By Five Boro Sports
Monique McLean looked stuck. She had already given up her dribble at the free throw line and even tried a pump fake on her defender, forcing the senior to dig into her bag of trick shots.
With the score tied and 20 seconds remaining, the senior slipped her shoulder around the defender and tossed in a one-handed leaner that gave the St. John’s women’s basketball team the lead for good.
“I was just telling Coach [Kim Barnes Arico after the game] that I practice that shot,” McLean said. “You never know when you have to use it.”
On the ensuing possession she stole the ball and then knocked down two free throws to seal St. John’s 52-48 non-conference win over Monmouth at Carnesecca Arena Wednesday night. The win gives the Red Storm its first 7-0 start since 2005-06, when the team made the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“Mo made some big plays down the end to pull out the victory,” Barnes Arico said. “That was big time.”
What made McLean’s late game heroics even more impressive was she, along with her teammates, struggled from the field for most of the evening. She shot just 4-of-15 from the field to finish with 12 points and also grabbed six rebounds.
“I was not playing that well, but at the end I knew it was crunch time,” she said. “So I just tried to forget about it and try to take over,”
The Red Storm shot just 36 percent from the field, allowing Monmouth (4-2) to stay close and eventually erase an 11-point second half deficit. The Hawks took their first lead, 48-47, on Jennifer Bender’s three-point play that capped a 12-0 run with 1:16 left.
St. John’s had done an excellent defensive job the majority of the game in cutting off Monmouth’s driving lanes and making life difficult for top scorers LaKia Barber and Bender. But late in the second half, the Hawks began knocking down short jumpers and three-pointers, even with the shot clock winding down. Barber had 13 points and Bender added 12.
“Our game plan was to play them for the drive, but at three seconds left, we still need to try to get out on the shot,” Barnes Arico said. “That was the only thing they had and they made them.”
The Red Storm took a 47-36 lead thanks to two straight baskets from Da’ Shena Stevens. The freshman finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, her third straight double-digit scoring effort.
“I’m getting more comfortable as the season goes on and knowing my role better,” she said. “My teammates are helping me to continue to adjust.”
Stevens scored four straight points to give the Red Storm a 19-11 lead with 5:52 left in the first half, after Sky Lidsay’s two layups broke St. John’s out of a 7:00 first half scoring draught.
Barnes Arico attributed the overall poor shooting to Monmouth forcing the ball out of McLean and Kelly McManmon’s hands and forcing others to score.
The Red Storm, however, certainly has to do better when they visit No. 10. Baylor Saturday night.
“They know. They know,” Barnes Arico said. “They know they have their work cut out for them.”