It was a mild, but crisp November evening in New York City as I walked to the 169th Street F train station from Carnesseca Arena on Monday night. It was a brand new experience for me, a journey I could've taken almost anywhere in the world. You hardly know you're still in the city as you stroll down the residential Jamaica neighborhood on the appropriately named Homelawn Street. I passed by students, a couple, a man standing at a bus station, and finally Los Teenagers Barbershop. My senses were heightened due to the new experiences. I had never done is before, so who knew what awaited me?
A few hours before, some of the same anxious feelings were probably popping up in the heads of many a young man down in the locker rooms of Carnesseca. A new journey was about to begin for everyone on William & Mary and St. John's, a new season full of hope and promise. The jitters were apparent from the Red Storm at the start. But that was probably to be expected, as they played a rotation that included six players who - while stellar recruits - had never played a Division I game. The Tribe looked prepared. Making your first shot helps, and when Julian Boatner drained his first three-point attempt the game was on.
One thing about a walk through a new place is that you need markers along the way. Signposts that let you know you haven't deviated from the assigned path. For me those were the bus stops of the M31 route that I declined to take in order to embark on my stroll. For most basketball players the media timeouts that come every four minutes provide guidance through the wilderness of the game.
In the first half those markers were friendly for the visitors. 7-6 at the under 16, 12-12 under 12, 27-20 under 8, 30-24 under 4 and 33-26 at half. Through patient offense, 7-21 three-point shooting and packing the paint William & Mary survived until the half. When the Tribe entered the second half to a chorus of boos, it was obvious they had gotten someone's attention.
But early in the second half it was obvious the Tribe had lost their way. The perimeter opportunities that fueled the offense in the opening 20 minutes were gobbled up by the length of the Red Storm. The delicate combination of intensity and patience that W&M had shown all game was matched first by St. John's spark plug Sir'Dominic Pointer, then his teammates, and finally a boisterous home crowd. When God'sgift Achiuwa slammed home a ferocious dunk and the student section started chanting, "God's on our side," the score might've said 51-43, but the game was essentially over.
And while Quinn McDowell would score a game high 20 points, the lead continued to balloon to 15 points and would never go under double-figures again. The Tribe kept fighting, even fouling down 14 with 50 seconds remaining, but it ended 74-59.
And so a single step into the unknown has been taken, a journey ended and another just begun. My walk concluded by descending the subway steps for the long ride back to Manhattan, by then those hopeful young men were probably thinking about how things will go better next time. For the senses are sharp and the body is willing to provide for what's ahead. Luckily for us, we're all walking along with them.
at SAINT JOHN'S 74, WILLIAM & MARY 59 11/07/2011
WILLIAM & MARY 0-1 (0-0) -- Q. McDowell 8-13 0-0 20; J. Boatner 4-12 0-0 12; F. Heldring 1-2 2-2 4; B. Britt 2-8 0-0 5; M. Thornton 1-5 2-2 5; K. Brown 3-3 0-0 6; M. Rum 3-5 0-0 7; A. Pavloff 0-0 0-0 0; T. Schalk 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-48 4-4 59. SAINT JOHN'S 1-0 (0-0) -- G. Achiuwa 6-11 5-7 17; M. Harkless 7-17 2-6 17; D. Harrison 5-11 2-3 14; N. Lindsey 8-12 3-8 19; S. Pointer 2-3 0-1 5; M. Stith 1-1 0-0 2; P. Greene 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 29-59 12-25 74.
Three-point goals: CWM 11-32 (Q. McDowell 4-8; M. Rum 1-3; J. Boatner 4-12; B. Britt 1-5; M. Thornton 1-4), STJ 4-15 (P. Greene 0-2; M. Harkless 1-3; N. Lindsey 0-2; D. Harrison 2-7; S. Pointer 1-1); Rebounds: CWM 29 (Q. McDowell 8), STJ 26 (G. Achiuwa 9); Assists: CWM 13 (K. Brown 4), STJ 13 (M. Harkless 4); Total Fouls -- CWM 19, STJ 12; Fouled Out: CWM-None; STJ-None.