By Richard Kagan
What started out looking like a potential blowout; became a close game in the second half as Butler University fought hard, coming all the way back from an 18-point deficit. But host St. John's had the last flurry of points in the game, to edge a determined Butler University squad, making its first visit to the St. John's Queens' campus. The Red Storm made key plays down the stretch to fend off Butler's second-half plucky effort that saw it take a 50-48 late lead with 3:40 to play. Red Storm senior, Briana Brown and Sophomore Aliyyah Handford, came through late in the game to nail down the 58-55 victory, before over 4,000 school children on Field Trip Day held on January 15th. The youngsters arrived from the five boroughs and Long Island, to cheer on the Red Storm and enjoy the festivities.
St. John's improved to 11-5 for the season and 3-1 in Big East Conference play. Butler fell to 7-10, 2-4 in its first season as a Big East Conference member. The students and the Red Storm came out winners on this day. And, Butler had a stirring second-half after scoring just 17 points in the first twenty minutes.
"Obviously, we're excited about coming away with a win today," said head coach Joe Tartamella.
The Bulldogs outscored SJU 38-23 to take a 50-48 lead but the Red Storm made got a steal by Handford and some big baskets by her to seal the win. Mr. Galanty's fourth grade class from P.S. 120 in Queens was on hand to cheer on the home team. He chaperoned his students who seemed a bit awed to be sitting in a large setting. "It seems like they're having fun," he said.
Kaliantra Hoffman, 9, from Corona, sat near Mr. Galanty, and was beaming with joy. She enjoyed watching the cheerleaders and the dance team. Asked how it was being at the game, she replied, "It's awesome."
The St. John's players were not immune to the enthusiastic cheers from the crowd.
"So many kids out there, it was a great feeling," said Brown. Briana made some clutch free throws in the final minutes to secure the win. Brown scored 16 points, 12 in the first half. Handford had 14, and Sophomore Danaejah Grant had 11 points coming off the bench. The Red Storm had a 35-17 half-time lead that evaporated when the Bulldogs went on a 14-2 run to get back in the game, trailing by 3 at 39-36.
Guard Taylor Schippers played great in the second half for Butler scoring 17 of her 18 game high points. When Butler took a 50-48 lead late in the game, Schippers thought her team was right there. "We thought we were in the game," Schippers said. "We could have won it."
But the Red Storm took the challenge and made their own push, getting the key steal rebounds, and points to come away with its fourth Conference win.
Butler coach Beth Couture knew St. John's would be a tough opponent. "St. John's is really good, if not the best team in the Big East," said Couture.#