Holiday Festival – Part II: A Late St. John’s Rally Beats Hofstra
The college portion of the day wrapped up with St. John’s reclaiming bragging rights for the city after Hofstra had claimed dominance for Long Island by winning the four previous meeting between the schools during the 2003-04 and 2006-07 seasons.
The last of those wins came in the 2006 Holiday Festival title game, and things were headed that way again late in the second half of in this year’s Festival, as Hofstra (7-4) led 59-54, with 6:57 left in the game.
That’s when St. John’s (9-1) closed the game on an 18-1 run, while the Pride missed its final 12 shots from the field, in an eventual 72-60 Red Storm victory.
The contest began as a game of streaks.
Unlike the most recent meetings between the New York City area schools, St. John’s started fast, jumping out to a 10-2 lead 2:49 into the game.
Hofstra quickly got back in the game however, as four different Pride players scored during a 9-2 run that pulled Hofstra to within 12-11, 2:43 later.
St. John’s then responded with seven straight points, five by junior Bronx guard Dwight Hardy, to lead 19-11 with 10:17 remaining in the opening half.
A three-point field goal by Hardy (17 points, 6-12 fg, 3-6 3-pt. fg) later pushed the lead to 24-15, but junior Springfield Gardens guard, Colonial Athletic Association co-preseason Player of the Year, Charles Jenkins (game-high 24 points, 9-22 fg, 3-6 3-pt. fg) scored four points to key a run of nine straight points by the Pride to tie the game at 24-all with 6:14 remaining in the opening half.
St. John’s would increase its lead to as much 34-29 in the first half, but Jenkins finished the half with 16 points to help keep Hofstra close, as the Pride trailed just 37-36 at halftime.
Hofstra notched the first eight points after halftime, with freshman point guard Chaz Williams (14 points, 7 assists, 1 turnover) and junior guard Nathaniel Lester (7 points) scoring four points each, to give the Pride its biggest lead of the game, 44-37, 3:10 into the second half.
The Red Storm scored the next seven points to tie the game at 44-all, and it stayed close until Jenkins made a three-pointer from the top of the left wing off of a screen, to put Hofstra a five-point edge.
But, with Williams earlier picking up his fourth foul after helping Jenkins to carry Hofstra, the Pride’s offense dried up, and it managed just one free throw, and nothing from the field in the final 6:57.
Hofstra head coach Tom Pecora said, “I thought the two keys were Chaz Williams picking up his fourth foul because he was dominating the game offensively… and we had to sit him… and that took the wind out of our sails.”
But, Pecora also credited the St. John’s defense, saying “Give St. John’s credit. I think they did a wonderful job. They had a good defensive scheme set up.
Red Storm head coach Norm Roberts noted, “We had to lock down defensively and we did do that… I was really happy with the performance because we had to gut it out.”
Junior guard D.J. Kennedy (19 points) and Queens guard Malik Boothe (8 points) led St. John’s down the stretch. Kennedy scored eight points, and Boothe had six, each mostly on free throws, as Hofstra tried desperately to get back in the game by fouling, during the Red Storm’s game-closing 18-1 run.
Kennedy said it was important for St. John’s to finally beat Hofstra again. “I know Hofstra had won the previous four games,” he said. “So, we wanted to get that off our back and off the program. It was a big win for us… Hofstra is a great team, but I definitely feel like we are going in the right direction.”