The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Before the season started the St. John’s women’s basketball team met inside its locker room in Taffner Field House. The players discussed their goals for the season and the first one blurted out was: make the NCAA Tournament.

“Everyone kept talking about it,” Kia Wright said. “[We said], ‘We can do it this season. This is our season.'”

Monday night, they gathered again, this time at ESPN Zone in Times Square, hoping to see their goal realized. The selection show dragged on. Sixty other team’s names were called, six from the Big East. Fifty minutes had passed. Stomachs ached, nerves were on edge, and hands became cold.

Then, ESPN rolled the words “St. John’s” on to the screen.

“I had a Sprite in my hand,” Wright said. “I don’t know where it went after I saw St. John’s versus California.”

The Red Storm will open the tournament, its first since 1988, against California on March 19 at University Park, Pa. St. John’s received the seventh seed in the Albuquerque region and could face No. 3 Maryland in the second round.

“I felt pretty good when Louisville and South Florida got in,” coach Kim Barnes Arico. “I felt pretty confident because we played well against both those teams. So I say ‘Hey we got to get in.’ But then the longer it goes, the longer it goes, you start going, ‘Oh my gosh, did we do something.'”

They did nearly everything right.

St. John’s finished the season 21-7 and 11-5 in the Big East.

Its fourth-place finish earned them a bye in the conference tournament. The team beat then-No. 12 Notre Dame in January, was ranked No. 23 in the country a month later and lost only once at home.

The Red Storm stumbled in the Big East tournament losing to West Virginia in the quarterfinals.

It probably cost them a higher seed, but not a berth.

“Well I’ve never been to the NCAA tournament, so this is a great opportunity,” senior Danielle Chambers said. “We’ve been working hard all year and I think we deserve it. We are going to try to make the best of it.”

Fellow senior Greeba Barlow is the only member of the team to play in an NCAA tourney, while at George Washington. Now her focus is on California.

“I remember seeing them on TV one time,” she said. “It looked like they had a couple shooters and some post players. Well it’s not like the East Coast. We play tough, tough and rough.”

The Bears are having one of the best seasons in school history. First year coach Joanne Boyle led the team to an 18-11 record and a 10-8 mark in the Pac-10.

They have four talented freshman, including Alexis Gray-Lawson, the Pac-10 freshman of the year. Gray-Lawson averages 14 points per game and shot nearly 40 percent from three point range. California also features a solid post presence in freshman Devanei Hampton.

She led the team in scoring and rebounding this season with 15 points and eight rebounds per game.

“Anybody can win,” Barlow said.

That includes St. John’s.

“We can go as far as we want to,” Wright said. “Everybody on the team has to want it, has to play their heart out. This is it.”

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