NEW YORK – As we face a whole new world, please remember your imagination will never be limited. Your imagination is powerful. Your imagination can take you to places the other citizens of the world will never, ever dare approach. But, remember, a glimpse into someone’s imagination can be an adventurous ride for one and all.
Here is one man’s daydream, and as you will read, some of it is true and some of it is … well?
Wednesday night, the St. John’s University Red Storm was down by nine at the half and trailed 62-52 with 6:31 left in the game. St. John’s was done for the year as the Georgetown Hoyas were out-shooting them from both two-point and three-point range. The Johnnies’ lack of perimeter shooting was quite apparent. There was no way to solve the season-long problem in March of a basketball season.
Then, the Storm hit.
St. John’s forward Marcellus Earlington scored 10 straight points and led the team to an unbelievable game-ending, 23-0 run to defeat Georgetown 75-62. The victory allowed St. John’s to live and play another day, albeit a quick turnaround to face the No. 1 seeded Creighton Bluejays at Noon this past Thursday.
Facing the fatigue-factor surely induced by the 23-0 run against the Hoyas the night before and entering a Madison Square Garden gym void of fans because of the corona virus crisis, St. John’s took the court against Creighton and played as hard as they had played in the final six and a half minutes the previous night.
While the Creighton band and their friends and family audience limited to 200-or-so made the noise of 19,500 fans usually in the building, St. John’s walked off the court with a 38-35 halftime lead.
Fatigue was not a factor and the near memory (March 1) of a 91-71 St. John’s throttling of Creighton fueled confidence for the second half.
FADE to BLACK and DISSOLVE!
Somehow, as if we were in a Hollywood movie or some strange alternative universe, the St. John’s University Red Storm returned to their home Madison Square Garden court to the absolute defending roar of 19,300 Johnnie’s fans screaming as though the injured Willis Reed was taking to the court on that May 8, 1970 evening that may have been The Garden’s greatest moment ever.
Creighton’s 200+ fans simply sat dumbfounded and dropped their jaws at the sudden change. No one could explain it. It was as though Hall of Fame baseball players walked out from corn fields. It was as if a grubby, old Philadelphia lefty was suddenly strong and determined enough to face The Greatest. It was – queue up the buzz-word – SURREAL. But, it was, indeed happening.
In every Fatigue vs. Adrenaline bout in history, adrenaline has defeated fatigue by a .950 average. The second half of the St. John’s vs Creighton game was no different.
With the crowd behind them and The Garden rockin’ in a way only the Garden can, St. John’s dismissed the Creighton Bluejays by the final score of 85-69. Remarkably, the second half score of 47-34 mirrored the exact same closing score of the Johnnies’ convincing March 1st win at Carnesecca Arena when St, John’s recorded its first home campus win over a “Top 10” team since 1975.
With the St. John’s victory, the club “took over” the berth provided to No. 1 Creighton and earned some rest until the Friday night semifinal match against the winner of the No. 4/No. 5 Butler vs Providence game.
The games played on. Everyone was safe in this alter universe, not the one left behind where pro and college sports sounded the bell toll to awaken a country to the importance of community protection by sheltering, avoiding crowded places and following the harsh but real recommendations of the CDC – Click HERE > https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html
In the remaining quarter-finals games, Butler defeated Providence, 65-62 with Kamar Baldwin leading the way for the Bulldogs with his 19-points. In the Thursday night session, Villanova ended DePaul’s season with an 85-73 victory. DePaul had unexpectedly advanced from Wednesday’s 71-67 upset over Xavier. In the nightcap, Seton Hall righted their (Pirate) ship with a 79-67 win over Marquette. The Hall had lost four of their last seven games, including their final two regular season games.
Big East Player of the Year Myles Powell was at his best, scoring 29 points with five assists, two steals and only one turnover against Marquette while Markus Howard scored 37 points in the loss.
The brackets lined up for an interesting “Big East Friday night” with:
- 6:30pm – St. John’s vs Butler
- 9:00pm – Villanova vs Seton Hall
The influx of Philadelphia-based Villanova fans and their strong, affluent and vocal fan base together with a confident North Jersey Seton Hall-loving crowd of loyal fanatics made the nightcap the featured game, to be sure. However, human nature also played a role as fans of the longtime BIG EAST schools of ‘Nova and The Hall, turned out in force to support the underdog Johnnies.
As the ball tipped, all you could hear in The Garden was a deafening “JOHNNIES…JOHNNIES…JOHNNIES!” chant resonating from every corner of the building. It was incredible, as the Villanova and Seton Hall fans seemed to enjoy it more than the St. John’s kids.
The St. John’s starting five played off the vibe and performed to their highest abilities, forcing Butler turnovers and scoring in transition. Like their New Year’s Eve game (won by then No. 11 Butler 60-58), the game stayed tight throughout. Butler’s Baldwin led the way but St. John’s stepped up with balanced scoring coming from Earlington, junior forward LJ Figuroa and a rejuvenated Johnnies bench.
Final score: St. John’s 62-Butler 59, and the Johnnies advanced to face the winner of Seton Hall vs Villanova.
Most viewed the winner of the Hall vs. ‘Nova game the eventual BIG EAST champion to be rewarded with either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Friday nightcap would not disappoint, as both clubs played their best basketball of the season. Both No. 10 Villanova and No. 15 Seton Hall finished the BIG EAST season at identical 13-5 marks, Nova with a slight edge with their (24-7) regular season mark to the Pirates’ (21-9) mark.
The clubs had split their two BE regular season games with Nova holding the Hall’s All-American and Big East Player of the Year Myles Powell to only 14 points in their March 4 victory. That was not to be the case tonight as Powell exploded for 26 points to lead Seton Hall to a 79-71 win and a right to play for the Big East title on Saturday night at The Garden.
In the final, it was a battle of Seton Hall’s size and overall roster depth vs. St. John’s momentum, defensive determination and ability to force the game’s tempo. The Pirates dominated the boards as 7-2 senior center Romaro Gill and 6-11 junior forward Sando Mamukelashvili (Tblisi) ruled the paint, as undersized Figuroa and sophomore Josh Roberts held on for dear life.
Like their January 18th game, St. John’s was able to force a dozen turnovers in the first half and jumped out to a 43-33 halftime lead. St. John’s usual struggle from the perimeter was a factor as the club hit only two of nine 3-point FG attempts.
In the second half, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard made some adjustments and began pounding the ball into his bigmen, Gill and Mamukelashvili, and the 10-point deficit was cut to two heading into the last five minutes of the tournament.
Powell made a couple key jump shots and Seton Hall led by two with 1:14 left as the Garden rocked with delight.
Earlington countered with two consecutive mid-ranged jumpers of his own and the Johnnie’s led by two, 79-77, with only 19 seconds remaining in the game. The Storm dug-in on defense as Seton Hall inbounded the ball.
Willard considered calling a time-out, as most college coaches would in a similar situation, but as the Hall coach had noted on several occasions during the BIG EAST season, “He gets that look in his eyes.”
Powell took control.
Would he drive to the basket and attempt to tie the score, and maybe get fouled?
Would he penetrate and dish?
Would he go for a high percentage mid-range jumper, the way he had done much of the game and the tournament?
Or, would he roll the dice and isolate for his patented step-back 3-Point FG?
With FOX Sports play-by-play man Gus Johnson on the call and popular commentator Bill Raftery at his side, the clock ticked and the play went down.
St. John’s defended and double-teamed, but Powell was determined to control his team’s destiny without risking a bad pass or deflection. As the clock read :02, Powell criss-crossed at the top of the three-point circle, using a screen set by Quincy McKnight.
Powell stepped back and lofted his shot, its trajectory and success to decide whether St. John’s would earn the automatic NCAA bid as champions or not?
Close your eyes, St. John’s fans.
Did the three-pointer go in?
All I can remember hearing as the Madison Square Garden crowd erupted, was the sound of Raftery’s voice ….
Here Now, The Notes: May the late, great Zelda Spoelstra Rest In Peace. Zelda, one of the true pioneers of the National Basketball Association as a front office worker, is a former John Bunn Award winner which is the highest honor from the Basketball Hall of Fame, outside of Enshrinement. World circulated Friday night and Saturday of Zelda’s passing, and her private family service via NBA cohorts. “She was one of a kind, in the best of ways,” was the common sentiment amongst her friends and coworkers at the NBA … Zelda was the lone surviving “original” NBA (1946) office employee who once worked with the NBA’s first Commissioner, the great Maurice Podoloff.
Boston Bruins and TD Garden facility owners, the Jacobs Family, established a $1.5 million fund for the Boston Bruins and TD Garden part-time game-day associates who will be financially burdened as the remaining regular season Bruins games are not played because of the ongoing crisis and shutdown of all sports and gatherings. … “We thank our associates for their patience and understanding while we work through the complexity of this unprecedented situation,” said a statement from the sports entity. …
The NBA launched a global social engagement campaign aimed at educating, inspiring and helping people respond to the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down the league, sports world and the inner working of nearly every country in the world this season. … The “NBA Together”program will include daily Instagram interviews with players and others in the NBA, educational programs, online content aimed at youth who can’t play with friends and a call for “one million acts of kindness” through volunteering and community activity. … The 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship was canceled, the latest international sporting event to be called off because of the coronavirus pandemic. The competition was scheduled to take place in May in Zurich and Lausanne, Switzerland. … “This is a harsh reality to face for the international ice hockey family, but one that we must accept,” said Rene Fasel, the IIHF president, in a statement. “The coronavirus is a global problem and requires major efforts by government bodies to combat its spread. The IIHF must do all it can to support this fight. We have to set sport aside for now and support both the government bodies and the ice hockey family.” … The IIHF already had canceled the women’s world championship, which was scheduled to start later this month in Canada. Six other IIHF tournaments have been called off, as well. … The men’s world championship isn’t sanctioned by the NHL, but several of the league’s players take part each year once their teams are out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. … Other international events to be canceled or postponed include the Masters Tournament, the French Open (Rolland-Garros), Euro 2020 and the Monaco Grand Prix.
Diamond Dust-Ups: Major League Baseball announced that it has devised a plan that will pay minor league players from Thursday until the scheduled start of the minor league season on April 8. … MLB said it is also working on a plan from April 9 until whenever the season eventually starts. The baseball season is on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak. … “Each player who is under a Minor League Uniform Player Contract will receive a lump sum equal to the allowances that would have been paid through April 8th,” MLB said in a statement. “The exceptions to this plan are non-40-man-roster players who are already receiving Major League allowances; players who are currently receiving housing, food or other services from Clubs; and players who were not participating in, or expected to participate in, Minor League Spring Training.” … Minor league players aren’t highly paid nor are they eligible for unemployment benefits due to being under contract with clubs. The Cleveland Indians said they will be paying their minor leaguers a $400 weekly stipend. … “One of the things we want to make sure we continue to do as an organization is support our players and staff as best as we possibly could,” president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti told reporters on a conference call. “With respect to our minor league guys, we recognize the hardship this could impose upon them and so we wanted to make sure we did our part to try to help them as best as we possibly could, especially in the transition back home.”
MLB also has put together a plan to help pay ballpark workers. Earlier this week, the league announced a $30 million project, with each team donating $1 million toward the cause to pay full and part-time club and stadium workers.
Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black is all for doubling up when Major League Baseball begins the 2020 regular season. With MLB on pause with the rest of the world in response to the coronavirus pandemic, MLB Opening Day was scheduled for March 26. The earliest projected date for the regular season to begin is now mid-May, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said last week. Realistically, it’ll be much longer than that. … Ideas for a shortened season include playing just 81 games, which is half of what would be played in a typical regular season. … Black said he would support regular doubleheaders. … “In theory, yeah, I think all of us would be up for some sort of doubleheader situation,” Black said during a conference call Thursday. “The thing that’s going to be in front of all of us is it’s going to be the same for everybody. It’s got to make sense for the clubs and the players.” … Player safety would certainly be part of that discussion. Black said he advised pitchers not to throw, but to treat this break as they would the start of the offseason.
Digital Sports Desk posts a once-a-week Sunday Notes column entitled: “While We’re Young Ideas.” It’s a throwback of sorts to the days when sportswriting and the baseball beat were the best jobs in the entire sports industry, maybe the entire world. One of those sportswriters was named Dick Young and he wrote “Young Ideas” with a “Diamond Dust” section for a generation of sports fans who enjoyed his notes and quotes. … We continue that tradition with respects to the great New York sportswriter and welcome feedback and suggestions (psst, they call ’em pitches) for mentions within “While We’re Young Ideas” or Digital Sports Desk. Please follow and encourage (at least) another person or two to plug into (@DigSportsDesk) (@WhileYoungIdeas) and (@terrylyons).