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SJU exorcises late-game demons in overtime battle with Hoyas

St. John's' Shenneika Smith shoots a jump shot during a game against Georgetown. Photo by Robert Cole
TimesLedger Newspapers

St. John’s women’s basketball team isn’t used to having close games go their way. Seven of the Red Storm’s 10 losses have been by 10 points or less this season, including two overtime defeats by a single point at home.

Their fortunes changed Saturday afternoon when St. John’s defeated Georgetown 76-72 in overtime at Carnesecca Arena.

“It’s nice to be on the other end of this one today,” Red Storm Coach Joe Tartamella said.

St. John’s (11-10, 5-4) saw a nine-point halftime lead dwindle throughout the second half, and with 38 seconds remaining in the game they trailed Georgetown (13-10, 4-6) 65-63 for the first time in the second half.

The Red Storm appeared to be headed for another tough loss, but then senior guard Shenneika Smith made a wild desperation shot from the right block with 20.3 seconds left to tie the score and send the game into overtime. Smith admitted the shot may have been lucky, but it was good enough.

The game would have been won easier if it weren’t for the play of Georgetown senior guard Sugar Rodgers. She scored 22 of her 29 points in the second half to lead the Hoyas back from a 14-point deficit with 18:54 left in the second half.

Rodgers had a chance to win the game in regulation with 20.6 seconds remaining and a tie game. Guarded by Smith, her final shot was off the mark, sending the game into overtime.

Heading into that final possession, St. John’s’ strategy was simple: Get a stop.

“We just talked about playing defense and getting a stop,” St. John’s senior guard Nadirah McKenith said. “We just needed to win.”

Smith scored a team-high 26 points, playing every minute. McKenith tallied 16 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds. The two senior guards’ chemistry was evident throughout the second half and overtime period.

“We’ve been together for four years, so hopefully we’ll continue with this chemistry and go further,” Smith said.

Tartamella also noticed the chemistry between the two, pointing out that when they play off of each other they are a lot tougher to stop.

“When Shenneika and Nadirah understand the impact they can have together, more so than as individuals, they really can help us,” he said.

Junior guard Briana Brown also played a large role in the victory, hitting four three-pointers, including two in overtime, on her way to a 12-point night.

Despite the gaudy numbers put up by his guards, the game may have been won on the free throw line. St. John’s went an impressive 20-22 from the charity stripe and 11-11 in the second half when it mattered most.

“We try not to talk too much about it,” Tartamella said. “However, we know it’s the difference between winning and losing some of these games this year.”

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