Fordham of the Atlantic 10, visiting Utopia Parkway to face St. John’s, representing the Big East. Both New York schools with long histories and traditions, residing in different leagues. On this afternoon, we would also see something frequently rising in tournament play, the aforementioned difference in style.
Fordham, with outside shooting and an inside game facing a St. John’s with size of their own, as well as a take-you-off-the-dribble game focused on penetrating the defense. What we saw was a veritable coaching ‘chess match’ featuring the game plans of Fordham’s Stephanie Gaitley and Joe Tartamella of St. John’s.
Fordham guarded against penetration allowing the 15-footer. St. John’s hit consistently from mid-range. At the half, it was a two-possession game with the homestanding Red Storm in the lead. It remained close for much of the final half.
In the latter part of the last stanza we were reminded, regardless of schemes and diagrams on the grease board, it comes down to players making plays. Two close-to-the-basket Fordham misses were transformed into St. John’s runouts. Then a turnover saw another St. John’s transition conversion. The lead was double digits. St. John’s went on to win, 77-63, (a somewhat deceptive final margin) and punch their ticket to the third round.
For St. John’s, they heeded Tartamella’s advice of taking advantage of the WNIT experience, a national tournament staged when many teams already called it a season. Fordham, disappointed in losing, remained proud of the effort. Equal pride expressed in the four years since Gaitley took over, this senior class saw the Rams through an Atlantic 10 title and three postseason trips.
Very proud accomplishments, easing the sting of a season drawing to a close.
Just before the opening tip, probably the last time all day we would see Aliyyah Handford of St. John's motionless:
St. John's coach Joe Tartamella, and assistants Veronica Mullen and Priscilla Edwards, are focusing on the same situation on the other end:
Emily Tapio and Hannah Missry of Fordham waiting to check in, and already have their game expressions firmly intact:
Aliyyah Handford defending Tiffany Ruffin of Fordham:
The intensity of the game was even expressed by the Fordham cheerleaders:
Fordham head coach Stephanie Gaitley ponders her next move:
The traditional postgame handshake line, as St. John's advances while Fordham ends an outstanding season: