Coaches don’t like getting too far ahead of things, but St. John’s Joe Tartamella is well aware of what his team is striving for. After beating Georgetown 66-63 on Sunday for their sixth straight win, the Red Storm have taken another step toward a fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and sixth in nine seasons.
St. John’s (14-5, 7-1 Big East), thanks to a balanced scoring attack led by Aliyyah Hanford (16.8), Danaejah Grant (11.4), Briana Brown (9.7) and North Babylon graduate Eugeneia McPherson (9.0), have surged to the top of the Big East standings.
Despite four-plus weeks of stellar play with his team winning nine of 10 games, which included a bing win over Texas A&M, Tartamella isn’t ready to start booking flights yet, though.
“We go game by game. We stay focused on what’s at hand and what’s next and we have to continue to fight and move forward,” the coach said in the post-game press conference. “Our focus and energy still has to be the same and probably even more refined.”
I think our players know what they’re striving for and they know what their goal is and they’re living it now and trying to put this together to make sure that we finish strong.”
Balanced scoring isn’t the only facet of the game the Red Storm has exceled in. Winning close games has become the norm lately. St. John’s has won seven games by five points or less and five other games with a margin of victory from seven to 10 points.
The poise shown by the team can be attributed to the play of Eugeneia McPherson, a fifth-year senior, senior guards Keylantra Langley and Briana Brown and junior forward Amber Thompson. All four players have made at least two trips to the NCAA Tournament.
“We have experienced players, younger players and transfers such as Danaejah Grant, and they have all stepped up,” McPherson said in the post-game presser. “The younger players keep us together since we’re a young team. As long as we can keep our heads in the game, we’ll be good.”