COLUMBUS, Ohio – Jayla Everett’s off-balance floater with .3 of a second remaining lifted St. John’s to a thrilling 66-64 victory against Purdue on Thursday in a First Four game for the women’s NCAA Tournament at Value City Arena.

The 11th-seeded Boilermakers overcame a 15-point third-quarter deficit to twice tie the game in the final minutes, but Everett – who led the Red Storm with 20 points – scored the game winner along the baseline as the shot clock expired.

The sound of the buzzer set off a brief celebration for St. John’s before the officials huddled and determined there was still a fraction of a second to play.

Purdue inbounded the ball on its end of the court, but the pass was knocked away as time ran out and the 11th-seeded Red Storm (23-8) advanced to a Saturday matchup against sixth-seeded North Carolina.

“I’m not gonna lie to you,” Everett said. “It was more so like I seen the shot clock was down. My teammates trusted me with the ball. So I knew I had to go make a play.”

By the time Unique Drake knocked down her third 3-pointer in as many possessions and stared a hole through the Purdue pep band late in the second quarter, it was apparent this might not be the Boilermakers’ night.

The Big East’s Sixth Woman of the Year was 4-of-6 from the perimeter and scored 16 points to lead a Red Storm barrage from 3-point range.

St. John’s finished 11-of-23 from long distance and hit eight trifectas in the first half as it built a 39-33 lead.

The Red Storm then opened the third period with four straight points to push the advantage to double digits for the first time.

The lead peaked at 60-45 on a jumper by Drake with 1:05 left in the quarter. But the Boilermakers (19-11) proved they had plenty of fight left.

“I think there was a moment in the third quarter with about three minutes to go, and we all kind of grabbed each other, and I told our group in the timeout, ‘We weren’t supposed to be here. Let’s just relax and play ball. We’re playing with house money out here,’” Purdue coach Katie Gearlds said. “There’s nobody outside of our locker room that thought Purdue was going to make the NCAA Tournament. If you are, you’re lying to yourself.

“If you said you did, you’re lying to yourself because there’s not one single person walking this earth that believed Purdue was going to be in the NCAA Tournament outside of our locker room. We never, never quit in fighting that goal, chasing it down.”

With the Purdue men’s team playing in the NCAA Tournament just three miles away at Nationwide Arena, a large fan contingent was on hand to fuel the Boilers’ rally.

It started with a runner in the lane by Jayla Smith, who converted the traditional three-point play to cut the deficit to 60-48 entering the final quarter.

Smith scored again in the lane to start the fourth period, and Lasha Petree drained a 3-pointer to make it 60-53 with 6:44 to play.

Rayven Peeples briefly staunched the bleeding for St. John’s but missed a free throw for a traditional three-point play, and Petree again responded with a 3-pointer to make it 62-56 with 6:08 left.

Then things got really interesting.

After an interior basket by Caitlyn Harper, Abbey Ellis was fouled in transition and Everett was assessed a technical foul following the initial whistle.

During an extended television timeout, it appeared Purdue would shoot four free throws trailing 62-58. But the officials huddled through the break and determined Petree also committed an intentional foul on the sequence, negating the technical.

It kept Everett – who picked up her fourth personal – in the game and allowed the Red Storm to maintain the lead after Ellis sank both foul shots.

“Can I get fined?” Gearlds asked. “Yeah, the explanation was (Petree) made contact with the kid (Drake). Lasha’s 5-(foot)-11, just kind of swung her arm, and the kid behind her is 5-5 and happened to hit her, I guess. I don’t know. I haven’t seen it.”

The lead was short-lived as Petree knotted the score with a leaner at the 3:10 mark, and a fantastic finish was ignited.

Everett’s jumper with 1:30 left put St. John’s back in front, but Petree scored the last of her team-high 20 points to tie the score again at 64-64 with 30.3 seconds left.

The Red Storm drained the majority of the shot clock on the ensuing possession before Everett drove to the baseline and put up the game winner.

It brought about a heart-breaking end to Purdue’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2017.

Harper joined Petree in double figures with 14 points, and Smith added nine points off the bench.

Petree led the Boilermakers with eight rebounds, and Purdue won the battle of the boards 29-27 overall – though St. John’s pulled down nine offensive caroms.

The lasting image of the Boilermakers will be the fight they showed throughout the season.

Literally until the bitter end.

“I hope we hang banners in Mackey,” Gearlds said. “I hope we win Big Ten championships. I hope we win a lot of them. I hope we go to Final Fours while I’m leading this program. But this is the group that I’m going to remember forever.”

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