The St. John’s women’s basketball team advanced to the Big East tournament finals Monday afternoon by beating Creighton 68-63 in double overtime. It seemed the Red Storm’s hopes for its 4th conference title were doomed but its resilient play in the end of regulation and both overtimes kept the dream alive.
“What a game,” St. John’s head coach Joe Tartamella said. “I’m so proud of our ladies and how we were able to come back from some difficult spots in the game.”
St. John’s (22-9) trailed by as many as seven points in the second half but rallied back to send the game into overtime. It seemed that all was lost for the Red Storm but sophomore guard Danaejah Grant played savior sending the game into a second overtime, making two clutch free throws with five seconds remaining in the first overtime.
This was only the third time this season that Grant made the starting lineup and she rose to the occasion finishing with a game-high 20 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists.
Junior forward Amber Thompson gave No. 2 seeded St. John’s a 64-63 lead with 1:35 left in the second overtime and with eleven seconds remaining sophomore guard Aliyyah Handford added a pair of free throws to seal the victory. Thompson finished the game with 8 points and 9 rebounds while Handford tallied 19 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists.
“I credit our players for being able to stay the course,” Tartamella said. “I was just really happy to be able to come out with an effort like that, especially playing the day before. This is what we have been building for all year.” Aliyyah Handford added, “I was just being focused and my teammates were there for me.”
The poor shooting display of Big East Player of the Year Marissa Janning was a huge factor in this tight contest. No. 3 Creighton’s (19-13) sophomore guard finished the game with 11 points on 2-14 shooting.
“She’s an unbelievable player,” Tartamella said. “You do what you can to limit some of the things she likes to do. “I think we did a great job making her take shots in tough spots and I thought we kept her off-balance throughout the game.”
The Red Storm has posted a perfect 3-0 record in Big East championship games, their last title coming in 1988. Just one team, top seeded DePaul, stands in the way to Big East glory. The Blue Demons clinched a finals spot by fighting off No. 5 Marquette 100-90. The Red Storm split the season series 1-1 with DePaul, each team winning on the other’s home court.
St. John’s will look to keep their perfect championship game record intact when they take on No.1 DePaul Tuesday night at 9:00 p.m.