2003 NIT 2003 NIT

Updated: Friday, April 4, 2003 12:35 AM EST
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St John's 70, Georgetown 67
Georgetown Hoyas
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St. John's (NY) Red Storm
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NEW YORK (Ticker) -- St. John's put its home-court advantage to good use and capped an unlikely late-season run in style.

The Red Storm captured their sixth National Invitation Tournament title and first since 1989, holding on for a 70-67 victory over Georgetown in an all-Big East Conference final at Madison Square Garden.

At the final buzzer, St. John's fans stormed the court as "New York, New York" played over the loudspeakers.

In late February, the Red Storm were in jeopardy of being shut out of postseason play at 12-12. But they won nine of their last 10 games, starting with a 72-71 upset of Duke.

"Anytime you win your last game, it's kind of special," St. John's coach Mike Jarvis said. "The good news is, you're a champion. The bad news is, there's no practice tomorrow."

Marcus Hatten finally won a championship in his final game at St. John's (21-13), scoring 22 points, including a free throw that snapped a 67-67 tie with 1:13 left.

"It's started in the Big East tournament," Hatten said, referring to a first-round win over Notre Dame. "We wanted to run the table. Then we were in the NIT. I'm happy we won a championship. It's everything that I could imagine."

After calling timeout with 10 seconds remaining, Georgetown (19-15) elected not to pound the ball inside to big man Mike Sweetney, who led the Hoyas with 25 points and nine rebounds.

Instead, Gerald Riley missed an off-balance 3-pointer from the top of the key and Grady Reynolds called timeout for the Red Storm after grabbing his 14th rebound with four seconds left.

Reynolds also contributed 13 points.

"Gerald is somebody that I wanted to take the shot," Georgetown coach Craig Esherick said. "I'll definitely live with that shot."

Freshman Elijah Ingram, who scored 19 points, made two free throws for St. John's before Tony Bethel's 3-pointer rimmed out at the buzzer.

Georgetown, which won the national championship in 1984, was seeking its first NIT crown. The Hoyas erased a 60-54 deficit and tied it at 67-67 on Bethel's baseline jumper with 1:27 to go.

"I thought we had a great run at the end," Esherick said. "We didn't have a good run at the end of the (first half). St. John's went on a roll at the start of the second half. Reynolds hurt us on the boards. Hatten made some tough shots. We lost to a good team."

St. John's shot under 36 percent from the field (25-of-70), including 29 percent in the first half, but stayed in the game early by cutting an eight-point deficit to 38-34 at intermission.

The Red Storm countered their poor shooting by attempting 21 more shots. They had a 38-30 advantage on the boards, including a 17-7 edge on the offensive glass.

Bethel scored 12 points for the Hoyas, who shot 43 percent (21-of-49) and dropped to 0-2 in NIT finals. They suffered a 62-61 loss to Minnesota in the 1993 championship game.

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