NEW YORK — They like surprise endings on Broadway. At St. John's Alumni Hall in nearby Queens, they'll opt for the expected.
Loyola Marymount tried a last-minute revision of the script Sunday, but in the end did what 25 previous basketball teams have done against St. John's in the season-opening Lapchick Memorial Tournament: The Lions lost, 88-85.
Despite a wild ending in which Loyola launched a potential game-tying three-point shot at the buzzer, the Lions fell to 1-1 and St. John's won its 13th straight Lapchick title before a sellout crowd of 6,008.
Loyola overcame a nine-point deficit in the first half to take a 40-39 lead, but was down at the half, 44-40.
However, with Shelton Jones, tournament most valuable player, playing strong inside and Greg (Boo) Harvey, all-tournament point guard, adding 14 second-half points, St. John's built late leads that reached 75-65. It was 85-78 with only two minutes to go when the plot thickened.
Two free throws by Hank Gathers, a clutch 17-footer by Mark Armstrong and another jumper by Jeff Fryer cut the lead to one with 38 seconds left.
Michael Porter, St. John's guard, was fouled with 15 seconds left. He made one free throw, missed the second and then followed with the play of the game.
Gathers rebounded and passed to guard Corey Gaines near the left sideline. But Porter sneaked in from behind, stole the ball and scored a layup to make the score 88-84 with six seconds left.
"I was looking at the clock," Gaines said. "I saw him coming out of the corner of my eye, but usually he comes up for token pressure. He caught me by surprise."
But an unusual call gave Loyola another chance. St. John's forward Matt Brust received a technical foul for interfering with the ball. After Porter scored, Brust picked up the ball and walked away with it, delaying the game and Loyola's chances to grab it and put it in bounds quickly. For that, the officials gave Loyola two free throws and possession.
Mike Yoest made one of the foul shots for the last of his 22 points, then Loyola set up a play for Fryer, their best outside shooter. Fryer got a shot off from three-point range, but missed the rim completely.
Loyola Coach Paul Westhead said he would have called the same play whether it was a two-point or three-point margin.
"We were going to shoot the three," he said. "We're that style. It's a shot we practice. We got what we wanted. We'd do it again if we had another six seconds."
Brust's technical was one of three of that variety St. John's had in the game. Brust had one other and Jones the third, each serving to slow down attempts by Loyola to get its fast break off to a running start.
Brust also had a technical for hanging on the rim, giving him three technicals for the game and giving Loyola a total of seven free-throw attempts from technicals, of which they missed three. Interestingly, that was the game's final point margin.
Before the game, Lou Carnesecca, St. John's coach, spoke in glowing terms of Loyola's fastbreak. Afterward, he denied that he had instructed his team to take delaying measures after baskets to slow the Lions down.
"You can't practice for that," Carnesecca said. "I'm not that smart. I don't know how strict an interpretation that is. I think in maybe 1,000 games I've had that happen once before."
Loyola had its chances, but missed 10 free throws and shot only 38% in the first half.
The Redmen shot 63% in the second half and had a decided advantage inside, where Jones accounted for 25 points and 16 rebounds and Brust, not normally a scorer, added 16 points and 8 rebounds. St. John's had a 42-33 advantage on the boards. Harvey, the Redmen's new point guard, had 18 points. He and Porter received all-tournament honors.
For Loyola, Gathers finished with 24 points, 18 in the second half, and 10 rebounds. Gaines scored 20 points and added 5 assists. Both were named to the all-tournament team.