Red Storm Buries Rams

Howard Goldin

New York, NY---For more than a half century, Madison Square Garden has presented college basketball doubleheaders for New Yorkers to enjoy during the holiday season. The tradition continued on December 7, 2013 as more than 10,000 basketball fans came to the iconic basketball venue in New York City.

The opening contest, beginning at an uncharacteristic basketball game time of 11 am, pitted the LaSalle Explorers (5-4), a Sweet Sixteen team in last season’s NCAA Tournament, against the Stony Brook Seawolves (6-4).

The game can appropriately be described, in the words of too many sportswriters, as “a tale of two halves”. The game was competitively played in the early minutes. After the Explorers reached their highest lead of the first half, 9-6, the Seawolves executed a 19-5 scoring run to take the first double digit advantage with 5:06 remaining until halftime. A shooting differential of 51.9 % for Stony Brook to 26.7% for LaSalle accounted for the 31-22 lead for the Seawolves at the half.

It took 10 minutes of the second half for the Explorers to again take the lead, 42-41, but on this occasion they remained ahead for the rest of the game. Not only did they outshoot their foes but they amassed 25 of their 42 second half points from the charity stripe. Their final 11 points were scored on free throws, which gave them a 67-58 win.

Jameel Warney, who paced the losers with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, cited reasons for the defeat, “We played 20 minutes. We need some effort from everybody. We lost energy at the defensive end.’’

Between games, five “Legends” were presented with Lifetime Achievement Awards from the ECAC for their many years of service to college basketball. Two former coaches of the Fordham Rams, Tom Penders (1978-86) and Nick Macarchuk (1987-99), were among the distinguished honorees.

The second game was a treat for aficionados of local basketball. In a hallowed venue in Manhattan, the St. John’s Red Storm (6-2) from Queens faced the Fordham Rams (4-3) from the Bronx, which had three starting players, Brendan Frazier, Bryan Smith and Jon Severe, who are natives of Brooklyn. Many believed it would be a close contest for supremacy between the two top New York City Division 1 teams, but what the game turned out to be was far different than a close game.

The mood was set in the first two minutes as the Red Storm scored the first seven points. A three by heralded freshman Jon Severe of Fordham started a run of eight unanswered points by the Rams to produce their only lead of the game. Although last year’s #1 New York State Player of the year in high school and Fordham’s leading scorer this season netted his first shot in his first game at MSG, he missed his next 20 attempts.

After the contest, Severe’s coach, Tom Pecora, assessed the young star of the present and future, “It’s all part of the learning curve for a freshman, no matter how good they are, there’s a growth cycle there. He’s got to experience a big arena, a big team…A day like this will help him prepare for some of the better teams as we move forward.”

A 17-6 scoring run culminated by a basket and free throw by Orlando Sanchez gave the Red Storm its first double digit advantage of the afternoon at 10:28. Pinpoint accuracy from the floor and smothering defense raised the St. John’s lead to 20, 52-32, when the first half concluded. During one stretch of more than 12 minutes, the Red Storm converted 17 straight shots from the floor.

During the half, the Johnnies were successful in their shots for an unheard of 78.6% (22 of 28) while holding the Rams to a puny 25.6% (11 of 43). Fordham’s control of the offensive boards, 14-2, allowed them 15 more shots in the half than St. John’s, but the seeming advantage was nullified by their poor shooting.

Although the shooting percentage of the Johnnies fell back to believable (54.6%), that of the Rams declined to 21.6%. During one 12 minute duration, the Red Storm outscored Fordham 40-11 to raise the lead to a game high 48. The final score was 104-58.

The contributors to the one-sided victory were many. Eleven Red Storm players were on court for double figures of minutes while four of the Rams played at least 37 minutes each. Five St. John’s players scored in double digits.

Two who played junior college ball at Monroe College of Bronx/New Rochelle had breakout games. A native of France, Marco Bourgault had only been on court for five minutes during four previous contests this year. On Saturday, he drained all three shots he took, all from beyond the arc.

Orlando Sanchez of the Dominican Republic, the victim of one of the many NCAA technicalities, has been limited to only one year at St. John’s in addition to the two he played for Monroe. He was the leading scorer of the game with 19 and also had eight boards and four assists. Coach Lavin spoke of his varied abilities, “Orlando showed his versatility for a player his size (6-9), blocking shots, rebounding, passing with his back to the basket and throwing down 3’s.”

Sophomore JaKarr Sampson, who scored 12 on 6 of 6 from the floor commented, “Orlando had his coming out party today.” He spoke of how enjoyable it was to see that, “It’s fun to watch your teammates play good and cheer.”

Another very impressive performance in all aspects of the sport was that of Sir’ Dominic Pointer, who was one rebound short of a triple-double. Pointer scored 12, passed for 11 assists, grabbed 9 boards, blocked 3 shots and stole the ball 4 times.

Steve Lavin, the coach of St. John’s realistically commented, “I doubt we will play another game like this for the rest of the year. I thought today was a step in the right direction. We’re a couple of months from hitting our stride.”

Coach Pecora had no doubt his team faced an outstanding team, “They shot well. If they shoot the ball like that, they’re going to be a hard team to beat for a lot of people. I thought they played with great energy. They always defend. They rebound the basketball.”

The next game for the Red Storm will be at MSG against #4 ranked Syracuse on December 15. Fordham will visit Colgate on December 10 and return to the Bronx on December 14 to face Howard University.