by Josh Adams
New York, NY- The season and the dreams of St. John’s hoops fans hasn’t ended yet. In fact a season that has seen an 0-11 start to conference play followed by a week that saw the Red Storm conquer both Duke and Villanova consecutively shouldn’t end yet. After sitting out the previous two games, Shamorie Ponds returned to the Red Storm lineup and gave the fans at Madison Square Garden 26 points as this season of extremes continues on Thursday as the Johnnies fanbase left the Garden extremely happy with a win over longtime rival Georgetown in the first round of the Big East Tournament.
The story for St. John’s on Wednesday was not just the play of Ponds but how much Justin Simon and Marvin Clark II have become clutch in Ponds absence. As Ponds rested on the bench, Simon spurred on a 8-0 run for the Red Storm at the beginning of the second half. Clark was filthy down the stretch for St. John’s, scoring 16 points with 11 of those points coming in the second half as the Red Storm extended their lead.
Georgetown led for the bulk of the first half thanks to the play of Jesse Govan. The Hoyas center had 20 points at halftime as the Red Storm could not contain him in the interior. Govan’s running mate, Marcus Derrickson, was almost equally as good, scoring 12 points in the first half on 4/5 from the field. The Hoyas had a 48-42 lead at the half as the fans of this old-school Big East rivalry started to get loud like in tournament’s past.
Ponds proved once again why his selection as all first team Big Team was a no-brainier. The sophomore from NYC entertained his home city with a variety of runners and drives to the rim that left most of the Hoyas defenders flat-footed. What Ponds brings to the team as well is swagger. “Our mindset going into the Big East Tournament is one game at a time.”, said Ponds after the win, “We know we can do it.”
The return of Patrick Ewing to coach his alma-mater was viewed as a risky hire but his team showed improvement throughout the season. Govan showed marked improvement and Ewing can use him as a catalyst to show high-school centers that he knows how to develop them into excellent college players and possibly future pros. Neither coach, Ewing of St. John’s Coach Chris Mullin wanted to wax nostalgia about their playing days in the tournament but it gave fans of both schools a thrill to see them both associated with their schools and the conference. While Mullin moves on to have his team play in the early tilt on Thursday, he did muse a little about the wars he and Ewing had on the same floor as college players. “The biggest difference is we’re friends now and back then we weren’t.”, said Mullin. ” There was no goofing back then. Tonight I saw him take his tie off. I (jokingly) asked him what he was doing. He said he was hot.”
It was fitting that both Mullin and Ewing could battle one more time this season in an arena that holds so many dear memories for them both. Well, Mullin seemed to have some muscle memory about going against Ewing as player. “I rather coach against him (Ewing) than play against him.”, Mullin mused, “It’s a lot easier on my body.”
The next challenge for St. John’s will be at noon on Thursday against #3 Xavier. Almost no one outside of Queens expects the Red Storm to win but Johnnies fans know that this season has had a lifetime worth of up’s and down’s. An upset victory tomorrow and all bets are off. Either way, the buildings around Madison Square Garden echoed with the fans chanting, “Let’s go Johnnies!”, after Wednesday night’s win. I imagine the same way they did in 1986 as Mullin and Ewing were leaving the same arena as rivals, for life.
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