March 22, 2010
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Jacinta Monroe said she couldn't remember the ending, the details of a frantic finish quickly going blurry in her mind.
It'll come back to her someday - since it was her shining moment.
Monroe scored Florida State's final four points of regulation to save the season, then got the gamewinning shot to fall with 28.9 seconds remaining as the third-seeded Seminoles beat sixth-seeded St. John's 66-65 in a wild second-round NCAA women's tournament matchup on Monday night.
There were 19 ties, 19 lead changes and drama until the very final moment, when Da'Shena Stevens' shot that would have won it for St. John's banked off the backboard, then off the rim, and the Seminoles could finally celebrate being off to the semifinals of the Dayton Regional.
"I'm not sure there are enough w's," Florida State coach Sue Semrau said, "to put at the end of 'phew!"'
Monroe scored a game-high 16 points for Florida State (28-5), which got 15 from Alysha Harvin and 10 each from Chasity Clayton and Alexa Deluzio, along with nine assists from Courtney Ward - including the one setting up Monroe's gamewinner.
"I tried to play it cool," Monroe said. "But I was shaking and thanking the heavens when she missed it."
Nadirah McKenith scored 15 for St. John's (25-7), which was trying to reach the NCAA round of 16 for the first time. Stevens had 14 points and 10 rebounds despite spending much of the second half and overtime battling leg cramps, and Joy McCorvey added 13 for the Red Storm.
Those cramps might have played a role in the last shot: Stevens' final try was a bit short.
"I've never really cramped before in a game, that much," Stevens said, choking down tears. "It's probably because there was so much intensity out there. Everybody played hard. I just left everything out on the floor and the last shot, I don't know, I thought Nadirah was going to go all the way but I got the ball, it was just a tough shot and I missed it."
She wasn't the only one playing hurt for the Red Storm after halftime. Shenneika Smith scored 10 points on 4 of 16 shooting, and may have hurt her left knee seriously trying to make a steal early in the second half. Smith returned to the game anyway, though clearly hobbling.
"I really thought we had something special," St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico said. "I thought that we could do some damage in this tournament. We got a unique group and I've been through this kind of before. Five years ago we were here, and the following year we had a bunch of injuries, had a bunch of different things happen and we won eight or nine games. You never know when the opportunity is going to present itself again."
Semrau grabbed the house microphone moments after the game ended, telling the home crowd that they couldn't have gotten "there" without them.
"There" for Florida State is defined as Dayton: The Seminoles next play in Sunday's Dayton Regional semifinals, where they'll meet the winner of Tuesday's game in Pittsburgh between Ohio State (31-4) and Mississippi State (20-12).
To say it was close throughout would be a bit of an understatement.
Neither team ever went on a big run, nor was there ever a moment where it seemed like one team was on the cusp of taking control.
And for St. John's, that won't make losing any easier to accept.
There were 10 ties and 12 lead changes in the first half, St. John's never leading by more than three, Florida State never by more than four.
"After the first four minutes ... I kind of figured it was going to come down to the wire," McCorvey said. "It was a great game."
Florida State scored six straight points over a 3 1/2-minute stretch in the second half, the last four of those points coming from Cierra Bravard, to take a 55-53 lead with 6:18 remaining.
Then it was the Seminoles' turn to go scoreless, at the absolute wrong time.
Florida State didn't score for the next 4:39, falling behind 60-55 before Deluzio's 3-pointer from the right corner cut the margin to two with 1:39 to play. Monroe did the rest, tying the game at 60 a half-minute later, and after St. John's hit two free throws, Monroe delivered again with 16.7 seconds left in regulation and sending the teams to OT tied at 62.
Monroe made sure they found a way to prevail.
"I was just in the right place at the right time," Monroe said.