March 30, 2008
RALEIGH, N.C. - After trailing NC State for most of the game, the St. John's women's basketball team overcame a 24-point deficit to tie the score at 61 with 29 seconds left in regulation, but the Wolfpack held on for the 63-61 win in the Women's National Invitation Tournament Quarterfinals on Sunday at Reynolds Coliseum.
"This was a devastating way to end the season, but I am proud of the team and how they battled back in the second half," said head coach Kim Barnes Arico. "We came out tight, but played tough. We came together in the end and put ourselves in a position to win. I am really proud of their effort today. They didn't quit. We have to build off this for next season."
In her last game donning a Red Storm jersey, senior Kia Wright led the team with 16 points (5-of-12), all of which came in the second half. She also posted a team-high four assists and came away with three steals. Junior Monique McLean rounded out the double-figure scoring with 15 points, going 4-of-5 from the field and 3-of-4 from long distance. In addition to pulling in six rebounds, she led the team with four steals. Wright and McLean combined for five steals down the stretch, resulting in six points.
The Red Storm (18-15) found itself in an early hole in the first half, 17-4, at 10:36. St. John's responded by scoring four unanswered points to come within nine, 17-8. Senior Tiina Sten sparked the run with a jumper and then Kristin Moore made a spin move and nailed a fade-away. The Red Storm could not come any closer in the first half, as the Wolfpack went into the break with the 37-17 lead. NC State was highly effective from 3-point range, going 4-of-7, in addition to an 11-of-27 (40.7 percent) performance from the field. The Red Storm was 6-of-30 and did not hit one trey.
In the second half, the Red Storm quickly got into an offensive rhythm, outscoring NC State 12-6 to put the score at 43-29 with 15:25 left. The Wolfpack (21-12) countered by going on an 8-1 run, taking its largest lead of the frame, 51-30, at 12:40.
The Red Storm would not go away and battled NC State tough, slowly chipping into the lead, eventually coming within five, 60-55, with 3:53 remaining. McLean and Recee Mitchell combined for 14 points during that stretch. After the Wolfpack's Shayla Fields went 1-of-2 from the free throw line, Wright hit a jumper with 1:56 to go to pull the team within four. With the score 61-57, McLean and Wright were fouled on consecutive plays, and they converted all four attempts to tie the score, 61-61. Wright nailed the tying shots. With 24 seconds, NC State got the ball and Fields ran into the lane and hit a jumper for the two-point lead. Wright got the ball for the Red Storm and just missed the game-winning shot from 3-point range with two-seconds to go.
After posting a 20-percent scoring average on 6-of-30 shooting in the first half, STJ connected on 16-of-27 attempts to shoot a blistering 59.3 in the second half, 38.6 overall. Allowing NC State to shoot 40.7 in the opening frame, the Red Storm held the Wolfpack's potent offense to a 29.6 scoring average in the second frame. The Red Storm outscored NC State 44-26 in the second half.
The team's appearance in the fourth round of the WNIT was the furthest it has ever advanced in the tournament. In addition, this is the furthest a Red Storm team under the direction of Barnes Arico has advanced in postseason play. STJ closed out the season winning five of its last seven games.