St. John’s backup point guard Malik Stith (above).

St. John’s parlayed a first round overtime victory over Ball St. 78-73 into an impressive start to finish, 82-39 thumping of Drake in the semi-finals, and then stormed Arizona St. in the final 6 minutes of the Shootout final, for a rousing 67-58 win.  Down 51-45 with 6 minutes left, St. John’s guard Paris Horne got to the line where he made 1 of 2 free throws.  The diminutive Malik Boothe drew an over the back foul on the miss, and then Boothe went to the line and made 1 of 2 to cut the lead to 4.  Horne grabbed the offensive board on Boothe’s miss and converted an easy put back, cutting the lead down to 51-49.  Off the inbounds play, Stith stole the pass and converted a layup which drew St. John’s even, and then the Jhonnies applied full court pressure which led to another Stith steal, who set up Justin Brownlee for an easy dunk.

Brownlee had 20 points on the night and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.  St. John’s small lineup that consisted of 2 point guards (Stith and Boothe), guard Paris Horne, guard Dwight Hardy, and Brownlee put Arizona St. on lock in the last 6 minutes, limiting the Aztecs to 7 points the rest of the way.  Stith converted an improbable 3-pointer to stretch St. John’s lead to 58-53 with 2:00 minutes to play.  In addition to Brownlee, seniors Dwight Kennedy and D.J. Hardy also made the 2010 All Great Alaska Shoutout Team. 

Heralded freshman Dwayne Polee had a modest tournament and has been replaced for the moment in the starting lineup, though it was obviously the smaller lineup on the floor at the end of Sunday morning’s game that has proven most effective for St. John’s.  You have to like the intensity that St. John’s brought to Alaska, especially in the closing minutes against Ball St. and overtime, and dowwn the stretch versus ASU.  While the offense has looked dodgy at best and the free throw shooting has been woeful, it is clear that Lavin’s bunch is ready to compete defensively.

St. John’s (4-1) plays Wagner Wednesday night at Carnesecca.

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