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St. John’s women return to WNIT, will host Marist on Thursday

Red Storm achieve sixth postseason bid in as many seasons under coach Tartamella

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Auburn vs St. John's Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a first-round exit from the Big East Conference Tournament, the St. John’s women’s basketball team qualified for the postseason for the 11th straight season.

The Red Storm (16-14) will be making their second consecutive appearance in the WNIT, as revealed in the bracket on Monday. They will open the invitational tournament at Carnesecca Arena against Marist on Thursday night at 7 p.m.

With a victory, St. John’s will play the winner between Penn and Albany in the second round sometime between March 17-20.

St. John’s was an easy selection, since they were the highest-ranked team — fifth overall — not selected for the NCAA Women’s Tournament out of its conference. Seton Hall and Georgetown were also selected to represent the Big East.

“Playing in the postseason is something we hold with very high respect in our program,” St. John’s head coach Joe Tartamella said. “This will be St. John’s 11th straight and it never gets any easier. We are proud to represent the Big East against high level competition as we try to win a championship.”

St. John’s has qualified for postseason play every season under Joe Tartamella, who took over in 2012-13. The Red Storm advanced to the third round of the WNIT last season after defeating Sacred Heart and Harvard at home, but lost at Michigan 60-40.

The team has advanced to the Round of 16 in each of their previous five WNIT appearances.

Marist (20-13) is making their second appearance in the WNIT, their first coming in their previous postseason appearance in 2015, a 67-54 loss in the first round to Temple. The Red Foxes just missed out on an NCAA bid after losing to Quinnipiac in the MAAC Conference Tournament championship

Marist’s lineup features mainly sophomores and juniors. The Red Foxes are led by a pair of sharp-shooting sophomores — Rebekah Hand leads the team with 16.3 PPG and 61 3-pointers made (39.6 percent). Six-footer Alana Gilmer averages 15.8 PPG on a team-best 47.6 percent from the floor and has also blocked 23 shot attempts.

Junior Maura Fitzpatrick (10.7 PPG) leads Marist with 38 steals and redshirt sophomore Grace Vander Weide is tops with 100 total assists and 6.8 rebounds per game.

This is the sixth meeting between the Red Foxes and Red Storm; St. John’s holds a 4-1 edge after winning their prior matchup in November 2015.