don’t think there were many of us cheering for LIU, but we did our best to get loud.

That was a really fun, really solid win. Something to build on- but then again, half of those points are graduating at the end of the year.

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

February 19th, 2017: Fairfield at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Iona finished strong behind solid performances from their seniors and a sophomore’s star turn, claiming the Senior Day win over Fairfield, 65-55. Alexis Lewis led all scorers with 21 in the win, with Karynda DuPree (20 points, 14 rebounds) and Marina Lizarazu (12 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds) shining on their day. Casey Smith led Fairfield with 18 points in the loss.

For tears, translations, framed jerseys, slick passing, putting the dance back in dance team, wardrobe commentary, and the long way around, join your intrepid and achey blogger after the jump.

These were supposed to be the GNoD for Fordham’s Senior Day against Dayton. But it turns out Iona’s Senior Day celebrations are being done at their next to last home game, because it was easier to get Marina Lizarazu’s family in from Spain for today instead of for Wednesday. And to be frank, I’d rather watch Iona than Fordham. (And to be even more frank, Coach Godsey reached out to us first to let us know.) So we’ll be passing through the Bronx instead of stopping there.

Sure, now that we’re going to our more far-flung outposts, the MTA decides to do work on the J train and throw our travel plans into shambles. Sure. I mean, the J train does need work, and it’s nice to see them finally taking care of the brown lines, but the timing probably could have been better.

Welp. We were running short on time anyway, and the 6 train stopping and starting like a bad webcast has ensured that we’re not going to make the bus to Iona. It’ll be cab time, which I didn’t want to do, but these are the things we do for our teams, and I probably should have left the house earlier anyway. Moral of the story: trains are stupid. I’m amused that we keep ending up with the same cab driver. (Roosevelt is an uncommon enough first name that it sticks in the mind.)

Iona has the pale pink BHA shirts, but the Iona College motto of “Fight The Good Fight” actually works in this context.

This is going to be a double-header with the men, so it’s being taken fairly seriously. The student section has been taped off, and I suspect they’re enforcing ticket locations in the chairback seating.

I don’t recognize any of the people around us. I hope they understand that we’re behind the Iona bench. This seems to be a recurring theme with fans from Connecticut schools- they insist on sitting in the section where their team is warming up, even though people who know the game should know that you warm up at the basket you’re going to use in that half, and that’s almost always the basket in front of the opposing bench.

We have spotted flowers and framed jerseys.

The awkward part of sharing facilities is when you come up the stairs and smack into the middle of a baseball team meeting.

O HAI DERE. Look, I can totally window-shop, okay? And a very cute young man just sat in the row in front of me. There’s a non-zero possibility he’s Marina Lizarazu’s brother, though, and I don’t want to get that involved with my teams.

Heh. Cheerleader dancing just a little bit to the background music. She’s the only one.

Senior Day punched me in the heart with feelings, as one would expect. Iona followed the tradition set by Coach Godsey’s predecessor and presented flowers to the three Fairfield seniors. The two senior players got their NCAA tournament jerseys as their framed jerseys, which I thought was a really nice touch. (The really cute guy is definitely Marina’s brother. Her younger brother. Which means he is entirely too young for me. But he is cute.)

At halftime, it’s 27-24 Iona, behind a 10/10 double-double from Karynda DuPree and 11 points (including three threes) from Alexis Lewis. Fairfield’s offense seems really disorganized- when they get ball movement, they get buckets, but too often they seem to be trying to go one-on-one, which is not smart against Iona’s defense. Our defense as a team isn’t great, but we have good individual defenders, and the upperclassmen know how to provide help at the right times.

There are two guys behind us who seem to be behind the wrong bench. My dude, you are not supposed to cheer for the opposing team behind the home bench. It is rude.

What a finishing kick by the Gaels! I thought Fairfield had us dead to rights after that third-quarter run, but I think the buzzer-beating bucket by Amelia Motz was a momentum swinger and a game changer. The Gaels finished strong and made the right plays at the right time (though is there a wrong time to make the right play?)

(Just to show how tired and fried I am, I almost typed Sacred Heart in the last paragraph, before remembering that, no, that was yesterday’s Senior Day.)

Coach Frager seemed to be experimenting more with his bench in the first half, as if he were trying to see who could contribute and who couldn’t on this given day. So we saw Macey Hollenshead at guard and Nicole Bus at forward very briefly. Neither made a huge impact; the only reason I even noticed Hollenshead was the foul she committed during her second-quarter run.

Sam Kramer had a cheering section in the section across from the visiting bench; they had “GO SAM” placards that they raised whenever she came into the game. Since she was being used as the offensive half of what seemed to be an offense-defense switch with Casey Foley, the placards went up fairly often. She hit a three off a tough screen from Kristine Miller (I thought the screen was borderline- she didn’t move, but her form was all knees and elbows and very loose). Miller either had more trust from her coach, or he didn’t care if she got in foul trouble as much as he did about Kelsey Carey- when Carey picked up two fouls in the first quarter, it was off to the bench with her, but when Miller picked up two first quarter fouls, she stayed in and ended up picking up her third in the second. She’s tough.

Casey Foley was aggressive on defense. Iona telegraphed their passes too much around her, and her quick hands made us pay. Do not pass the ball to players who don’t play for your team. I should really remember more about Kendra Landy, since she played almost the entire game. I think she was another defensively aggressive guard who got all up on Iona’s ill-advised passes.

Casey Smith had herself quite the fourth quarter. She has a really nice array of turnaround moves and hook shots, and if she could hit any of them consistently she would proably be at a higher level than the MAAC. The moves are beautiful, but the execution was inconsistent. I was impressed with her, and the way she imposed her will on the Iona defense. Samantha Cooper cleaned up on the glass and hit from outside. We didn’t match up with her well. The puck luck was not with Kelsey Carey today; she had several shots spin in and out, including some that took strange bounces.

Fairfield came out in the second half much more focused on defense- their hands were more active early in the third quarter. But I don’t think they were able to sustain that energy, and Iona was able to withstand the surge.

Tori Lesko isn’t going to have as much of an impact on the box score as she did on the game. I’m starting to dig that that she’s hard to measure. But she scrapped for loose balls, and she has a passing flair that even our guards can’t match. Tori loves the lookaways and the spin-o-ramas, and there are going to be a lot of days when that makes me want to throw things, and there are going to be a lot of days where that gets the crowd on its feet. Kristin Mahoney was the sub for Marina Lizarazu’s exiting ovation, and she got free throws out of it. Ashley Martin got some brief run in the first half, and almost managed to screw up a fast break, except that she had a teammate back to help.

As Tori’s hit the rookie wall, Amelia Motz has risen. She had two big shots to beat the buzzer, one at the end of the third and one in the fourth at the end of the shot clock. She brought a lot of energy and hustle to the floor. She had a great defensive stand in the first half where she single-handedly turned away a Fairfield 3-on-1 fastbreak. Alexis Lewis brought the fire from outside. Strangely enough, she seems to shoot better from the basket opposite the visiting bench than she does the one in front of the home bench. So she’ll have a great first half but maybe cool down in the second half. She’s just so fun to watch. Everyone should get to see one of her good games. Marina Lizarazu wasn’t hitting early, but she hit big shots late, and she brought the flash with her passing. I think she was tight early because her family was there.

Karynda DuPree owned the boards early on. She got softer on defense as the game wore on- there was a sequence where she backed off on defense and ended up forcing Treyanna Clay into a situation where she had to foul. I’d like to see her finish more consistently, but at this point there’s only so much I can ask for. Karynda’s a senior in her last year of eligibility; there’s only so much more I can ask of her. I can ask for more out of Treyanna, though, since she’s a sophomore and she seems to have regressed from last year. She has to finish at the rim, and someone needs to work with her on defensive positioning. She was frustrating this game, and it’s not the first time I’ve thought that of her this season.

I really love these kids. I think they have the potential to do great things, though maybe not this year, and even when they’re not doing great things they’re a blast to watch.

It was good to hear the band getting into the game. This team deserves that kind of support.

Officiating was nothing to write home about, which I guess is a plus.

Shoutout to one of my favorite DOBOs and the blue dress she was rocking.

I know I’ll see this team again, but that doesn’t make the emotional impact of the day hurt any less. They just matter so much, you know?

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February 18th, 2017: Sacred Heart at LIU

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Sacred Heart used long-range shooting and clutch defense in the fourth quarter to erase a seven-point deficit and come away with a 51-41 win to spoil LIU’s Senior Day. Hannah Kimmel had 15 points to lead three Pioneers in double figures. Shanovia Dove had 18 points in the losing effort for the Blackbirds, with Aja Boyd adding 10 points and 13 rebounds.

For seniors doing all the things, collages, small children, signs, balloons, the efficient use of personnel, and absolutely no sense of urgency, join your intrepid and transiting blogger after the jump.

It's entirely too gorgeous a day for mid-February in New York City. I'll take it, but at the same time I'll worry about it as the harbinger of climate change that it surely is. In either case, it's almost too nice a day to spend inside. But I did say almost, and it's game day, and it's Senior Day in Brooklyn. The Blackbirds of LIU Brooklyn are hosting their last home game of the year, taking on the Pioneers of Sacred Heart.

We didn't realize until this morning that it was a double-header with the men, and frankly, I was not leaving the house for a noon tip for a game I don't really care about. We got in early enough to catch the very exciting end of the men's win over Sacred Heart. I'd be hoping that some of the magic could rub off on the women, but since about 80% of the crowd has left, I'm not taking any bets on that. It looks like it was Senior Day for the men, too, judging from the large framed photo collage of Iverson Fleming that one older couple (presumably Mr. Fleming's parents) carried out with them.

Making your injured players useful: Paris Jones and Mackenzie Freeman were deputized to put into position the silver number balloons for the three seniors.

Looks like Stylz Sanders will be wearing a mask for this game- she's got it tilted up on her forehead, but I would think she'll be wearing it for the game itself.

The victorious dudes have emerged from the locker room. Bring your mojo! We need all the help we can get.

It’s a little confusing, but the clock on the center-hung scoreboard is counting down to about quarter to three. So Senior Day festivities are definitely before the game.

Fans from the state of Connecticut travel fairly well, and the Sacred Heart contingent is no exception. I think we might end up being outnumbered by the time the game tips off, which is not okay.

NEC basketball at its finest: the table for the Senior Day presentations was the table that the summer camp literature was on when we came in.

As befits an acolyte of Tony Bozzella, LIU opens Senior Day ceremonies by acknowledging the opposing seniors, though LIU doesn’t have flowers for the Pioneers. They do, however, get the opportunity to give flowers to the senior members of the dance team before the game.

It’s kind of hard to keep a straight face at the listed accolades of a player who’s only been here for one year.

Okay, cool, the photo collages are the same for the women as they are for the men. I mean, font and everything, not just equivalent. Though now I’m wondering if they’re in stead of framed jerseys...

I kind of feel either bad or confused for Shanovia Dove, who has a cousin with her but not her parents (Dionne Coe and Brianna Farris both have their parents with them). D’awww, Brianna’s dad has one of those “Most people never get the chance to meet their favorite athlete; I raised mine” shirts.

Heh. Someone tried to start a noise war with the LIU band. You can’t win a noise war with the LIU band. The only people who win those are the people who make hearing aids.

At halftime, LIU is up 27-18. Aja Boyd and Shanovia Dove have both been solid for the Blackbirds, and Brianna Farris has brought the energy. For Sacred Heart, their seniors have done all the scoring. They seem rather more reliant on the three than today’s shooting indicates that they should be.

There’s someone sitting in the endcourt nearest the opposing bench who looks an awful lot like one of last year’s seniors, Shanice “so what I sprained my ankle, y’all need me” Vaughn.

The kids sitting near us have been pretty cool, but I’m worried that they’ve moved over to set up camp right next to the Sacred Heart contingent. They’ve brought the noise, and it seems like that might not be a good idea near the opposing fans.

There’s a hook from my college years that seems to be making a comeback as part of a remix, and I am totally okay with this. Sugar, how you get so fly, indeed. I expect this to be a new Cheesy Musical Hook for Sugar Rodgers this summer.

Still getting used to this new computer and this new version of Word. Not sure how I feel yet. I think this computer is slower than Jocelyn, my Envy, but I’m only asking this one to be a mobile typewriter that can access the Internet. (Jocelyn’s casing is falling apart, her hinges are so-so, and if I touch her without properly grounding myself I electrocute her.)

Well, that was a thing that happened, and it’s a thing I very much do not approve of. Saying that LIU fell apart in the fourth quarter might be an exaggeration, but they definitely showed that they’d been to the Herman Edwards school of clock management. There was no sense of urgency late in the game; it’s as if they not only ran out of gas, but ran out of give-a-damn in the last five minutes.

Sacred Heart didn’t go very deep on their bench. Erin Storck didn’t exactly make a great impression when she compounded a missed free throw with a foul on the rebound. She brought decent physicality off the bench from the guard spot. Tykera Carter is very fast, and she is not a good player to make bad passes around. Unfortunately for LIU, they showed a tendency to pass a little further ahead of where the recipient was going to be, and Carter read those passes for fast break opportunities.

Katherine Haines was a big body down low. While she absorbed a lot of fouls, she also made life more and more difficult for Aja Boyd as the game went on, and she was good at setting screens. The fans across from us got very excited when Shelby Hickey scored her one basket, so I guess that’s not a thing that happens very often?

Adaysha Williams didn’t seem afraid to pull the trigger from deep, and did not get the rolls on the rim inside. Some days you’re the windshield, some days you’re the bug. I think the fans across the aisle from us were Kelcey Castro’s family, or at least knew her and/or her family well enough to cheer loud and long for her. She hit a couple of big threes in the fourth quarter to put SHU in front. Hannah Kimmel is dangerous from all over the floor, and she creates an interesting match-up with her size.

Sacred Heart’s zone really did a number on LIU. That, combined with the doubles on Aja Boyd and Shanovia Dove at appropriate times, shut down any semblance of offense that LIU could muster. They forced LIU to think too much and fed into their tendency to slow the game up.

Seneca Richards is not good at defense. She got into foul trouble quickly and seemed very grouchy about the calls. She came in at the end to provide a distance threat, but she didn’t seem to be seeking her shot, nor did her teammates look to get her the ball. That rather defeats the purpose of a three-point specialist, I would think. Autumn Ashe shows promise as a defensive post, but you can't run the exact same plays to her that you would to Aja Boyd for the simple reason that she's not Aja, and she's not as tall as Aja and she doesn't catch passes the same way. Victoria Powell moved the offense slightly faster than Dionne Coe did, but got in her own teammates' way as much as she did her opponents.

Dionne. We need to have a talk about the bit where you launch threes from the general direction of Gravesend. And we need to have a talk about these stretches where you dribble the ball on the perimeter for six or seven seconds at a time, especially when it's a two or three possession game and time is running out. I don't know if she doesn't have passing vision or she has no faith in her teammates, but she holds the ball for way too long and it kills anything that looks like momentum. Shanovia Dove got fired up on offense, but for much of the game, it looked like her teammates weren't even thinking about taking shots for themselves, instead force-feeding her or Aja. Brianna Farris started the game with great energy on both ends of the floor, and I love everything she did in the first quarter, but she wasn't able to sustain that kind of intensity through the whole game.

Aja Boyd showed great moves on the inside, and if/when she can finish consistently at the rim and from the weak side, she'll be an unstoppable powerhouse. As it was, too ofen she got phenomenal position inside and then took a bad shot. Her rebounding was fantastic. I feel like she has the potential to be something truly special for LIU if she can keep developing. Gabrielle Caponegro has talent, and shows it in flashes on the glass, but she's still scared, and she still holds the ball way too long, allowing the defense to bottle her up and promptly freaking out when they accept that invitation. I'm sure a lot of this will come with time, but I'm worried about what happens if it doesn't.

The lack of urgency at the end of the game really killed me. You have to understand that you can't just be passing the ball around the perimeter and take twenty seconds to get into your offense when you're down two or three possessions in the final two minutes. You have to do something different from what you usually do, and LIU kept doing what they always do. That’s not going to work when time is short. Even Coach Oliver seemed to be urging them to speed it up, though without her usual acidic sarcasm. (Which is good. Acidic sarcasm should be saved for the stands and for those moments behind closed doors. You never let outsiders see anything that might be division.)

Officiating was the usual mess of what is this I don’t even. I do think they did a good job managing the game at the end (as compared to the Sacred Heart fans who were baying for a travel while they were up 10 with less than a full possession to go). And calling the technical on Sacred Heart’s coach had the effect of calming both coaches down somewhat.

I somehow suspect LIU won’t be sorry to see the end of this season- but there’s promise for the future, if Coach Oliver can get through to this class and instill confidence in them. Someone’s going to have to show the ability to score with Shanovia graduating. Everyone’s going to have to step their game up.

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

February 12th, 2017: Villanova at Seton Hall

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Villanova led from start to finish in an 87-52 dismantling of Seton Hall. Jordan Dillard spearheaded a strong Wildcat bench with 15 points, one of six Villanova players in double figures. Lubirdia Gordon of Seton Hall led all scorers with 18 points.

For the bad old days, a lack of effort, free food, the ridiculous to the sublime, shame, dismay, embarrassment, and sore knees, join your intrepid and disgusted blogger after the jump.


These are not the Game Notes of Doom you would have been led to expect from the Big East schedule. Someone else will have to chronicle Georgetown’s visit to St. John’s. I promised Seton Hall I’d be at Senior Day, and even after realizing the games conflicted… well, I promised. It’s Senior Day.

The weather is impressively lousy out there, a horrid combination of sleet and freezing rain that’s slippery and gross. Doesn’t seem to have depressed turnout, except for those annoying Nova fans who were at the game on Friday.

Yes, ma’am, I know it’s Senior Day. We have season tickets. You don’t think I know this? Even if I hadn’t known it coming in, the signs on the wall would have been a hint.

Oh, here we go. Here come the feelings. We’re about to get started. As always, they start off with flowers for the visiting seniors, who seem nonplussed by this sort of thing.

How many coaches grab the mic for their senior managers? How cool is that?

Nice touch for Kaity Healy to be the one carrying Kat Egan’s flowers- they were both Iona commits who chose Seton Hall after Tony moved on.

D’awwww. Lubirdia Gordon doesn’t seem to know what to do with herself. Like, she genuinely doesn’t seem to believe she’s as good as her statistics say she is.

Shoutout to band, cheer, and dance, who will get their senior honoring during timeouts. Apparently the Big East has a rule about how long pregame ceremonies can be? That explains why Tony sounded so rushed when he was speaking about his seniors, too. His speeches are usually longer.

There’s somebody behind the scorer’s table who looks a lot like Aleesha Powell. It’d be cool if Leesh decided to get into the game that way.

Wow, that is some suit that guy is wearing. Seton Hall printed all over. Think Don Cherry meets NCAA.

Y’all. Y’all bring a group in less than five minutes before tipoff, you are not thinking terribly far ahead.

Okay, Seton Hall, we need to have a talk. And it needs to be a long talk. Because I did not hike my ass out the door at 10:30, take the J out to the PATH, wait through the train delays, and haul myself on board the 31 bus to watch you puke all over Senior Day. It’s 48-22 Villanova at halftime. The only player on the floor who seems to have come to play is Bird Gordon, who is like, “This is my Senior Day and none of you are bleeping ruining it for me.”

I don’t know what happened with Shadeen Samuels, but she’s behind the bench in a gray hoodie, looming like the Ghost of Christmas Future. Deja Winters has a shoulder problem and is not dressed. (Is very not dressed. She’s wearing a t-shirt so you can see how her shoulder is taped up.) I don’t know why JaQuan Jackson and Kaela Hilaire haven’t played. All I know is that Seton Hall is serving up hot trash on a platter, and I did not make my way through three different transit authorities to accept hot trash on a platter when I could be at St. John’s.

Oooh. That kid in the biddy game just hit a sweet elbow jumper. I think it’s the first one I’ve seen all day.

There’s no defense. There’s barely any offense. No one in the history of the state of New Jersey has been able to drive with as little traffic as Villanova has seen.

You. Little girl in the Villanova shirt. What are you doing behind the SHU bench? Go away and stop it.

I’m dead-red serious, I think we’re one incident away from burning our bridges at Seton Hall. Too much nonsense has been going on here. Shenanigans, even.

Well, that could have been better. I’m sure there’s some way it could have been worse, but other than catastrophic injury and other flukes of nature, I can’t think of anything. I can’t remember the last time I saw a team give up so emphatically and so disastrously as Seton Hall did in this game. I know they’re capable of better. I know they can be better. I have no idea what happened, and I’m kind of terrified at the idea of what it could have been.

If Seton Hall hadn’t given Villanova Senior Day flowers, I would have been a lot angrier that Karlie Crispin was jacking threes when Villanova was up 30 in the waning minutes. But she’s a senior deep on the bench, and as tiny as she is she might even be/have been a walk-on, so I think I can make myself okay with this. Besides, it’s not like we played like a team to be respected. Nicolette Juliano also came in late, and I think she took a shot, but I’m not sure. Bridget Herlihy got extended fourth quarter run and played physical inside- a little too physical at times.

Mary Gedaka showed some nice moves in the paint. I’m a sucker for a girl with a hook shot, what can I say? Eventually she’ll slow down enough to fit Villanova’s system better; right now she still has the youthful freshman energy that keeps her going just a little too fast for Harry’s liking. She had a good deflection to shut down an ill-advised fast break attempt by Claire Lundberg in the fourth quarter. Kelly Jekot has a good stroke. I think I would like her if I were a Nova fan.

Jannah Tucker brought smooth moves and a quick three-point shot off the bench. She uses her length well and gets around quickly on the court. Jordan Dillard is the oddball among Villanova’s three-point shooters, the player who goes for midrange shots and paint plays (though the Wildcats were cutting inside a lot more than usual). She had herself a very good game.

This was Samantha Wilkes’s day to shine. She got off to a hot start, with eight in the first quarter. Seton Hall lost her on defense, and she took advantage. She kept setting those hard screens, too, including one that set up Adrianna Hahn for a trey. (The people around us thought it was a moving screen, but I thought Wilkes didn’t move until Kaity ran into her.) Megan Quinn showed her unexplained outside stroke late in the game, and outside shooting from the big girls was something that the Pirates just couldn’t handle. She laid a most painful block on Kaity Healy early on.

Grace Stant was quiet until near the end of the game, when she got a basket on a fast break. Her teammates were really happy for her. Alex Louin’s shot is very weird-looking; the way she winds it up, I wonder if Harry dragged out old film of Pennefather for her to study. (There’s no polite way to ask, “Are you double-jointed or something?” to a complete stranger.) She’s physical when she wants to be, but I think she likes to shoot more than she likes taking it inside. Adrianna Hahn is really tough. I like what I see out of her (well, you know, except for the part where it happens against my teams). If she were a couple of inches taller, I think she’d be a serious W prospect. Quiet game for her, but she commands the floor even when she’snot scoring.

Villanova is good at taking what the defense gives them. Today they were getting driving lanes, and they took advantage of them. They got a lot of really good looks. Once I get my hands on a box score, I want to see what their shooting percentages were, especially first/second half splits. I think it’ll be very edifying.

Jayla Jones-Pack has an enormous wrap around her left hand and wrist, and it’s really affecting her play. There were sequences where she had the ball, but couldn’t get a good grip on it, and fumbled, or couldn’t put up the shot. She’s hurt, and I think it’s worse than she wants to let on, but her team needs her. Without Shadeen, and with Deja hurt, and with Jordan Molyneaux so hurt she can’t dress, we have no post depth. We had a JaQuan Jackson sighting in the second half, and while she started quick, hitting her first two shots, I think she had too much pent-up energy to expend- she was consistently missing hard off the rim. When her shot started missing, her engagement was gone, and I think that was the death knell for Seton Hall’s chances of mounting a comeback. LaTecia Smith came off the bench in the first half and started the second half, and there seemed to be a little more cohesion when she was in the game. I think she needs to work on her clock awareness, but she’s not the only one.

Yes, Kaity, I’m looking at you. You’re supposed to be the heady floor general, right? You’re the one who was recommended by Haley D’Angelo, Tony’s quintessential faciliator from Iona, right? And you’re the one who doesn’t know time and score? Really? A player shouldn’t be able to play all forty and leave as light an impression as Kaity Healy did in this game. It shouldn’t be physically possible, and yet Kaity did nothing worth writing about. On the other hand, at least she tried to do something, even if it was miss shots or get assists. I’m looking at the box score now, and Martha Kuderer started the game and ended with the ultimate non-impact line- straight zeroes to give her seven billion. Martha’s style dovetails perfectly with Villanova’s- she should have been able to do something out there, but all she did was look scared on the floor and confused off it.

I’d really like for Claire Lundberg to figure out her offense. If she’s going to be a spot-up situational shooter in the mold of Sidney Spencer, fine. Then she needs to do a better job of getting open, and her teammates need to set her some screens. If Tony’s going to play her at the four, then she’s going to have to learn to hit shots on the inside, and she’s going to have to be a lot tougher. Right now, she’s betwixt and between, not even a true tweener. I can like the shots she hits, but they’ve been few and far between, overshadowed by the opportunities she gives away with her hesitancy inside the arc. Skyler Snider isn’t ready for the kind of minutes she got in this game- too many of her shots fell short, and she was noticeably flagging as the game wore on. I like her toughness and her heart, and I think she’ll be a great defender by the end of her college career. But she needs to be seasoned, and she needs to be a little better conditioned. (Next year, I’d love to see her versus Imani Littleton of St. John’s- I think there’s a lot they can learn from each other, intentionally or otherwise.)

The only Pirate who really seemed ready to play, really had her head in the game, really recognized the significance of the day, and left her heart on the floor, was the one senior player on the squad. Lubirdia Gordon had herself a day down low for the Pirates. She rebounded fiercely and defended reasonably well. Her teammates left her out to dry too many times, expecting her to take care of the paint by herself like she was Brittney Griner and Yolanda Griffith rolled into one. She’s a solid defender, but we don’t expect miracles here.

I can’t express enough my disgust and dismay at how little effort everyone, except Bird and to a lesser extent Skyler, showed out there. It’s Senior Day. Doesn’t that mean something to you? Instead, they went out there and laid down and died. Wide open lanes were available that should ne8 r have been available. Villanova got offensive rebound after offensive rebound. Careless, cavalier, indifferent- those are never words I should associate with Seton Hall, and those are never words that should be applied to a team’s effort and intensity on the day when they honor their seniors. It smacks of disrespect and it reeks of shenanigans.

We are currently at the post-game senior banquet, where there are delicious sandwiches and wandering players. At least Bird has a sense of humor about the ballgirl jokes. And Shadeen still seems to be welcome at the team’s table. Tony is a surprisingly good sport about the St. John’s thing.

(Okay, important life lesson learned. Do not attempt to ruffle JaQuan’s hair. Someone just did, and she looked up with quite the WTF expression.)

Tony, dear, it is customary to have the blessing given before you let everyone dig into the food. Can it still be blessed after it’s been eaten? (Also, I feel like Shadeen and I might have accidentally shared a moment of “what is this I don’t even” during the blessing.)

Tony is really, really salty about the Big East rules about pregame ceremonies. Now he’s getting to give the full speeches he had planned, and it sounds much more Tony-esque. Talking about Tara’s toughness, and Kat’s previous commitment to Iona (so, uh, Tony, did you just admit to getting a player to change her commitment to follow you), and Bird’s ability to connect to people. Awww, Deja.

They weren’t kidding about the speaker not being loud. I can barely hear the sound on the video and I’m pretty much right next to it. Background music probably could have been quieter; you can barely hear the people talking about the seniors, which is a shame, because that’s the whole point of the video. Everyone talking about Bird as the mother figure on the team, and it’s kind of adorable and a little bit weird at the same time (and also, given her nickname, replete with strange mental images).

I love how much they’re treating the senior manager the exact same way they’re treating the senior players. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, no one does Senior Day like one of Tony’s teams does. I just wish the effort on the court had been a match for it. These seniors deserved better.

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