St. John’s Edges Aggies at MSG 72-70, on a Tie-breaking Basket with Two Seconds Remaining

Howard Goldin

New York, NY---The opening game of the 8th annual Maggie Dixon Classic was a fascinating battle between the St. John’s Red Storm (6-4) and the Texas a& M Aggies (7-4) that was not decided until the final two seconds. With the game tied for the sixth time of the afternoon, sophomore Aliyyah Handford moved through the middle of the court unimpeded to sink a layup, her 11th basket of the game. Although the veteran coach of the Aggies a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, believed she walked with the basketball, he felt his team and not the referees deserved the blame. The courtly Southern gentleman remarked, “We let her split us like we did all game.”

The Red Storm and #24 ranked Aggies had never previously met. The setting, Madison Square Garden, and the occasion, the Maggie Dixon Classic, added the importance and the pressure on the teams.

The visitors led by five, 7-2, at 17:29, which turned out to be their largest lead of the contest. A tie at 20, at 8:39, the fourth of the game, was broken by seven unanswered points by the Red Storm. Handford’s final four points of the half gave her team a 33-30 advantage at the half. She scored more than half of her team’s points (18) during the half. The back and forth nature of the half was reflected by the 12 lead changes and the four ties.

The second half was quite competitive, but the Red Storm never fell behind. The Aggies came as close as one point behind but did not knot the score until 42 seconds were left to play. After the Johnnies edged ahead, the contest was tied for the six and final time with 29 seconds on the clock. Handford’s unimpeded basket clinched the victory with two ticks left on the clock.

The heroine led all scorers with 27 points. She remarked after the contest concluded, “I just came out and played hard and my teammates helped me a lot just getting up the floor.”

Blair was very critical of his team’s play, “We got outplayed the last 35 minutes of the ball game...The mistakes we’re making against the zone defense-it’s just poor decisions…They [St. John’s] shot 61% in the second half.”

Red Storm coach John Tartamella discussed answers the game gave him regarding questions he had regarding his team, “The way we were able to stay ahead or come back, finish the game, answer their runs, convert at the end of the game from the free throw line.”