A Victory For the Seniors
The St. John’s women’s basketball team defeated DePaul 67-54 in its final home game of the season – boosting its tournament resume as the postseason looms.Seniors Nadirah McKenith, Shenneika Smith and Mary Nwachukwu were honored before the game, as it was senior night.
“All three of these players have a special place in my heart and this program’s heart,” said St. John’s head coach Joe Tartamella. “I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
McKenith, who played through an injured hand for most of the game, did not have her usual profound effect, but Tartamella trusted her to stay on the court to lead her teammates.
“Tartamella was the person that tried to get me to come to St. John’s and the relationship that we’ve built has become really strong,” McKenith said. “It’s been a pleasure to be coached by him and I appreciate everything he’s done for me.”
The Red Storm (17-11, 11-5) trailed the Blue Demons (20-10, 9-7) early in the first half but the tide of the game changed when sophomore Amber Thompson checked in for the Johnnies. As soon as Thompson entered, the Johnnies went on a quick 9-0 run to take a 19-11 lead, which they would not relinquish.
Thompson dominated the boards, recording 16 rebounds and adding 20 points.
“[Amber] set the tone and I thought she was the one that was the catalyst for us to win the game,” Tartamella said.
Shenneika Smith took the spotlight once the second half started. The crafty shooting guard scored 15 points and delivered
key assists to Thompson.
With a comfortable lead and only a minute left to play, Tartamella pulled McKenith and Smith so they could receive a standing ovation from their fans, teammates, and family – both players were embraced by their head coach.
“[Coach Tartamella is] very passionate about the game of basketball and it has been a pleasure to play for him,” Smith said. “He never gave up on us so we’re not going to give up on him.”
The third and final senior, Mary Nwachukwu, has established herself as a physical presence who provides her teammates with screens which often lead to uncontested layups. She was praised by Tartamella after the game.
“Mary is probably somebody, to the outsider, who is undervalued and not looked at as someone who puts up numbers,” Tartamella said. “She is probably the best post defender I have ever coached and she is an invaluable member of our team.”
With the regular season now over, the Red Storm await the seeds for the Big East tournament.