Johnnies’ season ends, Rainey declared eligible

The St. John’s women’s basketball team concluded the 2002-03 season with a seven-game losing streak and finished 8-19 overall and 2-14 in Big East play. Although it was a losing campaign, there were many positives that came about during the season.

“I think we were better as a team overall, but there is always room for improvement,” junior guard Shemika Stevens said.

Needing to win one of their two remaining games in order to qualify for the Big East Tournament, St. John’s could not make it happen, losing 67-52 to Georgetown and 69-53 to Virginia Tech.

Despite their last-place finish in the conference, St. John’s did do some damage during their non-conference schedule, posting an above .500 record, finishing 6-5.

Wins came against Marist, Texas-Arlington, Stony Brook, Fairleigh Dickinson, St. Peter’s and Florida Atlantic, which was a milestone for St. John’s Head Coach Kim Barnes Arico, giving her 100th career victory.

The attendance record at Alumni Hall for a women’s basketball game was broken on Nov. 22, the season opener against Buffalo, as the Johnnies welcomed 4,043, surpassing the mark of 3,407 set back in 1998.

Under the direction of Barnes Arico, the Red Storm was much improved from a season ago, winning five more games overall, two wins coming via Big East play – something they had not done in 24 straight conference games – a streak dating back to Feb. 20, 2001.

“All year long we had some ups and downs, but I thought we finished the season on a good note,” Barnes Arico said. “We played real well against Virginia Tech, and were able to see some improvements towards the end of the year.”

The Johnnies played their best ball during a three game stretch (Jan. 22-Feb. 1). After beating the Providence Friars, SJU took then ranked No. 23 Rutgers to double-overtime before losing a heartbreaker.

The win against Pittsburgh on Feb. 1 is what this season has been all about for the Storm. After losing by 24 to the Pirates at Alumni Hall two weeks earlier, St. John’s bounced back, like they had been doing all season, and built confidence for themselves, prevailing by three in a 69-66 victory.

“It was a tremendous victory for us. We really pulled together as a team.” Barnes Arico said. “We were actually down a few times in that game and that was a team that beat us by 24 points in our first first meeting.”

Danielle Rainey and Stevens were this year’s most consistent performers, leading St. John’s in scoring in 25 of the 28 games played.

Rainey was averaging a team-best 16.4 points per game, 4.9 rebounds and was the Storm’s most consistent free throw shooter at 79 percent before St. John’s announced on Feb. 12 that she had been declared ineligible.

Due to a discovery through an administrative error that her eligibility had expired after the first semester of this season, Rainey was forced to sit out the final five games of the season.

The University reported its findings to the Big East offices, and filed a copy of that report with the NCAA.

The NCAA has granted Rainey an extension for another year of eligibility. She will compete in the 2003-04 campaign after sitting out the first three games of next season for playing while ineligible this season.

“Danielle gives us another option, a big option, that takes some of the pressure off myself,” Stevens noted.

Stevens scored in double-digits in 21 of 26 games and the last 12 straight.

Stevens was averaging 17.5 points while shooting 42.4 percent from the field over the last ten games, dating back to Jan. 22.

The Red Storm have already added two New York City players for 2003-04 – Mercedes Duke and Danielle Chambers.

Duke, a 5-9 guard from Monsignor Scanlon High School is a former All-New York State player from the Bronx.

Chambers, a 6-0 forward from Bishop Loughlin High School is a transfer from George Mason University and will provide St. John’s with a physical presence at the forward position.

Both players will be eligible to play during the second semester of the season.

St. John’s has also signed Secrett Stubblefield of Fairfax, Va. to join the Red Storm program next season.

The 5-6 guard from Okaloosa-Walton Community College in Niceville, Fla. is shooting 54.0 percent from the field, averaging 18.2 points and five rebounds per game for the nationally ranked squad.

“We’re really excited about them,” Barnes Arico said referring to her three newest players. “We’re hoping that Danielle can help us inside and get some rebounds which is something we really need.

“And Mercedes and Secrett, we’re hoping they can bring some power to the offensive end. Mercedes is a good slasher and Secrett can shoot the three.”