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Smith, McKenith leave Storm in good shape

St. John's Shenneika Smith (35) reacts during the

St. John's Shenneika Smith (35) reacts during the second half of a first-round game in the women's NCAA college basketball tournament against Dayton. (March 24, 2013) (Credit: AP)

St. John’s 96-90 double overtime loss to Dayton in a NCAA first-round game was tough to take, but the legacy left by senior guards Shenneika Smith and Nadirah McKenith is still intact.

Four tournament appearances in four years: Outside of Eugeneia McPherson, who couldn’t play in Sunday’s game because of a torn ACL, no other women’s player in Red Storm history can make that claim.

“We’ve come a long way from our freshman year, up until now,” said Smith. “I feel like every year we have continued to build this program, bringing in some great kids to help us and with us being the veterans, I feel like the program will continue to grow.”

McKenith, who ended her career as the program’s all-time leader in assists, agreed.

“When our class first game in, we came from winning programs,” said the New Jersey native. “So all we wanted to do when we stepped foot in St. John’s was to come to the program, make a name for ourselves, win some games for the program and try to get the program on the map.”

Those goals were all accomplished. Smith and McKenith went a combined 4-4 in eight tournament games. The duo won at least one game in each of their first three seasons. That includes a trip to the Sweet 16 last season. The program had reached the tournament just four times prior top the duos arrival.

This isn’t likely to be the end of St. John’s as far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned.

The Red Storm returns all but Smith and McKenith next season. McPherson, Amber Thompson, Aliyyah Handford, Briana Brown, Ashley Perez, Mary Nwachukwu and Keylantra Langley, all key players, will be back at Carnesecca next season.

Perez had 17 points, Thompson had 13 points and seven rebounds and Aliyyah Handford, a freshman, had 15 points against Dayton. Those numbers bode well for first-year coach Joe Tartamella and the future of the program.

The Big East will have a different look next season, but St. John's will be just as much a factor.