Sunday, March 22, 2015

March 22nd, 2015: Fordham at St. John's (WNIT)

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Aliyyah Handford had 23 points and 10 rebounds to power St. John's to a 77-63 win over Fordham in second-round WNIT action. Emily Tapio had 19 points to lead Fordham.

For bittersweet farewells, lost shoes, rhythmic clapping, wardrobe changes, dueling bands, and never winning raffles, join your intrepid and conclusive blogger after the jump.

Off with the blue, on with the red. Can't stay in the Big Dance, time to hit the Medium Dance. Still got some of our Jersey girls playing. Sleep off the heartbreak at Gampel, hit the road with hope for Carnesecca. It's a battle for the heart of the city, as the Fordham Rams come to Queens to play the St. John's Red Storm.

I think the event staff at every staircase is a little excessive today, given that we have approximately 20 people in the stands so far, not including the Fordham band.

The Mighty Sound of the Red Storm is back in action, and ready to rumble.

D'awww, one of the Fordham players is wearing the Senior Day shirt.

In addition to their band, Fordham brought their mascot and cheerleaders. Their cheerleaders have flags, unlike the poor guy from Seton Hall last night.

At halftime, St. John's is up 38-32, in a game that's been a lot faster than I think anyone expected. Fordham likes to slow it down, but they've been content to run with the Red Storm. Aliyyah Handford is back to herself, with 19 points and some athletic rebounds. She's such a joy to watch, honestly.

Fordham has brought a lot of fans along for the ride, and they've been loud. Fortunately, a fair number of Johnnies showed up to counterbalance them. I think some of the guys from the men's team have joined us.

Strong contender for worst feeling in the world: your raffle ticket is one off a winning number. There are a lot of raffles today, though. It's a fan appreciation day. All I want is the UA skyline socks.

Our over-quota dancers have been exiled to the bleachers during the game. At least it helps us get the crowd noise going.

Fordham found their offensive groove in the second half, stylistically, but the game was still moving fast enough that St. John's was able to maintain control, and by the end, we were able to penetrate their defense with relative ease.

Khadijah Gibson came in near the end of the game when it was a lost cause and the seniors were getting their curtain calls. Danielle Padovano got a lot less time than I was expecting and really made no impact. Danielle Burns was first off the bench in both halves, but was so little of a factor that my loyal traveling companion (who knows Fordham better than I do) thought she hadn't played at all. Asnate Fomina brought a little bit of shooting, but nothing on the defensive end. (The box score also shorted her a missed free throw.) Taryn Durant brought a little bit of defense, but not much else.

Tiffany Ruffin played with the speed and passion of a player who knew that this could be her last game, especially in the latter part of the second half. She drove through the lane fearlessly, though not recklessly. I have to admire her toughness on both ends of the floor. G'mrice Davis missed a couple of early shots and got bodied up a little by the defense, and I think that got into her head a little bit, or more than a little bit. She rebounded decently, but she was not fully engaged in the game. Samantha Clark stretched the floor a little, and was certainly tough on the inside (seriously, do not run headlong into this woman, it does not end well for you) but committed stupid turnovers. Hannah Missry put a scare into us early with her stroke, but that was all she could muster for Fordham- even her one 2-point field goal was a long jumper. Once we stayed on her, she was a non-factor. Emily Tapio was great- hitting jumpers and going to the basket, rebounding, setting screens. She threw a couple of really nice head fakes to get good passing lanes or space to move closer to the basket.

I wasn't expecting Fordham to try and run with us, and I don't think they were either. Their offense became more deliberate, albeit not ponderous, in the second half.

Tonoia Wade sighting! I don't know what took Joe so long to find her at the end of the bench, but she came in near the end of the game and made a couple of nifty defensive plays. Tamesha Alexander came in around the same time. Kyra Dunn had some really good rebounds today- there were at least two that she seized with both hands and held on to, which is unusual for her. Imani Littleton played briefly and did nothing of import. Crystal Simmons looked really lost. Except for Kyra, this wasn't exactly a strong game for the Red Storm's bench.

Fortunately, when Aliyyah Handford drops 19 points in the first half, you don't necessarily need bench production. She looked more like herself, even in the second half when Fordham was doubling her. Her energy was back and her smile was back. Danaejah Grant had some issues with the rim, but got more of her shots to fall in the second half. Jade Walker committed dumb fouls and mistakes on defense, but her shot was going in nicely, both at the basket and from the midrange. Amber Thompson hit the boards and cleaned up missed shots. Aaliyah Lewis ran the show smoothly. I think I might have liked to see her take some more shots, but I think things worked out well today.

Not much to complain about with the officiating, other than that time Aliyyah took a forearm to the face from Fomina with no call.

Your funny moment of the game: as the second half was about to get started, Liyyah clapping along with "Thunderstruck".

Your maturity moment of the game: Crystal Simmons, badly out of position on defense, makes a weak swipe that ultimately results in Amber Thompson committing a foul. As soon as that whistle blows, Aaliyah Lewis calls everyone together and rips Crystal a new one for being out of position. I love that kind of leadership from a young player.

Your 'do not taunt happy fun band' moment of the game: Fordham's band played "Seven Nation Army", a major piece in our band's repertoire. As it happens, our band has recently added a bass. So, as the victorious Red Storm ran off the court, the band played not "Mars" (our fight song of sorts, because the Red Planet is appropriate for the Red Storm, and Holst is for the win), but... "Seven Nation Army", and proceeded to kick Fordham's butt in that regard as well. Seriously, do not mess with Kevin.

These will likely be the last Game Notes of Doom you'll see this year. St. John's is off to Villanova for the next round, and while I've done Philadelphia, I can't do it mid-week. So, if this is the end of my chronicles of the regular season, it's a good ending. I hope you've enjoyed my rambling, babbling, and incoherent muttering. And if you haven't, well, you've got a month or so's break before I head to Mohegan Sun for the draft, so you can sigh in relief.

To the teams that I love, thank you. Best of luck to my Johnnies and my Wolverines, still dancing in the WNIT. Best of luck for next year to my Pirates, my Gaels, and yes, my Rams. Thank you for the stars and the shining moments, the milestones and the magic numbers.

Thank you, Amber, Selina, and Kyra. Thank you, Janee, Ka-Deidre, Daisha, and Chizoba. Thank you, Damika. Thank you, Liz, Taryn, Tiffany, and Emily. Thank you, Shannon, Nicole, and Cyesha.

See you in the summer!


Saturday, March 21, 2015

March 21st, 2015: Seton Hall at Rutgers (NCAA tournament)

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Kahleah Copper and Tyler Scaife each had 21 points to power 8th-seeded Rutgers past 9th-seeded Seton Hall. Betnijah Laney added 17 points (including 4-6 3-point shooting) and 12 rebounds to seal the deal. Tabatha Richardson-Smith had 18 to lead Seton Hall, getting 17 points and seven rebounds in support from Tiffany Jones off the bench.

For a sea of blue (but not that sea of blue), road tripping, bad calls, well-aimed kicks, an uncharacteristic lack of poise, and Moooose, join your intrepid and peripatetic blogger after the jump.

Hello, loyal readers! Your intrepid blogger is currently coming to you live and in stereophonic sound from the lobby of Walsh Gymnasium, where the Seton Hall faithful are starting to gather for the bus that will take us to Gampel Pavilion, on a collision course with the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers.

You won't be getting in-game notes from me, as Gampel frowns upon both backpacks and laptops. (Moose, however, are strongly encouraged, so Moooose is in the bag with our Seton Hall gear.) At most, if Gampel has wi-fi, you'll get tweets.

I'm rather enjoying the evisceration of C. Vivian Stringer that our boosters are engaging in. Apparently she tried to bar the SHU band from the WNIT game last year, and the WNIT was all, uh, no, you can't do that.

This was not how the story was supposed to end for Daisha and JJ and Chiz and Didi. This is not how it was supposed to go. This wasn't what was supposed to happen, and all I can bring myself to do at the moment is rail at the heavens, because this is not fair and it's not right, and yes, we partially brought it upon ourselves, but not entirely. And as hard as these seniors have fought to be in this place at this time, to have it taken away not entirely by their own hand is heartbreaking.

Gampel Pavilion's security is ridiculously strict. I brought a totebag to carry my clipboard, Moooose, and a few small things. They told me no. It's maybe 14" x 12" x 4". In front of them, we took everything out of the bag, stowed the small things in our pockets, picked up Moooose and the clipboard, and rolled the bag into a tube the size of a tossed t-shirt. Seriously, guys, you need a hobby.

(Also, I don't want to say that the "no flag" policy was strict, but the SHU cheerleader who normally does the flag run had to use an imaginary flag.)

Kathleen Egan gave a few spot minutes at the 4. Jordan Mosley was the sub for Ka-Deidre Simmons when Didi got in foul trouble, and showed guts going after a Rachel Hollivay shot. (She got her hand on it and it still went in.) Lubirdia Gordon brought size down low, primarily in the first half, but seemed a little tentative. Then again, so were most of the Pirates. Tiffany Jones was one of the few people not afraid to attack the basket. I think early on she thought she was going to be more effective from beyond the arc, but someone knocked sense into her, and she went more towards the basket as the game went on. Tara Inman showed spunk, but not always common sense.

Chizoba Ekedigwe was stiff in the middle, and not in the stalwart kind of way. I think she actually played a minority of the critical minutes. She's normally a defensive stopper, but she just couldn't seem to get moving. Daisha Simmons was solid, though she did a lot of unnecessary passing. Janee Johnson was hot from outside. I think she knew what this game meant and wanted it worse than anyone else in a blue jersey. Tabatha Richardson-Smith was solid offensively and made a couple of great, aggressive defensive plays. I could do without the shots from somewhere in the vicinity of Metuchen, though. I've said before that as goes Ka-Deidre Simmons, so goes Seton Hall. And tonight Didi didn't have it. I don't know what was wrong with her. Maybe we'll never know. Maybe it was simply the doubles and triples Rutgers was constantly throwing at her, grinding her down. But she showed only flashes of the fearlessness that has been her trademark, constantly passing when she had interior looks, throwing up bad shots out of desperation, losing the vision that marked her as a point guard to be feared. This was not the Didi who led us to the top of the table.

Accidental funny but shouldn't be funny but funny anyway: Tab chased a loose ball into the Rutgers bench and landed hard on Coach Stringer, and may have gotten a foot to her gut. Later, she would fall into referee Tiara Cruse with the aid of momentum. I am positive Tab meant no harm, but it was a bit cathartic.

Rachel Hollivay came off the bench, though I think she might have started the second half. The PA guy wasn't really clear on announcing subs. She was strong, but her motion seemed limited. Cynthia Hernandez fired off two quick makes in the first half, and thereafter we were forced to devote somewhat more defensive attention to her. She doesn't look like your prototypical three-point specialist, but she's got a nice shot. Christa Evans played brief minutes when both Butts and Hollivay had picked up quick fouls. Shrita Parker has a lot of speed. I'm not sure how much common sense she has on the floor, but she has speed and she has guts.

Betnijah Laney has clearly heard the aspersions cast on her professional prospects due to her lack of a perimeter game at her size. She'll never be asked to participate in a WNBA three-point contest, but she was stroking them today. I'm not completely certain how many of them were fully behind the line, and she needs to get that extra foot or so in the next couple of years. She cleaned up the boards that extra step away from the basket- not necessarily the ones directly at the rim, but a little ways off. Tyler Scaife brought the pretty, pretty offense in the second half, hitting jumpers and getting looks. I can tell from the box score that Briyona Canty did things, but I don't remember her doing things. Kahleah Copper was a matchup nightmare- she ate our backcourt alive. She was too big for either of the Simmonae to handle and too fast for Tab. She's so athletic. Ariel Butts boxed out well, but didn't really make an impact.

I am not a trained official, but my impression has always been that if a player is touching the ball while her feet are in contact with the floor out of bounds, then she and the ball are out of bounds and it's a turnover. This crew managed to mess that up twice in the first half. Unless there is some new rule I have not been made aware of, and the painted area on the far side of the baseline is now part of the floor, this is a load of hooey. The officiating seemed to deteriorate further in the second half, though honesty compels me to question whether the officiating changed, Seton Hall changed, or my perception changed.

Seton Hall brought about two busloads, more or less. Rutgers may have brought more. There were even a few brave St. Francis fans there to bear witness to the carnage to come. The UConn fans seemed friendly enough.

The ice cream stall was extremely popular. What is wrong with you, Connecticut, there's still snow on the ground!

Damika Martinez of Iona decided, 'you know what, I'm going to the tournament, even if my teammates don't come with me'. We saw her walking the concourse at halftime.

We played our hearts out. It wasn't enough. And I grieve for our seniors, that they had only this night on the big stage. I wanted so much for them. I wanted them to exact satisfaction on Rutgers for last year and for the slights this year, and then who knows? The sky would have been the limit. Why not Seton Hall?

But that's the question for next year now. Why not Seton Hall? Why not Tab and the Pirates?

For this year, though, I'm left saying words I thought I'd never say. Go UConn. Destroy Rutgers. I'm petty, what can I say?


Thursday, March 19, 2015

March 19th, 2015: Army at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: 20 points from Aaliyah Lewis and an 18-point, 13-rebound performance from Danaejah Grant spurred the Red Storm to a first round WNIT victory over Army, 64-56. Kelsey Minato and Olivia Schretzman each had 19 for the Black Knights.

For deferral, splitting up the band, defensive energy, bad body language, ticket gripes, and tedium, join your intrepid and apathetic blogger after the jump.

You thought you were done with me, didn't you? You thought the time of Game Notes had safely passed and you could breathe a sigh of relief, safe from giant blocks of text and irrelevant observations.

You forgot about the WNIT.

Your intrepid blogger is once more ensconced in her familiar perch in section 2 at Carnesecca Arena as the Red Storm host the Black Knights of Army.

Because it's the WNIT, and thus technically sort of neutral, Army brought their band, and they did a rendition of the national anthem that gave me goosebumps. I guess that's to be expected, but still, rock on, West Point Band.

(The Mighty Sound of the Red Storm is not so mighty, since most of it is off to Charlotte for the men's tournament. It's, uh, actually kind of pathetic look I'm sorry guys but you have like eight people today.)

There's nothing quite as disconcerting as seeing an Army officer in dress start yelling his head off at a game.

When St. John's was making their run to end the half, I thought for sure Dave Magarity was about to Reeve his jacket, but the Defcon level was lowered in time to keep the jacket on the chair.

I am not thrilled with the $2 jack-up of ticket prices for this one, especially since for me it's more like a $7 increase, since I normally buy season tickets. I blame the WNIT and its organizers.

The crowd is uninspiring, and heavily in Army's favor. They brought family and officers, and even the SJU ROTC seems to be leaning towards their future employers instead of their present location.

Our dance team has been dislodged from their usual baseline, since that would be where Army's cheer squad would be if they joined us today.

The defensive energy is high for both sides, but St. John's looks like a hot mess on offense.

This was not a fun game to be at. By the end of the second half, I had reached a state of ennui where I genuinely no longer cared whether St. John's advanced or not, and was starting to slide towards, no, lose, end it, I'm tired and I want this to be over. The body language was awful. Maybe they all felt the way I did, but they get hefty scholarships to play basketball- you have to at least pretend to care, or at the very least, your coach has to pretend that he cares whether you care or not.

Fun moment before the game, though. ESPN was red-hatting the tip to extremes, and at one point I may have burst out, "C'mon, ESPN, some of us have to go to work tomorrow!" Or words to that effect. Whereupon Joanne Aldrich turned around with an amused smile and a gaze to the heavens, as if to say, what can you do?

Army brought excellent defense, but was tentative and unfocused on offense. Most of them didn't seem willing to shoot, and insisted on passing to one of the two scoring options.

I loved the defensive intensity of Janae McNeal. She was always on the ball and always moving. She's got great potential, and she's only a freshman. Brigette Ocran was a big body in the backcourt, creating some mismatches with her strength. Dani Failor possesses an unfortunate last name, but solid rebounding ability. Ciara Jackson played briefly in the first half and was so unremarkable that the PA announcer initially announced her as Jordan Elliott. Destinee Morris threw me off because I mistook her for who I presume is her twin sister.

Daizjah Morris left no impression, though, again, that might be because I had trouble keeping her and her sister straight. Aimee Oertner pulled down the boards near the basket. Jean Parker spent a decent amount of time in foul trouble, which opened the door for McNeal to get minutes. Olivia Schretzman got good looks near the basket and in whatever one calls the area between the high post and the low post, and took care of her turf. Kelsey Minato has good speed, and she shoots quickly, but I don't know what to think of her release- it seems a bit crossed up. I think Army also relies on her too heavily- when the game was still close at the end and winnable with swift offense, they passed the ball around too much, looking desperately for their leader to save them.

Imani Littleton saw daylight in the second half, and of course it was after her first positive play- a defensive disruption that ultimately led to an Army turnover- that Joe pulled her. Kyra Dunn played briefly in the first half, but was so ineffective that Joe pulled her in a hurry and started yelling in her general direction, at which point she evinced no indication that she was absorbing his words. Crystal Simmons saw some time and played very stiff.

Jade Walker hit some shots, but did not have what I would call the world's greatest shot selection, and fell into the trap of staring at her shot instead of following it. The only thing I'll say about that is that she seemed to be doing a lot of switching on defense, so she might have been short on energy. Amber Thompson rebounded all the things, hit some nice shots, and even dropped a slick dime to Aaliyah Lewis on a backdoor cut. Aliyyah Handford was hassled by Army double- and triple-teams all night. There were flashes of her unbridled athleticism in the second half when she hit the fast break and when she rebounded. But I'm more worried about her increased penchant for dramatics. Flopping isn't going to succeed as a long-term bodily protection strategy- in the end, you get fewer calls than you would otherwise. (Exhibit A: Coco Hart, who was once knocked briefly unconscious at center court by a West Virginia player without even a stoppage of play.) Danaejah Grant continues to be an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a mini-hawk. She's a brilliant scorer, and without her work at the basket and beyond the arc, Army would be visiting Fordham on Sunday. On the other hand, her body language was that of a woman who cared only for her numbers and had completely lost interest in the game. She consistently gave up on plays, and no one did anything about it. Two examples, both from the second half. First: Nae gets stripped of the ball and doesn't even bother to chase, preferring to marinate in her own pity party in the backcourt. Second, she's the one in an Army 2-on-1, with McNeal and Minato running. She bumps Minato and then immediately starts arguing with the ref that Minato bumped her... meanwhile, McNeal goes for the lay-up. Thank goodness we had Aaliyah Lewis, because Tiny Aaliyah fears nothing. She went to the basket and made plays, and she sealed the deal at the line. She took what she was given, and she took full advantage.

Officiating was loose. I think it was clear that everyone involved just wanted to go home already.

Cheer and dance were also split, with half of each team at the game.

Attendance was sparse, to be generous. Listed at 211, and that might include the West Point Band. I am not looking forward to Sunday.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

March 7th, 2015: Princeton at Columbia

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Princeton Tigers kept rolling towards perfection and clinched the Ivy League title with a 63-44 win at Columbia. Blake Dietrick led Princeton with 17 points, while Annie Tarakchian came up just shy of a double-double with 9 points and 9 rebounds. Tori Oliver led all scorers with 18.

For the end of all things, a look at history, tracking rebounds, too many stairs, badly designed stations, friendly strangers, and big cats, join your intrepid and gimpy blogger after the jump.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and of course all our readers who eschew the gender binary!

We're wrapping up the regular season here in New York with an evening visit to Levien Gymnasium on the grounds of Columbia University, where the Lions hope to spoil the heretofore undefeated season of the Princeton Tigers. As is customary when chronicling the athletic endeavors of the Ancient Eight, your intrepid blogger will attempt to elevate the level of her writing to suit the academic excellence of these two schools.

We're up in row Q at Levien, having been assigned to the Princeton side of the court. It's already bustling half an hour before tip. There are a lot of people in orange and black, and a lot of alumni showing their pride.

I believe several members of Leslie Robinson's family, including her father, have joined us this evening. Since security hasn't been amped up and I haven't been strip-searched, I'm assuming Aunt Michelle will not be coming.

The Columbia band has chosen to wear their most formal gear for this game. I suppose that makes sense. You dress up for Saturday night, right? I don't understand the pink foam whales people are wearing on their heads, though.

Columbia's Senior Day preparations include balloons in the shape of the seniors' numbers. For some reason, the jerseys are also reversed. Perhaps that reflects Columbia's awareness that Princeton fans are likely to outnumber Columbia fans.

I love the faded shadow effect of the inlaid center court logo, though the giant trademark symbol detracts from the effect.

There is a young woman in a Harvard sweatshirt in the Princetonian section. Lost, related, or just trolling?

After a short disappearance, the Columbia band has marched into the gym. Bonus points for the violin.

Very sweet of the announcer to take the time to introduce each member of the color guard.

At halftime, Princeton is up 36-23, but the Tigers have underwhelmed against a Lions team that's in transition from Nixon's seniors to Glance's recruits. Blake Dietrick leads the Tigers with 11, while Tori Oliver leads the Lions with 10.

The Princeton fans have flags, but have mostly been quiet, except for the older gentleman next to us who's enjoying the game quite a bit.

Princeton turned up the defense in the second half, but they did not look like a team that could threaten in the NCAA tournament tonight, nor did they look like a team that's undefeated. Ominous for the road ahead.

The Tigers went deep into their bench in the second half, so we got to see a fair number of their reserves. Leslie Robinson was physical, as well as foul-prone (though in her defense, one of those calls was a very poor one). Vanessa Smith showed some pretty moves on the inside and facilitated the fast break. Taylor Williams played long stretches in the second half and couldn't quite take that next step in the post- lots of foul trouble, especially on the defensive end. Mariah Smith made some nice defensive plays.

I love, love, love the way Michelle Miller reads the ball off the rim on missed jumpers. She tracked long rebounds really well. Amanda Berntsen is super fast- she accelerated and attacked beautifully. Annie Tarakchian came through with threes at the right time and smashed a second half block so fierce that one of the Princetonians behind me was impelled to scream, "NOT IN MY HOUSE!" (I did have to remind him that this was, in fact, not his house.) She's sneaky good on the glass, too. Alex Wheatley had shots on the inside that she should have hit, but she was solid down low overall. Blake Dietrick was very impressive, showing speed and solid game management. I suspect she was in with the deep reserves to keep them from running up the score- Princeton was looking to keep scoring until the last few seconds, though they did run clock. I like her all-around game.

Princeton ran a motion offense that showed flashes of pure beauty, and was sticky on defense, switching between a tight man and a zone.

Jillian Borreson's brief appearance was at the end of the first half- I think Stephanie Glance was using her for a little height. Camille Zimmerman showed speed and mobility for a big player- the guy behind us (who I think was a youth coach) was really impressed with her. I question her ball security, though. Columbia got unremarkable minutes from their bench, for the most part- better than I would have expected from their record, but not statistically relevant.

Campbell Mobley got the start because it was Senior Day, and that's pretty much all we saw of her. Miwa Tachibana also didn't start the second half after starting the game- the tiny guard was hot from the field, but couldn't keep up with Princeton's speed. Sara Mead found ways to get to the line and was solid for the Lions. Amara Mbionwu hit the boards, but I don't know if she was looking to shoot, or if any shots she intended to take were off offensive rebounds that she never grabbed. Tori Olvier showed some fantastic moves and was the bright light for Columbia.

Actually, that's a pretty harsh assessment. The upperclassmen on this team, for the most part, are not up to the par of Princeton or Penn, or even Yale. The underclassmen, on the other hand, show a lot of potential and stood their ground against the Tigers. I'm looking forward to a resurgence in Manhattan.

Lousy, lousy refs. No game-changing calls, but lots of bad procedural calls and no-calls. I expect refs doing Ivy games to be able to count to two.

I think Princeton was looking ahead to Penn and to the tournament. In a year or two, Columbia will make them regret that kind of attitude.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

March 1st, 2015: Davidson at Fordham

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Fordham Rams gave up a 10-point halftime lead, but finished on a 12-2 run to win 54-46 on Senior Day. Emily Tapio led the Rams with 12 points, adding 10 boards, while Samantha Clark had a game-high 12 rebounds. Alexandra Long and Dakota Dukes each had 13 to pace Davidson.

For travel issues, tight hugs, disjointed play, unmarketable skills, free food, FEELINGS, and word of one hot minute, join your intrepid and bedraggled blogger after the jump.

We conclude our session of getting smacked repeatedly in the feels at beautiful, historic Rose Hill Gymnasium, where Fordham honors their four seniors against Davidson.

There appears to be a minion theme to the shirts Fordham is wearing for their seniors. It's weirdly adorable. "One in a minion", apparently. Which I don't know makes sense when you have four seniors, but this isn't my job. THE MINIONS ARE WEARING TINY JERSEYS. <3 <3 <3 Reasons I love New York: six kids and a dragon performing one last New Year's celebration as we pass a corner in Flushing. Reasons I side-eye New York sometimes: pretty sure there is nothing innocent about a guy squeezing lotion on one hand, then covering himself from head to knee with his coat. We were trying so hard not to make alcohol references for Emily Tapio's senior day poster... and then the band plays "Tequila". They're paging the parents. Senior Day is about to get started. Lots of flowers. Someone forgot to bleach the Ram on the tablecloth- it looks like it's being used for PinkZone. Poor Taryn Durant. :( Her family was supposed to be at the Senior Day ceremony, but they no-showed. Her teammates walked her out, but you could tell that she was disappointed. Her face was pretty much :-[ the whole time, and everyone made a point of giving her an extra hug. (And Stephanie Gaitley does not believe in senior=starter on Senior Day- she came off the bench.) (I think it was travel difficulty- folks showed up fairly late in the game, and I think that was her family.) Nice enough Senior Day- flowers, framed photographs, highlight reels and accolades. Nice touch for the senior manager- his framed picture is of him cutting down the net at the A-10 tournament. Fordham is up 31-21 at the half, but it's been disjointed and ugly. Neither team looks like they know what they're doing. The news from Indianapolis will make this second half easier to watch, methinks. So did a vast, vast improvement in play. We've been invited to the post-game reception, so your intrepid blogger is typing some GNoD from Dagger John's, a couple of flights down in the McGinley Center. Smells like cafeteria pizza, to be honest. Davidson is... not a good team. There's really no way to sugarcoat it. They have dubious fundamentals, play undisciplined physical defense, don't pass well, and don't take care of the ball all that well. This game should not have been as close as it was, but Fordham broke down on both ends of the floor. Mellissa Giegerich cleared space on the inside in the first half, and hit a basket almost as soon as she entered the game, so it's a little unclear to me why she didn't play in the second half, unless she did and she was just far less effective. If I'm unfamiliar with a foe, and they don't have names on their jerseys, it's a little harder for me to spot people. Lillian McCabe maintained poise and took outside shots. Kayla Seymour disrupted a lot of passes for both teams and pulled down some boards during the big second half run. Dakota Dukes has a shot I haven't seen in decades. She shoots the one-handed set/push shot like back in the olden days. And weirdly enough she hit a lot of them. I thought Fordham was doomed when Dukes hit a left-handed lay-up, because I figured that if she had learned how to use her other hand, she was going to break through to another level. Alexandra Long came up with offense in the lane and from the midrange. She was their primary scorer and one of the catalysts for their second half run. Saadia Timpton certainly has gumption- one does not challenge a tall, stocky post player like Samantha Clark when one is an eeny little guard without having gumption. But you have to temper that gumption with some common sense, and the foul trouble she got herself into in the second half did not help Davidson's cause. Mackenzie Latt showed flashes of promise on the boards and on defense- she missed shots that she should have hit in the post, and shots that she probably will hit later in her career. Hannah Early got good position on the boards, especially when Fordham got confident in their shots falling. Stephanie Gaitley is currently thanking all the people. It amuses me how little Hannah Missry appears to care- she's steadily working the buffet table like it ain't no thing. (Ahahah. One of Liz Milner's family members was apparently supposed to be on a flight to Arizona… which was canceled... so she decided to come to Liz's Senior Day instead. Emily Tapio: "I have kind of a crew, so bear with me." Taryn Durant: "It hasn't been an easy journey, but I made it to senior year... thank God.") The seniors each got scrapbooks, which was adorable. And there is a minion cake. (Dad, I know you're not reading this. But if you are, no, I'm not stealing it for you.) He's schmoozing, and I'm scribbling. That's how we roll. We did corral Asnate Fomina briefly, since she was standing right there. He's currently tracking down seniors to provide them with the tiny posters we make for all the seniors. As you can imagine, he was very busy in Photoshop with 12 seniors distributed among four teams. (He made one for Kyra, even if she wasn't part of Senior Day at St. John's.) Taryn Durant came up big at the end, pulling down a critical rebound to help secure the win for Fordham. She was tenacious, and seemed to have a little bit of a chip on her shoulder. Asnate Fomina came in for a little bit of shooting, but got few touches and generally seemed to be flailing on defense. Danielle Burns seemed to be taking shots that were outside her comfort zone. Some of them fell, but her role at Fordham might be better suited to something like Taylor Holeman's role at Villanova, the player in the system who doesn't play the system and thus provides a crucial mismatch when the system starts to break down, the driver who forces the defense to sag and creates space for the outside shooters. Danielle Padovano played a couple of stretches, but made no measurable impact. Emily Tapio missed a lot of shots that she should have hit right at the basket, and she knew she should have had them- you could tell by her demeanor. Early on, she was letting a lot of rebounds get by her. But when the chips were down, she woke up, crashing the glass and getting to the line. That's what I like about her. She'll find what her team needs and do it. Hannah Missry was one-dimensional, almost to the point where she seemed about ready to have a panic attack if she had the ball anywhere but beyond the arc in shooting position. Two of her shots were blocked back into her face. Her reaction time was really slow today, but I'm inclined to give her a pass because she's still a bit hurt (she came to the post-game reception with her left foot in a boot). Her shot is a thing of beauty when it's on, but she needs to be a little more than a three-point shooter. Tiffany Ruffin turned up the defense on Long in the second half, and that was a huge reason why Fordham was able to recover from Davidson taking the lead away from them. She ran through the backdoor for a couple of crucial lay-ups, too. G'mrice Davis, whose name I probably won't get right on a consistent basis until sometime in her junior year, was ferocious on the glass early. She's got to hone her shooting a little, as well as her defense, but if she does that, she'll be an absolute beast. (In the complimentary way.) I love her hustle and her rebounding ability. Samantha Clark hit the boards hard too- again, she had trouble finishing, and as the game went on, she had trouble keeping up with the pace. That is not a woman I would want to tangle with in a dark alley. That is a lot of very intense, very tough, woman. Fordham had a lot of communication issues on their passing and positioning- there was one play I remember in the second half where Clark was sort of wandering around the outside as if offering her skills as a freelance screener to anyone who wanted to take them. Davidson was disruptive, this is true, but Fordham let it get to them. They lacked focus. I don't know if their seed was locked, or if they were looking ahead to the A-10 tournament, or what, but they did just enough to survive. It was as if, in the last three minutes, the seniors decided, You know what? No. Everyone else can do what they want, but we're not losing on Senior Day.

Officials let them play early, tightened up later. The biggest issue I had was that I thought two of Tiffany Ruffin's fouls were on other players. Not a gamechanger, but annoying.

It's not a skill that has any application in the real world, but the kid who won one of the timeout contests has a real knack for the hippity-hop.

No. I am not allowed to get attached to another team. No. Fordham has to wait until I'm done with Iona, this is entirely too silly.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 28th, 2015: Niagara at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Damika Martinez poured in 34 points on her Senior Day as Iona handled Niagara 81-53. Joy Adams added 14 points and a game-high 18 rebounds. For Niagara, Meghan McGuinness notched 11 points and seven rebounds.

For so many feelings, balloons, shirts, small adorable children, terrifying mascots, ALL the Martinezes, team-colored flowers, unexpected emergences, and getting smacked right in the feels, join your intrepid and verklempt blogger after the jump.

The era of "right in the feels" continues this weekend. Iona only has one senior, but what a senior she is, and what a career she's had! Damika Martinez is one of the best pure scorers I've ever seen, and when she goes off, she's a joy to watch. This year, she broke pretty much every record that was available to be broken, starting with the Iona scoring record about two minutes into the season, through the MAAC career scoring record, and incidentally passing the Iona men's record just the other night. 2535 and counting, and the fascinating part is that with all the spotlight on her scoring, she's done more than ever to get her teammates involved, passing up bad shots she would have taken not so long ago to get them better shots.

I'll miss watching games with her partisan, passionate family, who make up a cheering section all on their own and can get a crowd going in a heartbeat. They love her, and she loves them, and it's this incredible surge of emotion and connection.

(I think she looked better with braids than this flat-top she's trying to rock, but y'know what, Mika? You're the undisputed MAAC momma, you can do whatever your heart desires.)

So this will be a hard goodbye against Niagara. A good part of why I care for Iona goes with Damika. But we're there for her. I hope and pray they pull it together in the MAAC tournament, because she deserves a chance to dance, and so does Joy Adams.

In honor of Damika, Iona's all rocking "Martinez 14" shirts. (Excellent idea, Cassidee.) Today's poster, of course, features her- all four years of her. I think a significant percentage of Meriden, Connecticut will be joining us for this game. Some have already arrived, in Iona #14 shirts with "Mika Day" on the back. The florist has done a very nice job of matching Iona's gold on the flowers, and the ribbons are the perfect maroon and gold. It's the proper home white jersey, not the pink-and-white St. John's likes to foist off on their seniors. (I am taking particularly close note of Senior Day prep for two reasons: first, to help St. John's get it right for Aliyyah and Danaejah, and second, because a certain reader has a particular interest, and this might get some of the chronicling pressure off my husband.)

Niagara has nice shirts too. Nike did a good job with them.

Iona did Senior Day right. There was a highlight video of some of her more significant and/or tricky shots, there were red roses and a lot of family, there was a listing of her accolades. Niagara got in on the action early- each Niagara senior received a purple rose with a purple ribbon. I think some of them were genuinely surprised.

And if Iona didn't get it right, Damika's family would have made sure that it was done right anyway. They brought posters. They brought giant heads. They brought balloons. They brought what appears to be most of Connecticut.

Iona's up 37-27 at halftime. Damika has 17, Joy Adams has 10 (off the bench, we suspect she's fighting either flu-like symptoms or "flu-like symptoms"). Meghan McGuinness has looked good for the Purple Eagles, with nine points and some tough boards. I have to give a shout-out to Karynda DuPree for starting to use her size in the lane. Get it, Karynda!

Shoutout to the little kid behind me who had the presence of mind to actually yell out "SHOT!" when Niagara put up a shot. I applaud her court awareness.

Damika Martinez needed 34 points, for whatever reason (we thought it was the MAAC scoring title, but she already beat the daylights out of that), and despite taking two hard hits that left her limping, she wasn't coming out of that game without 34 points. I think that was the last milestone she felt herself obligated to complete.

Niagara made it clear fairly early on that they were from hockey country. When you've already seen ten players in the game six minutes into it, you might be seeing a lot of substitutions. They showed flashes of nice ball movement, and a couple of their players showed a good nose for the ball on the glass, but overall I was unimpressed.

Emily Granruth made a splash in her brief second-half appearance, launching a three with such a high arc I was expecting it to bounce off the rafters. I haven't seen an arc like that since K.B. Sharp played for the Liberty. Kelyn Freedman and Jamie Sherburne both came on late in the game, when Kendra Faustin brought in the end of the bench and conceded the loss. Kaylee Stroemple saw big minutes off the bench in the post, and wasn't afraid to get physical (physical, physical) on the boards. Sylvia Maxwell brought a little bit of scoring pop in the lane. Gabby Baldasare came on strong near the end of the game, showing a little bit of aggression down low. I have no strong memories of Sam Lapszynski.

Kelly Van Leeuwen did not make a lot of friends in the city of New Rochelle when she knocked Damika Martinez to the floor and Damika was slow to get up. (She certainly did not make friends with Marina Lizarazu, who committed the deliberate foul to stop play with a fair amount of gusto.) I should remember more about Taylor McKay, but there's nothing ringing a bell with that number. Donisha Watson moved people around on the inside, but racked up fouls doing it. Victoria Rampado was all over the place, but not always effectively- I think a lot of the shots she missed were ones she should have hit. Meghan McGuinness impressed me most for Niagara- she has a good nose for the ball and a pretty stroke. She looked very good out there.

Everyone got to play for Iona! Okay, so with all the redshirts, "everyone" = nine players, but still.

Kristin Mahoney still looks terrified of collegiate basketball players, but I like her hustle. Aurellia Cammock saw time late in both halves and was not terribly assertive. Philecia Gilmore more than made up for it- she fired up shots without remorse and without regret and fired up the team off the bench. If you could bottle her passion on the floor and pass it around, you'd have one intense team. Joy Adams, as mentioned above, came off the bench and played slightly less than her usual minute load. You could tell that she didn't have her legs under her- she missed shots short and low and didn't elevate as much as she normally does. That didn't stop her from rebounding, because she's Joy Adams and she rebounds all the things.

Faithful readers of the Game Notes of Doom have seen several of my rants about Karynda DuPree. And she was not always as assertive as she could be. She still seemed too confident in the ability of shots to go down, and thus lackadaisical following shots. But today was the fiercest I've seen her on the inside and on the boards. She posted up several times, and it was glorious. Get it, girrrrrrrrrrrl! Use that big body of yours! Aaliyah Robinson was quiet, but played the passing lanes well and made a couple of great plays with Damika. I'm probably not allowed to admit this within the New Rochelle city limits, and certainly never in the vicinity of Meriden, but A-Rob is my favorite Gael. Marina Lizarazu brought out some of the fancy passes, and was hot in the early going. Cassidee Ranger fought in the high post and came up with two of her sweet three-point goals. Damika Martinez shook off the pressure, or fed on the emotion, or something, and turned in one of her high-usage, high-volume, high-scoring, shows. She drove the lane for impossible shots, hit threes, hit midrange jumpers, and fought hard on defense.

Interesting officiating dynamic: the female referee (Feck, according to the box score) seemed to be a bit of a control freak, insisting on the last word. I don't think she was the crew chief- the male refs both seemed older, and one of them I know was more experienced. There was the usual array of bad calls and missed calls. Travels were not much called today.

This was what a Senior Day should be. (Except for Damika falling down a lot.) And this will almost certainly be the last time I see Iona this year.

Thank you, Damika. It's been a privilege.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

February 22nd, 2015: Georgetown at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's surged out to a big lead, then held off the dogged Hoyas to win 75-61 in their home finale. Aliyyah Handford led the way with 27 points and seven assists, while Danaejah Grant had 26, 14 in the second half. Dominique Vitalis led Georgetown with 17 points, with Dorothy Adomako adding 16.

For a shot to the feels, a lack of sentiment, guard play, sparkly bows, hustle at all the wrong times, coaching advice, and much love, join your intrepid and verklempt blogger after the jump.

So it's that time of year again. The season starts to wind down, the last this, the last that, until there's only one ticket left. Senior Days always get me right in the gut- or, to borrow internet parlance, right in the feels. I can go to a team's game for the first time all year and get verklempt for their seniors, so you can only imagine how it is with my own team.

For the first time, though, we have a senior that I really don't know well. What can you say about a player you've only had for one year and who's spent a recent chunk of that time injured? I'll miss Kyra Dunn's shot-blocking, and her uncanny ability to find a teammate to tap the ball out to when she can't get hold of the rebound. But I don't have a strong enough sense of who she is in real life to miss the person she is. But with a Cal undergraduate degree in her back pocket, I know she'll succeed wherever she goes and whatever she does. Which may be another year here, since she wasn't part of Senior Day.

Selina Archer made me root for a different team. I think I told this story both when it happened (appropriately enough, against Georgetown) and in the game that resulted, but I'll tell it again. So we're sitting in our usual seats, and we notice a whole bunch of people in St. Francis Red Flash gear sitting in our section, and they're cheering like crazy for Selina. Seems kind of random, since Selina's from Florida and St. Francis is from Pennsylvania. Turns out that Selina's sister Corissa plays for St. Francis. We get to chatting with them, and I sort of end up promising to hit LIU for their game. Fast-forward to LIU, and there I am in a red shirt and my ever-present St. John's scarf, cheering for the Red Flash and saying hi to Selina. At the end of the game, three or four St. Francis players come up to me, thank you for coming, and hug me. And then the coaching staff takes a shine to us. But anyway. Injuries have really messed up Selina's time with us, and I'm sorry I didn't get to see more of her clearing out the lane and causing opponents to suffer. She's a sweetheart, and I wish her all the best.

While you were reading this sentence, Amber Thompson rebounded something. She's always been solid on the boards and on the block, but she's taken it to another level this year. In a draft like this, maybe that'll be enough for her to get a look. I love how expressive she is, whether it's her death glare right before a shot ends up out of bounds, her 8-O face when she gets called for a bad foul, her 'oh God stop' look of despair when her mom's embarrassing her, and her big huge enormous giant smile when she's happy (said big huge enormous giant smile is on the poster across from me, and it lights up her face like you wouldn't believe). I'm going to miss her interactions with her ridiculously proud mom, who loves and adores her even when Amber might really not want her to. (I don't know if it's a complicated play they put on for outsiders, or if Amber is really that uncomfortable with public affection, but they're adorable.) No one holds it down in the paint like Amber does. She's grown and matured as a Johnnie, and I hope to see her again in the summer.

So, Senior Day. The schedule posters, with Amber and Selina and Joe, were out in force, but there were no proper scorecards. The ceremony was very bare-bones and brief, and Amber still started tearing up by the end. There was a brief intro for each player and her family, a white-and-pink jersey, flowers, and photographs. I would have liked a little more time spent on each player's accomplishments- Selina's intro didn't even mention that she had been at another school. It seemed like they were trying to get it out of the way in a hurry.

Georgetown is not a good team. Not yet. They have height, and they have potential, but they are (to borrow a phrase from Clay Kallam) raw as a side of beef. They committed a lot of sloppy turnovers, traveling almost constantly and getting dinged for three seconds plenty of times. Natasha Adair seemed unnaturally calm on the sidelines, almost to the point where I thought she might be on medication. She had her foot in a boot, so maybe that's why she didn't get up very often. They used their length well in the passing lanes.

Yasmine Belk brought a lot of physicality and size off the bench. Katie McCormick hit a three as part of Georgetown's run, but mostly demonstrated that at some point in her life either she played, or she should have played, softball- she executed a perfect take-out slide. Justyce Swango is very tiny, but is very aggressive on defense- there was one possession where she was stuck to Amber Thompson like a burr, to the point where no one on St. John's felt comfortable passing to Amber despite the gross size mismatch. Brittany Horne hit an early three and moved with grace. I didn't even realize Jade Martin played, so I apologize to her.

I'm not sure how DiDi Burton ended up pronouncing her name Dada, but that's how the announcer said it all day, and no one from Georgetown attempted to kill him, so whatever makes you happy. She brought the ball up, but I don't think they really had a defined point guard, someone to take the reins and make the team answer to her. Faith Woodard found her offense in the second half, getting into the paint- but then usually traveling. Logan Battle also found her shot in the second half, but also had a case of happy feet. There were a lot of travels today. Somewhere, Bonita Spence is nodding in approval. Dominique Vitalis sliced us up inside, going in on St. John's defenders all day. She had Kyra Dunn for lunch and even had her way with Amber Thompson. But having Jade Walker come in on the double did the trick. Dorothy Adomako is the real deal. She's a volume shooter, but she's got size and perhaps not all the moves, but more than a freshman's fair share of said moves.

St. John's keeps slowing down the offense, and I don't know why. You have players who play best when they're running. You have a super-fast point guard. Why pound the dribble for 15 seconds? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY GOD WHY?

Imani Littleton sighting! She needs to improve her court awareness, but she did decently enough on the boards. I'd like to see her be more assertive. Tonoia Wade got some time in the second half, but did little with it, but it wasn't a lot of time. Crystal Simmons took a couple of hits and missed some easy opportunities. Kyra Dunn was tentative on defense, but pulled down one wicked rebound. Tamesha Alexander gave Aaliyah Lewis a little break.

(As an aside: three players on St. John's were wearing unusual socks, and none of them were the kid nicknamed Sox for her unusual socks in high school?)

There were a couple of early attempts to force feed Amber Thompson on this her Senior Day, but ultimately, we should have all known her first basket would come on an offensive rebound and putback. She killed it on the boards, because that's who she is and what she does. She was impractical with her elbows- no matter how much a Hoya annoys you, you can't chuck an elbow into her chest after the play, away from the ball, in front of the ref. Jade Walker got her some buckets, and as questionable as her defense might have been in the first half, she came up with big boards and big stops down low late. I love it when a big girl decides she's going to make someone's life miserable down low. Aaliyah Lewis played tight defense and came up with some pretty passes. Danaejah Grant did that thing where she shuts down on defense, as opposed to shutting down her assignment, but she got buckets, especially in the second half. She did work getting to the line and hitting smooth jumpers. Aliyyah Handford did everything, because that's how Liyyah rolls. She hit jumpers. She hit lay-ups. She found her teammates. She got rebounds. She took a ridiculous amount of contact. She caused mild officiating errors. She's awesome and adorable and thank God she's only a junior.

Play of the game for Georgetown: Aaliyah Lewis goes up for a jumper. Katie McCormick channels her inner Ewing, Mutombo, and Mourning and smacks the living daylights out of the shot.

Play of the game for St. John's: Tamesha's sweet pass to Aliyyah for the bucket.

“Y U NO?!” moment of the game: Jade Walker is on one of the Georgetown forwards, I think Vitalis. Joe is screaming, “LEFT SHOULDER! LEFT SHOULDER!” at Jade. Jade is not listening. Vitalis goes over the left shoulder. Swish.

Not Top Ten moment: Late in the first half, Aliyyah Handford is at the line. She misses the first free throw and charges after it immediately to try and put it back up. Why is this a Not Top Ten moment? Because Georgetown by this point in the game was up to their 13th foul and St. John's was in the double bonus. It was a dead ball. The really bizarre thing? Somehow, the officials' decision on the matter was to forfeit the second free throw and have St. John's inbound on the baseline under the basket. Of course, then Danaejah committed an offensive foul to turn the ball over, because that's how we roll.

I think the refs were watching Rutgers-Michigan State in the first half and Seton Hall-Villanova in the second half. The foul splits in both halves were obscene. 13-3 Georgetown in the first half, 13-9 St. John's in the second half, with a stretch in the second where it was 5-0, and another 7-3. Inconsistency in officiating is going to get someone hurt one of these days.

Use the window, children in shooting contests!

It was Women in Sports Day, which meant pregame clinics, which meant Kym Hampton and Teresa Weatherspoon sitting in the courtside VIP seats for the first half. I sort of envied Kym's daughter A'riel, because it looked like Spoon was talking basketball with her and coaching her up through the game, and oh my gosh wouldn't that be awesome?

Shoutout to the kid from Queensborough I ran into at the bus stop.

I'm thrilled for Amber (and for poor lonely Selina in her sweatsuit on the bench) that we pulled out the win on Senior Day. It's off to the Northwest Territory (not the Canadian one) for Xavier, Butler, and the Big East's Little Dance. Go St. John's! Make us proud!


Saturday, February 21, 2015

February 20th, 2015: Villanova at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Red Storm came up with the right boards at the right time to seal a 56-51 win over visiting Villanova. Aliyyah Handford led all scorers with 25 points, adding eight rebounds. Emily Leer led Villanova with 13 points, 11 in the first half.

For pink, bid sniping, more pink, symbolic roses, even more pink, laptop cases, did I mention pink, ill-fitting jerseys, yet more pink and dear God so much pink, join your intrepid and insomniac blogger after the jump.

Good evening, fellow travelers! It's Pink Zone at Carnesecca Arena tonight, and the Red Storm have gone pink to fight breast cancer. Villanova has echoed the theme in their accessories and coaching gear However, the Red Storm's warmup shirts are a shade of pink that clashes horribly with their pink jerseys. Everything is pink. I feel like I've been dyed in Pepto-Bismol and left in a bin of Valentine's Day clearance merchandise.

We just had a little halftime ceremony with survivors standing in the shape of a pink ribbon.

There's also a silent auction going on up front, and ducks being sold to benefit the American Cancer Society. Mallory, Jillian, Bombay, Cathrine, Darkwing, Giggy, Greg, Wildwing, Joey, Jenny, Marcus, and Teemu, among others of their flock, say hello.

Anthem started off strong, but ended up all over the place. Not bad, but not great.

Villanova's up one at the half, 28-27, on the strength of a Holeman bucket with about two seconds left in the half. Emily Leer leads the way early for the Wildcats with 11. Aliyyah Handford is once again too awesome for mortal minds to comprehend, with 12 for the Johnnies.

Kyra Dunn and Crystal Simmons are both rocking pigtails. Crystal pulls it off slightly better than Kyra does, and we have thus dubbed her Sailor Madrid for this game. Kyra can't be Sailor Berkeley, though- that's already Gennifer Brandon.

Random aside: Kyra resembles Raina from “Agents of SHIELD” entirely too much for my liking. (Or, at least Raina as she was before the midseason finale; I understand she's gone spiky since then. Kyra is not spiky.)

Like any proper Villanova game, the pace was slow and painful, and both teams fell into that slow, steady trap. Villanova was obviously more comfortable than we were (well, the “we” in the stands; Joe seems pretty okay with it) but they were missing a lot of easy shots in the second half, shots that they were hitting in the first half.

I actually feel a little bad for Kendall Burton- her only purpose in the game was to commit fouls late in the second half when Nova needed to foul in a hurry to get into the one-and-one. It was clear that was why she was brought in for the first time. Kavunaa Edwards's shot was badly off all night. There's missing jumpers, and then there's missing jumpers ugly. I don't think Jordan Dillard played in the second half, and I don't recall much of anything she did in the first. Alex Louin gave some strong minutes in the second half, both inside and out- she was surprisingly physical for a guard (though this is Villanova, and guards and forwards are fluid there). Taylor Holeman played her usual starter's minutes, and actually started the second half in place of Emily Leer. She worked hard on the boards and gave Villanova a different look inside, but she missed a lot of shots, both close-in ones that she should have made and longer ones that just looked bad.

Emily Leer started the game more or less on fire, exploiting the mismatch on the perimeter- our post players were simply neither prepared nor inclined to guard her out that far. The defense improved in the second half, and she became less of a factor. I get the feeling she might be a player who needs to get off to a good start fast to have a good game- once she cools down, she's cold. Caroline Coyer, whose jersey didn't quite match her teammates', does all the big things on the floor- she had a really nifty defensive play down low in the first half. Katherine Coyer does the little things- she set screens, hustled for loose balls, and made good passes. Interesting sisterly dynamic there, huh? Lauren Burford spaced the floor with threes, as your daily reminder that everyone except maybe Harry shoots threes for the Wildcats. Samantha Wilkes took the opening tip, and she helped clump up the defense in the paint- like most teams that are competently coached, Villanova concentrated on taking away our penetration by collapsing in the lane.

What sealed the game for St. John's was as much bad decision-making and unexpected missed shots by Villanova as it was defensive pressure by St. John's. At 54-50, Caroline Coyer drove the lane for two when Nova would have been far better served for three. Blowing the lay-up was icing on the cake. Harry Perretta pulled her aside for a prolonged teaching moment after that.

Kyra Dunn was our post player off the bench. She seemed even more timid than usual, moving slowly and awkwardly. She did have a nice defensive sequence in the first half where she played with a little fire. Crystal Simmons was our guard off the bench, and she was mostly a non-factor. That's not necessarily a bad thing- if a freshman is coming in and not making mistakes, I'll take that.

Tonoia Wade did not play, but still managed to make a terrible mistake on the court. If you're going to give one of your teammates a comradely smack on the posterior, don't do it hard enough to make her turn around and give you the stink-eye. On the flip side, Selina Archer did not dress, but #54 still scored- she and Sandie Udobi both had pink jerseys made up, though they were both hurt, so those uniforms were used for the dress and dribble contest, and the girl we dubbed mini-Selina won.

Jade Walker is going to make me tear my hair out one of these days. She gets buckets, there's no denying that. And she's good at that. And sometimes she gets on the boards brilliantly. But she's constantly a step slow on defense and she loves to watch her jumper, and those are things that make me incoherently angry. But she seems to be a good kid and she gets buckets, so I can't dislike her. Danaejah Grant's shoulder is probably bothering her more than she'll admit- something looks wrong about her shot, her rebounding isn't as strong (though she pretty much saved the game with her last one), and her defense is lacking. Whatever it is, I hope she has a chance to have it taken care of over the summer. Aaliyah Lewis is so very fast. She wasn't statistically impactful, but I do love her defense and to watch her go. Amber Thompson crashed the boards, including her 1000th rebound, which is a lot of rebounds, but that's because Amber's kind of awesome. Aliyyah Handford took on the scoring responsibility, as usual, and was awesome, as usual. There really are only so many ways I can describe to you the incredible vertical and kick of Aliyyah's jumper, or the way she can slice through a defense like a hot knife through butter. Eventually, you're just going to have to see her for yourself.

Officiating was mostly unremarkable, though Amber's fourth foul was kind of weak. We thought Louin had initiated contact.

Villanova had an obnoxious habit of trying to take inbounds that they had no right to. They did it twice, and also tried to claim a wrong spot.

We needed this one. The NCAA tournament's probably out of reach, but the WNIT's not, and a team can learn a lot from the WNIT.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

February 15th, 2015: Siena at Iona

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Siena started rough, then came back in the second half, but Iona came away with the 57-50 win. Damika Martinez scored 20 to lead the Gaels, with Aaliyah Robinson contributing 115 points and Joy Adams notching 11 rebounds. Meghan Donohue of Siena led all scorers with 21 points, while Margot Hetzke had 16.

For drawn-out agonies, coming so close, frustration, awkward moments, and bone-chilling cold, join your intrepid and technically challenged blogger after the jump, but don't let her near any laptops.

Good afternoon, everyone We're coming to you from the frozen tundra of New Rochelle, hoping to witness history at Iona College. The oft-mentioned-in-these-GNoD Damika Martinez is 23 points away from breaking the MAAC scoring record, and it seems like a pretty good bet she'll do it against Siena.

Today is both Girl Scout Day and Play4Kay day, just in case we didn't have all our WBB-emphasis-on-the-W bases covered. The pink shirts really, really do not go with the green and yellow of Siena.

Good to see Ashley Murray back in something resembling uniform, and Casey Wortley off the crutches.

Siena's Under Armour sneakers might be standard issue, but they're pretty awesome standard issue.

Shoutout to IC tech and the sekrit password. I saw nothing!

That may have been the longest national anthem in American history. It may have been 1824 by the time she was done torturing every line.

At halftime it is 27-16 Iona, and it has been slightly uglier than Medusa staring down a gargoyle. For a very long time it was 10-4. Siena's only dressing seven, which doesn't help. The officiating has been awful, too. Like, really bad.

I'm not sure, but I think the mysteriously disappeared (nah, she just transferred to Pace) Christina Rubin appears to have resurfaced for this game. Everyone wants to see Mika hit that 23. She's at 10 right now, which is a game-high.

I cannot with some of this cluster today, and St. John's is not helping me over in Fox Sports land.

Have you ever wondered what the basketball equivalent of Chinese water torture might be? This game was the perfect example. This was all kinds of ugly. A team with players meant to run should be doing a lot more running against a squad that only has seven players and is essentially only running two plays. I think Damika going for the milestone might have gotten to people's heads a little bit- there were a lot of forced shots and hurried shots, a lot of pressing and mistakes born of haste.

Symone Kelly brought a little bit of scoring punch, which might be why she started the second half over Kollyns Scarbrough. She was one of the few players who could find the bottom of the basket for Siena. Emia Willingham played sparingly in the second half, which is actually pretty spectacular give how short Siena's rotation was out of necessity. Since I don't remember her dong much in the first half, that might be why.

Ida Krogh's shot was all over the place. I think she doesn't know what her role's supposed to be in this offense, whether she's playing point guard or forward, and it's messing with her a little bit. Tehresa Coles impressed me on the defensive end, intercepting passes like a boss and deflecting the ones she couldn't catch. She came up with a couple of nice baskets in the second half, albeit jumpers with an unconventional release. I'm trying to remember Kollyns Scarbrough on the floor, but I'm not coming up with anything, which might be why she got sent to the bench for the second half. Or Kelly's the normal starter but did something stupid. I don't know. Siena's second most successful and common play was “give it to Margot Hetzke in the lane, profit”. She made a living around the basket on the offensive end, going in over and over again, ad nauseaum et ad infinitum. Siena's most successful play was “give the ball to Meghan Donohue in the lane, profit”. She used her height very well against Iona, even though Iona had taller players to throw at her. She got on the boards well, too- even if she wasn't pulling down the board, she was tapping it out.

Siena played very determined defense. They, and everyone else in the universe, knew that the ball was going to Damika frequently and often, and they sent bigger defenders at her, forcing her to pass out because she didn't have enough space to shoot. That had to be exhausting, but they were yeomen (yeowomen?) about it. Gotta give them credit. Tehresa Coles was especially impressive on defense.

Philecia Gilmore brought a little offense in the second half, getting hot in a hurry- almost to a fault. Not that I normally disapprove of bench players going on hot runs, but I think everyone just wanted to get the damn record over with already, and here's Damika feeding the hot hand instead of being the hot hand. Cassidee Ranger came in briefly, hit a three, and rode off into the sunset. That's how she rolls. There's a reason we call her the Lone Ranger, and it's not just because she tends to be left alone in that corner. Aurellia Cammock brought a little bit of rebounding, but really needs to improve her positioning and her grip Getting the ball means diddly-squat if you can't hold on to it.

Karynda DuPree was even more passive than usual. She only jacked one stupid three, but of course, merely stared at it as it went off the rim. She didn't even try to get inside on either end of the floor, except for one block early. Use your height, Karynda! You have a BCS body- Y U NO USE IT?! Marina Lizarazu got some nifty little lay-ups and was throwing behind the back flip passes all day like she thought she was Ticha. She got careless sometimes, but she's still fun to watch when she's passing like that. Joy Adams hit the boards hard, but I'm a little worried about the number of falls she took today. They weren't necessarily hard falls, but if one of my players keeps hitting the floor for no good reason I'm going to worry about her. Check the sneakers or something. I don't know. Damika Martinez looked like she was hurting all day. I imagine that after this one she wanted to lock herself in the trainer's room and have intimate communion with an ice tub. I think the wear of the season's getting to her. She looks frustrated, and not happy, and it makes me sad. That's just the grind of it when you're chasing your own level of the big time, but I think she's lost some of her love for the game. She did her best to keep her teammates involved today, almost to her detriment- all of us in the stands were rooting for her to bring on the scoring onslaught- and she passed the ball. She passed well, and she rebounded well, and I like that for her future prospects somewhere, but at the same time, I come to Iona games mostly to watch her score. Just Here For Damika, as it were. That all being said, while Joy has her athletic freak of nature moments and Damika can score in all the ways, I think my favorite Gael has become Aaliyah Robinson. I love her toughness and tenacity, her willingness to rebound no matter who she's up against, her astonishing vertical, and her threes from the corner. If she were a little bit bigger I think she'd be at a BCS school and you would have heard a lot about her.

If Iona's going to shift to the Villanova-Creighton style of “shoot everything from behind the arc” and the Villanova-Rutgers style of “pound the ball for a while and run off the clock until people's eyes start to bleed”, I'm going to have to reconsider my interest in this team. Stupid threes do not a successful offense make. Much like any superweapon, the three must be deployed at the proper time.

The officials today were a hot mess, and that's all I'm going to say about that, because I'm sure they're perfectly nice people in their ordinary lives.

Today was Girl Scout Day, as mentioned above, so there was an autograph session open to the Scouts in attendance. This is the first autograph session I've seen for Iona in, like, ever, and I was a little irked that it was supposed to be for Scouts only. Now, your intrepid blogger did have one loophole to leap through: you never stop being a Scout, after all, and I spent three years in Troop 4839 selling cookies, camping on weekends, earning merit badges, and learning important life skills such as laundry and putting down racist suburban girls. So we eventually steeled ourselves to join the mobscene on the court, since this was not the most organized session in the world. No tables, no lines, just wandering up to players who wielded Sharpies. The Gaels seemed nice enough, and Marina was tolerant of my conversational Spanish (fortunately, we didn't go much past “hi, how are you, thank you, good luck”, because then I have to think about it). She took charge of organizing her teammates to make sure everyone got everyone. Joy messed with me a little bit. Yes, Joy, you're right, it's for the kids, but I did my time with the green sash. That's where I learned to be prepared, and why my clipboard always contains extras of everything.

Of course, by the end of the night, the poster was already torn, but that's what happens when you use flimsy paper.

That awkward moment when you make a joke about Karynda DuPree being photographed on the poster posting up, and it's the one time in the history of ever, and then someone starts repeating the joke to her teammates. I wanted to sink through the floor omg.

At least they won, but that was all kinds of ugly. No child should have had to witness that game. It's on to the McCann Center, and if Damika can't notch three points there, Iona might have bigger problems to deal with.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

February 8th, 2015: Providence at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Aliyyah Handford notched a double-double with a game-high 26 points and 11 rebounds, as St. John's bounced back to beat Providence 70-49. Danaejah Grant added 18 points off the bench, while Amber Thompson added 10 points and 13 rebounds. Alison Lewis led Providence with 11 points.

For friendly rolls, unfriendly rolls, royalty, shooting contests, overpriced sodas, a difference in pace, relief, and Aliyyah Handford being awesome, join your intrepid and displaced blogger after the jump.

So, on top of everything else that could possibly go wrong after that benighted Creighton game, my beloved Jocelyn got tinfoil stuck in her power jack, and now she won't charge. (Jocelyn is my much abused but loved nevertheless HP laptop.) So I have to borrow my husband's laptop for Game Notes of Doom. Just the cherry on top.

We're playing Providence today, and I hope they're inspired to do better than they did on Friday.

Most of our post depth is still out of uniform. Sandra Udobi and Selina Archer are in sweats, while Kyra Dunn is in street clothes. She looks really nice today. Still not sure I agree with her shoe selections, but today that's a minor quibble instead of a general questioning of sanity.

There are free hats today so we no longer have to fight about who gets to wear the St. John's hat! Suspect there will be plenty of hats to go around. The hat does not fit well on top of another hat.

Overdramatic anthem but that's the way they like 'em at St. John's.

Aliyah Miller, don't hate because Aliyyah Handford is a better A*liy*ah than you are. No reason to hit her in the face.

It's 37-23 St John's at halftime. Aliyyah Handford is best A*liy*ah, with 17 points. Danaejah Grant did not take kindly to her benching, and she has 12, all pretty much rapid-fire. We keep throwing the ball to Providence, which is a bit annoying

I think Kia Wright might be a couple of rows down from me, but I'm not sure, and she's shown no signs of recognition, so it might just be someone who looks like her around the eyes Then again, they're doing that St. John's HOF thing with her, so might be her, though she probably wouldn't be wearing denim if that were the case. And it was Kia! Hi, Kia! (Now I definitely have to check out an Adelphi game.)

Kym Hampton was also at the game, but in the capacity of A'riel's mom, not in the capacity of an employee of the New York Liberty. Still, maybe she was able to recommend Amber Thompson as a third-round draft pick. Hope springs eternal, what can I say?

That was satisfying, and exactly what we needed. Everyone played, everyone did something good. That clears the palate after that debacle on Friday.

Providence seems to have a curious taste for long, lanky forwards and stocky guards. It's an unusual mix.

Miranda Simpson played the passing lanes like a corner, picking off lazy passes, and there were a lot of bad passes for her to pick off. Brianna Frias intrigued me, making defensive plays with her height on the inside. Aliyah Miller brought some physicality, occasionally too much. She had a strong stretch in the late first half where she looked like an A*liy*ah, but that was her best stretch. Alison Lewis was quietly efficient, never really noticeable, and occasionally mistaken for Simpson (very similar hairstyles), but she found the points for Providence. Looking at the minute counts and guessing the usage, I wonder if she's usually a starter.

Allegra Botteghi has a stocky build, and may need to hit the weight room to get into condition with it. She seemed a little tentative, though she got her feet under her a little more in the second half. Chanise Baldwin positioned herself well on the glass, boxing out Amber Thompson pretty well (some days you can't stop Amber on the boards, you can only contain her, and Baldwin contained her at times). Karin Robinson drove the lane without fear. Her shot selection left something to be desired, but I admire her nerve. Alexis Harris barely played- I recall an impression of height and shot-missing, but there was a lot of that from the Providence forwards in general, so that might not have been her I got the impression from. Evi Iiskola had a nice defensive play in the first half, but that's about all I remember from her.

Providence is not a good team. Not yet. But I love the defensive instincts on Simpson, and she's only a sophomore. I also really like the potential for Frias, and she's only a freshman. That's one of the things I love about the Big East this year- there's room for teams to grow and stretch, and I've seen a lot of great, great freshmen making plays.

Kimberly Spruill got to play, yay! You should have heard the roar when our walk-on came into the game, and the “awwwwww” when she missed a three-point shot. Everyone wanted her to hit it except for the people who were rooting for the Friars. Imani Littleton made some good plays in the paint, hitting a couple of baskets and crashing the boards, and I like that Amber Thompson appears to have taken her under her wing That's a good person to learn post play from. And like a true Johnnie post, she can't hit a free throw to save her life. Tamesha Alexander came in to give Aaliyah Lewis a break before the Great Bench Emptying Of The Blowout, and was unremarkable. The offense slowed down somewhat when she was in, but the offense tended to get bogged down anyway, so that doesn't really prove anything. Tonoia Wade was off her timing for most of the game- good hustle, but at the wrong moment.

Danaejah Grant did not start the game, presumably because she was awful last game and gave the coach attitude after being awful. She seemed inspired, or just angry. Whatever works to get points out of her. After we let Providence get back in it, at 22-17, she pretty much said, “aw hell naw to this” and started bombing threes, putting up 10 of our 12 points in one stretch. Her hands were active on defense, which is a blessed change- defense is usually her Achilles heel. She brought the distance shot and even some of her rebounding. Crystal Simmons got the start, and I'd still like to see her be a little less tentative on offense. She moves very stiffly, and that's a shame. She'll be a great player if she stops being terrified of the prospect. Jade Walker was her usual up and down self- hit some beautiful shots, committed some dumb fouls (though the call that took her out of the game was a bad, bad call), and alternated between being immensely frustrating and wonderful. Amber Thompson looked to have recovered some of her swagger, pulling down boards and blocking with authority- she had a great one in the second half that she snatched up and recovered (of course, we then turned it over, because that's how we roll). Aaliyah Lewis found her teammates on the break and looked good- her shooting is still a little off, but that's not necessarily what we need her for. She's also become my mom's favorite player (yes, the Queen Mother has been taking in games, it's quite refreshing)- she loves her speed and ferocity. Aliyyah Handford found her mojo again, and Aliyyah Handford with mojo is a beautiful thing to see. What intrigues me is that she's getting a lot of her points off jumpers- not that she's not riving and getting points in the paint, but she's getting a lot of midrange points, and I love that she's developing her midrange game.

Officials mostly let a lot of stuff go, which is all right, but Tiara Cruse seemed addicted to calling travels in the first. In the second half, calls tightened up on both ends, but there were far fewer procedural calls. The fifth foul on Jade Walker was a bad call- you're going to call a player for a foul for receiving an elbow to the throat, and not penalize the player who owns the elbow? There were a few 'bows thrown by Providence. Aliyyah was not amused after getting up holding her throat.

I don't follow men's basketball very closely, and I don't get particularly emotional about it, but I love that D'Angelo Harrison has been showing up and getting involved at women's games. There was a moment where the camera was on him and he ducked and tried to roll under the bleacher to hide.

Shoutout to DESPN, hitting three out of the four shots in the shootout and getting love from the students (and D'Angelo). He pretty much is the student section most games, and he's awesome.

It's off to the Midwest now, and visiting DePaul isn't going to be easy. And after that Creighton game, taking Marquette for granted at Milwaukee would be a bad idea too.


Friday, February 6, 2015

February 6th, 2015: Creighton at St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Creighton surged out to a 22-4 lead and never looked back as they throttled St. John's, 75-50. Alexis Akin-Otiko led five Bluejays in double figures with 16 points, while Brianna Rollerson added 13 points and 11 rebounds. Crystal Simmons was the only St. John's player to notch double figures, leading the way with 11 points off the bench.

For despair, a lack of alcohol, hugs needed, three-pointers, Mark Jackson references, frustration piled on frustration, and generally not good things, join your intrepid and achy blogger after the jump.

Hopefully the shooting tonight won't be as cold as the air outside, but with the Creighton Bluejays in town to visit the Red Storm, I somehow doubt it. I just hope ours is just a little bit better!

Aaaaand so much for that. At halftime, Creighton is up 39-21, with eight triples to their credit, including five in the first five minutes. They run beautiful screens and we look like we have seen neither a screen, nor a three-point arc, nor a rebound before in our collective lives.

I don't know what Aaliyah Lewis did, but she has not played in this one. She's in uniform and shooting around, but not yet active. Kyra Dunn is in street clothes. I like the jacket, but I am not feeling the plum-colored platform shoes, or the copious eyeshadow.

Stop shooting, Jade, or I am going to admire and respect you with a two-by-four. Danaejah, hold on to the ball, or it's two-by-four time for you.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand so much for that. That second half was, if at all possible, even more of a hot mess for St. John's than the first half, and I didn't even think that was possible. I don't leave games early- if nothing else, because of my little scorecards- but this is the kind of game I would not lambaste anyone for leaving early from. Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Creighton played every active player on their roster. Their team was really excited when Tessa Leytem hit her three in the second half. Bailey Norby brought some size inside and out. Kylie Brown had a pretty little jumper in the second half and mixed it up well on the boards. Lauren Works, which is a really phenomenal last name, put in that work on the defensive end. Jade Owens played a lot of time off the bench and facilitated the offense. I like the way she moves on the floor and the way she handles her team. What do you mean she's only a freshman?

The only flaw I can detect in Marissa Janning is her fondness for the finger roll, even in situations where it isn't called for. She threw up three or four of them, and I think only one of them went in. But she's a solid player with a killer shot. She didn't take a lot of shots in the second half, and the ones she did take fell short, but then, her team didn't need her. MC McGrory hit a couple of shots near the end of the clock. Briana Rollerson was really impressive, setting screens in the first half and becoming more proactive offensively as the game went on. She's a big body, and when she's not afraid to use it, she adds a dangerous dimension to Creighton's offense. She boxed out well, too. Alexis Akin-Otiko set up her teammates in the first half with strong screens, then started going to the rack in the second half. She also threw her weight around. Sydney Lamberty is another great shooter in the long line of great Creighton shooters.

Creighton shoots threes. They're really good at it. Perhaps getting out around screens would be conducive to not allowing them to hit five threes before the first media timeout. But what do I know? I just buy the tickets. To be fair, Creighton does set a lot of good screens- but that just means you have to call them out!

Imani Littleton finally got into a game, after what felt like forever, and she looked rusty- not necessarily bad ideas, but a step slow on executing them. Crystal Simmons was first off the bench in the first half to relieve Tamesha Alexander, then resumed her normal place in the rotation in the second half. She looked like she'd lost some of her fear of shooting, and her shots went in, which is a blessed change from most of the times I've seen her this year. She still missed some easy ones, including her free throws ("¡Crystal, me matas!" I yelled once or twice. Having Spaniards on two of my teams has really encouraged me to practice.) Tonoia Wade hustled after rebounds, even if she wasn't always successful at getting them. She'll develop better positioning with time, one might hope. Aaliyah Lewis started the second half, but the change in speed between her and Sox was a non-factor in our death spiral in the second half. At least Joe actually punishes players for infractions, which is more than I can say for his men's counterpart.


The Creighton defense covered Aliyyah Handford and Danaejah Grant tightly, leaving Jade Walker with plenty of long outside shots. She decided that taking those long outside shots would be a brilliant plan. There's a reason the defense is giving you those shots, Jade. That is because they are bad shots. Her rebounding was sketchy most of the night, too. I was not a happy camper. I don't know what Danaejah's problem was holding on to the ball, but she kept losing her handle as if it were one of those jury-rigged tape handles the cashier puts together for you on a large electronics box. I have no idea how she committed only four turnovers. Amber Thompson has suddenly gotten very tentative on the boards. I don't know if it's just that she's worn down from the strain of the season, but she's not the rebounding force of nature she was early on, and that makes me sad. She showed a little bit of her senior leadership at the end of the first half, with the back to back three-point play opportunities- but then, being a Johnnie and being Amber, she missed the free throw both times, because that's how we roll at St. John's. By the end of that first half, she looked like she needed either a hug or a shot of vodka. Tamesha Alexander was capable in her first start, but looked lost on defense. I liked seeing her shoot more, though. I think that'll help her confidence. Aliyyah Handford was a non-factor most of the night, both because Creighton played her very tough and because that defense led to the rest of the St. John's players not giving her touches. When she did get touches, her shots were contested.

"YOU UTTER IMBECILE!" moment of the game: so Aliyyah has made two great offensive plays in a row and keyed a defensive play. There's a little life in the team. Maybe they can make a run the way they did at Seton Hall. This is, of course, when Joe decides it would be a brilliant time to sub out Aliyyah. I am not making this up. Two quick Creighton baskets and a turnover later, Aliyyah was back in the game.

The refs were bad tonight, but they were blatantly bad in our favor, so I'll take it and be grateful. Pretty sure Jade Walker should have fouled out. It's a bad sign when the crew's making game management calls in the first half.

It's been a long time since I've seen a team quit this badly in the middle of a game. Too many lapses on defense. Too many mental errors. Stupid things, like stepping on the baseline. How do screens even work, right? The only saving grace was that the freshmen showed life. But I'm not holding out much hope for this year.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

February 1st, 2015: St. John's at Seton Hall

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Seton Hall rode a big first half from Daisha Simmons to a 24-point lead over St. John's, then retrenched behind Ka-Deidre Simmons to hold on 78-73. Ka-Deidre Simmons led the Hall with 22 points, 13 in the second half; Daisha Simmons had 21, 15 in the first half. The Red Storm's Aliyyah Handford led all scorers with 26 points before fouling out, while Danaejah Grant had 23.

For SO MUCH AWKWARD, adorable tiny future Johnnies, bad calls, the laws of physics, family business, camaraderie on the court, elevating "Apache", old acquaintance renewed, and running headlong into the edge of open doors, join your intrepid and dehydrated blogger after the jump.

So it's that Sunday. The one I've been looking forward to and fearing for most of the season. The one where your intrepid blogger and her dashing husband find themselves at loggerheads. The big game. The one that could decide everything.

It's time for the second Awkward Bowl of the year. What, you thought I meant the Super Bowl? Aw naw, we're both rooting for the Seahawks and against the Patriots. I'm behind the visiting bench here at Walsh Gymnasium, wearing my St. John's red. He's behind the home bench, wearing his Seton Hall blue. And I don't know what the lady in the Rhode Island shirt is doing.

Stop looking at me like that, Tab. We've been through this before. I was a Johnnie long before you were ever a Pirate. If MTA fares go up exponentially, and if Joe Tartamella completely loses his mind, and if St. John's goes into a death spiral of fail and unwatchable offense, and if ticket prices get ridiculous, and if I think Team Jersey wouldn't hunt me down in the street for it, then we can talk about a palette swap. But all of that has to happen first for me to even consider it.

Road black today for the Red Storm. We really need to figure out if our third color is black or navy blue, because either would work, but you can't go with both. Black and navy blue clash.

Getting pretty full pretty fast- expected attendance is so far around 1100. No, I didn't slip a digit anywhere. RedZone is supposedly bringing a bus. We'll see about that. There's only one guy I trust to show up on the regular among the St. John's student section. Five or six if you count the guys from Sigma Chi Beta.

Okay, that was nice. The Seton Hall bench priest came over to welcome everyone behind the St. John's bench. He's a sweet guy with a good sense of humor.

Even with a butt pad, these bleachers are harder than the unyielding bedrock of the earth.

No halftime notes, because crowding.

That was an exciting second half! Shame that game turned into a ref show near the end. I shouldn't be petty about that, but a couple of calls can turn a game.

Tonoia Wade saw a fair amount of time when Jade Walker was in foul trouble, as inevitably happens. She had a lot of hustle, and she crashed the boards hard, but I think she had a little deer-in-the-headlights look to her at times- she should not have had the ball in the backcourt at any time, especially not when Seton Hall was trapping at halfcourt. Crystal Simmons spelled Aliyyah Handford when she was in foul trouble, but she was in over her head- afraid to shoot, almost as afraid to pass. The foul trouble was mostly intentional.

Danaejah Grant, I don't know what I'm going to do with you. On the one hand, when Nae gets hot on offense, you can't stop her, and she gives us an outside threat that we normally don't have. On the other hand, if you get half a step past her, she stops playing defense like you've slapped her off-switch. She did her best to finish the job Aliyyah Handford started in the second half run, but I think she ran out of gas at the end. Love the way she got to the line and converted today. Jade Walker, bless her heart. She got into foul trouble, including two calls that were highly questionable. (Ka-Deidre Simmons falling down after running into Jade isn't a foul, it's an application of physics.) She got off some good shots but couldn't get them down, but also got up some shots right at the rim that she should have hit. Solid game from her, but we needed more than solid. Aaliyah Lewis looked terrified by the press and the trap. The game slowed up when the ball was in her hands, much to the frustration of pretty much everyone wearing red. She played good defense on Tabatha Richardson-Smith, which is a tall order, literally. Amber Thompson brought the offense down low in the first half, and hit more free throws today than I think I've ever seen her hit in a single game. Don't mess with the big girl. You will get whooped. She wasn't quite as terrifying on the boards as usual, but only by a little bit, and honestly, I'd rather have a well-rounded game from her than one where she's pulling down a skillion rebounds and taking one shot.

Aliyyah Handford gets her own paragraph, because she's Aliyyah Handford and you're probably not. (Unless you are in fact Aliyyah Handford, in which case, hi, Liyyah, you're awesome.) She was getting defended hard for the first thirty minutes or so, doubled and basically shut down, and getting hit hard with no call while she was at it. It got to her. First, in the bad way: flat-out shoving Janee Johnson is not the world's greatest idea when you're a 5-9 guard of average build and JJ is a 6-0 stocky forward, especially when it becomes your fourth foul. Then, in the good way: she decided, perhaps not in these exact words, that she had had quite enough of this utter nonsense and was going to rectify it however she could. And 20 second-half points later, she came damn close to it. Geno had Diana and no one else did. We have Aliyyah and no one else does. I guess awesome power just comes with the number.

Joe, we need to talk about your control freak tendencies. It might not be necessary to call Aaliyah over to the sideline for Just a thought. Sometimes, you can just let Aliyyah or Danaejah free-lance.

I think Jordan Mosley only played, like, five seconds of game time. She came in to shoot free throws for Ka-Deidre Simmons when Didi went to the bench saying she was dizzy while doing the 'oh dear, I've lost a contact' dance. Tony is probably relieved at the free FT practice. Kathleen Egan came in to play a little bit of defense in the first half and was never seen again. Tara Inman hit a nice little corner three and ball-hawked. The SJU student section liked ragging on her. Tiffany Jones brought a different look in the post off the bench, extending the defense and creating more space for everyone to work. She's still a little too foul-happy for my liking (well, for my liking when I root for Seton Hall). Lubirdia Gordon got work done around the basket on both ends of the floor, shutting down the Red Storm's offense at the rack.

Chizoba Ekedigwe got the start, and I thought it was a bad sign when she actually took and hit a shot. But she wasn't as tough as Gordon and she wasn't as offensive-minded as Jones, so she got a little squeezed out. Janee Johnson got a little shot-happy, and I'm still a bit irked at her for her cheap shot on Aliyyah right in front of the St. John's bench. You're better than that, JJ. I know that. I know you. Tabatha Richardson-Smith was streaky from the field as always, and never got hot like I was afraid she would, but she more than made up for it on the boards. She worked her way into the crevices and cracks and ripped down those rebounds. Daisha Simmons ripped us apart in the first half, going down the lane like Moses parting the Red Sea, popping threes, the whole nine yards. She was quieter but still effective in the second half. But that was all right for Seton Hall, because Ka-Deidre Simmons took over in the second half. She decided that Seton Hall wasn't going to lose when the big run happened. She did her best to shut the door. She's so tough.

Play of the game: Amber Thompson pulls down the board off a Daisha Smmons miss, outlets to Aliyyah Handford, and it's off to the races. Fast break lay-up for Liyyah, right? Done it a thousand times before, right? She gets to the rim, and suddenly, BAM! from behind like the hand of an angry and righteous God comes the block from Daisha Simmons. Ball goes into the curtain over the stage, Daisha goes into the cheerleaders.

I can't give you the LOL of the game, because it's profane. Suffice it to say that someone normally soft-spoken expressed extreme displeasure with the officiating and believed that a specific call was comparable to bovine excrement.

Alumnae in the crowd. Nadirah McKenith came color-coordinated and everything, wearing her black St. John's jersey. Also got to see the awesome 3 before our current awesome 3, Da'Shena Stevens (and her adorable daughter, people younger than me are having adorable children, I am getting old argh). (For those of you new to the party: Da'Shena Stevens is awesome. Her class was the class that walked into Gampel and walked out winners.)

Very physical first half. Refs let 'em play a lot, but looking at the crew, Cissoko-Stephens is known for it. I thought we got robbed on a few calls, but at the same time, we started looking for calls before we were looking for shots. (Jade. I'm looking at you. Aliyyah. Looking at you too.) And then it all went to hell in a handbasket when Aliyyah was called for a fifth foul so egregiously bad that there were Seton Hall fans saying it was a bad call. Aliyyah's mom looked ready to storm the court on that one. I don't know if that ended it for SJU- Danaejah looked ready to take the mantle- but it definitely changed the course of the game. If Aliyyah's available for the last few minutes, I think we complete the comeback.

St. John's student section did show up, but I kind of regret it. Support your team, absolutely. Boo the anthem singer, taunt the cheerleaders, swear in front of kids, call the alma mater tradition stupid? We gon' fight. If I have to explain to you what a technical foul is, how many seconds there are on the shot clock, the fact that there's a halftime, and what a 1-and-1 is, why are you even here? Because you got a meal and a hoodie for five bucks, that's why. I'm being harsh, because for a good chunk of the game, they were as a group great and loud and fun to be with; I may also be more sensitive to trash talking the opponent when the opponent is one of my teams, and when I know how close the Johnnies and the Pirates are.

I love my team. I sometimes want to love them with a two-by-four, but I love them. I love what they are, and I love what they can be. This hurts, but we can get past it.