Brooklyn, NY—Due to Fordham’s loss on Thursday afternoon, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies (17-14) are the only remaining New York State entry in the Atlantic-10 championship Tournament. The Bonnies did not allow losses in their final four regular season contests to prevent them from rising to the occasion during the tournament.
On Thursday, St. Bonaventure avenged a two week old loss to LaSalle by defeating the Explorers, 82-72. Although the Bonnies never had a lead that exceeded eight points, they never trailed in the game. The score was only knotted once, at 12, at 11:16 of the first period. The scoring of the Bonnies was very balanced as four of the starters reached double figures and the other three in the lineup recorded 7, 8 and 9 points respectively.
The next day, the Bonnies faced the #1 seed, the St. Louis Billikins (26-6), ranked 18th in the nation. After the previous day’s victory, the coach of the Bonnies, Mike Schmidt said of the Billikins, who had beaten the Bonnies, 66-60, on January 15, “They are tremendous. Great coach, great player of the year in Jeff Evans. They are a physical, defensive-minded team. They have great senior leadership.
The Billikins lived up to expectations during the first 30 of the 40 minute game. They did not fall behind until 30:45 minutes of the game had elapsed.
After an early tied score (2) AT 19:11, ST. Louis went on a 16-4 run to take a double figure lead, 18-6, at 14:08. The half ended with the Billikins ahead, 38-28.
St. Louis coach Jim Crews remarked of thr first half, “I thought that the first half we played pretty well. I thought we ran well. We were sharp offensively. We did some good things defensively.”
Coach Schmidt explained his halftime words to his players, “the first five minutes of the second half were critical. I told the team it was either going from 10 to 20 or we were going to cut into it and make it a ballgame and our team really responded. After five minutes had passed, the deficit was cut to three, 45-42.
Approximately five minutes later (9:15), a three by Matthew Wright gave the Bonnies their first lead of the contest, 54-52.
The score was tied four times during the final 4.5 minutes. Dwayne Evans of St. Louis drained a three to knot the game at 68 with 21 seconds left to play.
With the ball in the hands of the Bonnies, point guard Charlon Kloof dished the ball to Jordan Gathers, nephew of Hank Gathers, whose successful three with one second remaining gave the 71-68 victory to St. Bonaventure.
The excited yet now composed junior who shot the ball described the critical play, “Charlon passed me the ball, great pass by our senior, veteran and captain and when I let it go, yeah, I knew it was going in. I’ve been in the gym working hard and it’s finally paid off.”
Each team took 28 shots from the floor in the second half, but the much greater accuracy of the Bonnies (59.3%) gave them six more baskets than St. Louis.
St. Bonaventure advanced to the semi-finals on Saturday to play St. Joseph’s who defeated Dayton.