UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Coach Kim Barnes Arico had her usual stoic look. Angela Clark looked to be in disbelief. Kia Wright was near tears.
Senior Greeba Barlow? She didn’t look anything like them after St. John’s second-round NCAA Tournament loss to Maryland on March 21.
There was a fire in her voice, a look of anger in her eyes. She was not content with a hard-fought game. She was not satisfied that her team, picked to finish eighth in the Big East, actually tied for third and made it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1988.
Frankly, she wasn’t ready to end her college basketball career. And even though she did everything in her power to bring St. John’s to the Sweet 16, she still felt it wasn’t enough.
“If I did,” Barlow said, “we would have won.”
But she couldn’t guard Maryland’s powerful sophomore center Crystal Langhorne. She couldn’t grab all the rebounds the Terps eventually got.
“I don’t think I played hard enough,” Barlow said. “I missed several straight shots down the stretch. I’m so hard on myself and the team.”
She’s not wrong. There was a leaner in the lane she couldn’t knock down with seconds remaining that would have made it a two-point game. But that single opportunity can’t possibly take away from her play in the tournament.
Against California, she put the Red Storm on her back. Barlow, who averaged 9.3 points in the regular season, scored 17 points in the second half to give her a career-high 21 points against the Golden Bears. Not bad timing, huh?
“I just shot it,” a happier Barlow said after that game. “I was hot. The basket did look like an ocean.”
And St. John’s rode her like a wave, a player who didn’t want to go home for the last time.
“I just said pretend that we are at a dance,” Barlow said. “I just wanted to keep dancing and that’s what we’re doing.”
Until they ran into a Maryland team that was seeded second in the Albuquerque regional, but easily could have been first. Especially considering the Terrapins defeated No. 1 North Carolina this season and their only four losses came against three of the six top-ranked teams in the nation. Oh, and by the way, they’re on their way to the Final Four.
Along with Barlow’s 16 points in that game, Tara Walker nailed five threes, and finished with 17 points. Danielle Chambers battled down low with the Terrapins’ trees all game. And, though she didn’t leave the bench, Mercedes Dukes’ leadership cannot be measured in a box score.
But it was Barlow against California and it was Barlow again against Maryland. The George Washington transfer was the only player on the team with NCAA Tournament experience.
She was the player who had a choice to make after last season: leave St. John’s with her bachelor’s degree or come back as a grad student and play another season with the team. She chose them; they chose her.
“We wanted to win this for them,” said Wright of the seniors. “They played so hard this year.”
Wright and Clark, St. John’s two All-Big East first teamers, will be back next year, another NCAA run in their sights.
But gone will be Barlow, Walker, Chambers and Dukes, the program infinitely better than when they arrived.
“You can’t accept it,” said Barlow of the end. “And I don’t want to accept it. And I’m not gonna accept it.”
But one thing she should accept: without her and the other seniors, St. John’s would never have gotten this far.