It wasn’t pretty in the opener of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival opener between the St. Johns Red Storm (8-3) and the Columbia Lions (7-5) at the Barclay’s Center. In the end the Red Storm showed advantages in athleticism that ultimately covered their errors en route to a far from routine 65-59 victory.
Led by D’Angelo Harrison’s 15 points, four boards, and two assists, St. John’s weathered four lead changes, three ties, and 50% percent shooting from the three by the Lions. They were not overconfident as they knew what they were up against.
Harrison explained. “We know they were a great team and we scouted them well.”
Early on it looked like St. John’s was waiting for their moment. They had difficulties with the Lion zone but a Harrison three made it 10-5. Columbia guards could not break down the Red Storm but they worked the pick and roll and found unique ways like a beautiful long bounce pass to the post that Alex Rosenberg caught on the first bounce leading to a driving foul cutting it to a five point deficit. St. Johns shooting percentage was awful early as they missed 9 of heir first 11 attempts. The pace was Columbia’s and when Alex Rosenberg two freebies made it 14 to 11 with 12:24 left. The Storm, which will be starting Big East play was able to learn something useful from this contest. “A couple of teams in the Big East run some of the principles of this offense so it was good to see early.” De Angelo shared. “Covering back cuts and stuff like that. We’re going to get better at that.”
St.Johns took over for a stretch getting steals, five in the first half which led to scores. Sanchez had a three point play and JaKar Sampson scored inside to increase to a 22-14 lead. But guard Grant Mullins served notice that things would not be easy as he drained two three pointers for ten points even tying the game at 26 and one point while feeding the low post game of Luke Petrasek who got 7 points and punctuated one drive with a left handed tomahawk dunk to cut it to six. “We have to start in the beginning, not the last five minutes.” Sanchez said in response to why the Storm needs to be pushed to respond. But the Storm big men saw red as God’sgift Achiuwa tallied five points and Orlando Sanchez second efforts netted him 4 points and 4 boards. Rysheed Jordan popped for 6 of his own as the Red Storm left at the half leading 37-30.
A great individual effort from Orlando Sanchez, the 6-9 forward from Nagua in the Dominican Republic, who stole a ball in the blocks, ran the break, and after a three point miss dunked it back in. This ignited the Storm perimeter defense as they broke out to a ten point lead within three minutes. When Pointer found Harrison for a nifty layup it seemed over at 45-32. “There has to be a sense of urgency for each and every possession.” Harrison explained.
But Columbia showed the resiliency they showed in nearly upending Michigan State earlier in the season as Mullins hit a three, then followed with a driving reverse layup up as he slide across the floor after in triumph. Guard Maodo Lo followed with a lay up and suddenly it was a one point game Rosenberg drove left and spinned right for a twisting layup score and foul and suddenly it was even. And with the free throw columbia was 51-50 up. A three point shot was heaved but missed but Sanchez saved the day with a rebound and power layup with both hands to regain lead with 6:27 left.
It fell apart from there. Lo made a brave attempt on a drive but was stopped and a disputable foul at other end made it 53-51. Jakarr Sampson stole a pass and ran scored on the break to turn it around again and with St. Johns up 55-51 the defense forced Rosenberg into a bad shot. D’Angelo, closed it out with dribble drive along the baseline and layup through the block attempts of the Lion big men for a six point edge and less than five minutes on clock. A missed three by Mullin was followed by foul at other side and the Lions had that look of desperation suddenly.
It would have been over but for St. Johns poor shooting and inconstent free throws which kept the lions around and Meiko Lyle hit a three and with a minute to play to make it 60-56 but Pointer’s Monroe-ish up and down drive clinched it for three point play and 63-56 edge with 38 seconds left. Meiko’s second three made it a four point game with 15 seconds left and a one on one foul on Harrison saw him hit both to seal it 65-59 as Myles attempt at a trifecta was out of his ability as it hit the rim. The final tally St. Johns 65 columbia 59. Despite the turnovers as D’Angelo explained, there were positives. “We’re really in a great place.We’re all sharing the ball.” Harrison refected. “Sometimes as coach (Lavin) says, sometimes you have to shoot, you cant pass when your wild in the legs. I like where we’re we are.”