St. John’s Falls To Virginia Tech In Aeropostale Holiday Festival Tournament, 54-48
By Richard Kagan
With seven freshmen playing at Madison Square Garden, considered by basketball brethren as the “mecca of college basketball”—the moment had to be somewhat intimidating. St. John’s Red Storm had a few scant hours of sleep before playing against a foe from the Atlantic Coast Conference, one of the strongest in the nation, for the Holiday Festival Title. The Aeropostale Holiday Festival Tournament was played Dec. 28th and 29th.
“I knew our freshman would be a little nervous playing for the first time in the Garden,” Roberts said. Virginia Tech made the shots when it count and won the Championship game 54-48.
The Johnnies (6-5) fought tooth and nail with the Hokies (8-5) in the first half coming out with a slim 22-21 half-time lead.
And, then, in the one of the strangest 2nd Halves in recent Garden memory, St. John’s couldn’t make a basket. Shots went in and out of the basket. An easy shot, that was sure to go in, didn’t. Balls bounced off the rim, bounced up and down and out. And, the futility went on—for over 10 minutes, when Anthony Mason finally scored down in the paint among a flurry of players with 9:12 to play. Amazingly, The Red Storm were only down six points, at 34-28.
And, a few minutes later, when Sophomore Guard Larry Wright hit two free throws, he brought the Red Storm to within two points of tying the game, at 34-32. But down by two is as close as St. John’s would get the rest of the game, as they had great trouble shooting the ball. They shot an anemic 19% in the 2nd half, and 36% for the game.
“Let’s face it, the game was ugly,” Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “We were just a little less ugly than they were.”
Greenberg, talked about buying a pretzel and soda as a youngster and seeing the Holiday Festival at the old Garden. He knew its history and said this was the premier Holiday Tournament before college basketball exploded on the sports scene.
Both teams had 20 Turnovers, both teams shot poorly. “We were fortunate to make a couple of more shots,” Greenberg said. Junior guard A.D. Vassallo, scored 16 points to earn Most Valuable Player of the Tournament.
Both teams’ defensive effort kept their club in the game. “I thought both teams did a terrific job defensively,” said Greenberg.
Coach Roberts felt good about his team despite the poor performance on offense. “It’s a great learning experience for our guys,” he said.
St. Johns 62-Marist 59
The Johnnies won a thriller in a close, hard fought game, in which neither team backed down. St. John’s was able to ride the hot hand of Anthony Mason, Jr. (12 points), the energy of Center Tomas Jasiulionis (12 points), and a late key basket by senior guard Eugene Lawrence, to emerge victorious.
Marist won 25 games last season and become a force in the MAAC. Coached by Matt Brady, the Red Foxes figure to be competitive with their two fine guards, Jay Gavin and Louie McCroskey, a transfer from Syracuse.
In this game, St. Johns went ahead by as many as 11 points at 57-46. But Marist, refused to cave in and they roared back behind some hot shooting to tie the game at 57 all.
Credit senior Eugene Lawrence with a big hoop. Lawrence had the ball at the top of key and drove in and scooped the ball into the net for a 59-57 basket that broke the tie, with just 1:21 to play. The Red Storm held on in the final minute to preserve the win.
Coach Roberts praised Lawrence on the play. “It was a huge shot,” Roberts noted. “Geno had driven there a couple of times and they backed off. He continued to go in there and finished the play which was awesome for him to do so.” Anthony Mason Jr. was named to the All- Tournament team. Marist guard, Louie McCroskey was also named to the All-Tournament team.#