Before you hit the panic button…

By: Isaiah Blakely 

The sports world tends to hit the “panic button” early on in the season, no matter the sport.

This year the Golden State Warriors were questioned early on when they were in third place almost 25 games into the season.

Super Bowl Champion New England was behind the Miami in the division going into Week 5 and there were questions being asked about they would fare this season.

Well the Warriors just clinched the one-seed in the NBA’s Western Conference again and the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl.

The new team to be questioned is the defending champion Boston Red Sox who are 5-9 are and near the bottom of the AL East. With a slow start comes immediate questions of what’s wrong with the team.

What if there’s nothing really wrong with the Red Sox, or the Patriots or the Warriors? Great teams figure it out. Sure the Red Sox have holes especially in their bullpen, but can we hold off on asking questions about what’s wrong with a team this early in the season?

On this date last year the Red Sox were having a hot start at 8-1. But there were some other teams that were playing great baseball in April as well. The Toronto Blue Jays (6-4), Los Angeles Angels (7-3), New York Mets (7-1), Pittsburgh Pirates (7-2) and Arizona Diamondbacks (7-2).

None of those teams made the playoffs and they all started with a .600 winning percentage or better. In the Pirates and Diamondbacks cases they were top of the division halfway through May and still missed the playoffs.

Today we live in a world of instant results because of technology. But when it comes to sports, people including myself, need to relax and let the process play out.

That’s what playing a professional sport is…. A long process starting in the offseason with a goal to win a championship.

People just ignore the process and are quick to tear down a player and or a team.

The Patriots are a prime example. Tom Brady has been “declining” according to several talking heads on networks such as ESPN and Fox Sports 1 for years. That declining quarterback has led the Patriots to the Super Bowl four of the last five years including winning three.

People are also too quick to crown teams.

This year’s Los Angeles Lakers for a lot of people including myself were an easy playoff team. Halfway through December they were a game out of third place. Then poor play and injuries derailed their season. In reality though, a team made up of guys not known for their defense or their ability to shoot the three very well should have never been considered a high seed. But we all bought into the LeBron James hype and were all very wrong as the Lakers didn’t even eclipse 40 wins this year.

Even in the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres were top of league and on a 10-game win streak in late November. It appeared this was going to be the year the Sabres finally return to the playoffs. Instead the only thing that returned was dysfunction and poor play. That led the Sabres to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference with 76 points.

Early season performances aren’t completely pointless but it’s not always an indicator of a team’s future success. At this point it’s getting ridiculous. Media people are just making knee-jerk reactions to get the most views or clicks on an article.

If a surprise team is over-performing, you have to take a look at how its winning and decide whether you believe that’s a realistic and sustainable way to be successful.

It’s rare that a talented group, especially a defending champion, has such a big problem the next year that can’t be fixed over the course of a season. That’s what makes a team great, its ability to adjust and overcome adversity.

I’m not saying no more “hot takes”. I enjoy the “Monday Morning Quarterback” type takes just like everyone else. But before we hit the panic button on the Red Sox in April or question if the Patriots dynasty is over hold off another week and save the panicking for everyone else.

 

 

 

 

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Bona fans– Don’t think what it could have been. Think what it can be

photos courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

BROOKLYN– It looked like a story book ending.

But it ended in a way that broke the hearts of the thousands of Bonnies fans that traveled to Brooklyn over the weekend.

When the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team’s 2018-19 season came to an end Sunday afternoon, it left an opportunity on the table that could have only been dreamed about at the beginning of the year.

The Bonnies fell to Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10 championship game, and the college careers of Courtney Stockard, LaDarien Griffin and Nelson Kaputo came to an end.

St. Bonaventure entered the tournament as the fourth seed, but once Sunday came around, it looked like everything they needed to happen to win the tournament came true.

 

The top three seeds in the tournament (VCU, Davidson, Dayton) had all been knocked out, and the Bonnies awaited a Saint Louis team in the final that they had beaten eight days before.

 

But when the final buzzer sounded, it brought sorrow instead of joy for Bonnies fans.

Bona was so close, so close, to making an an improbable run to the NCAA tournament. It would have been the first time the program had ever went to the tournament in back-to-back years and a remarkable end to the careers of three seniors that have been through a lot over the past four seasons at SBU.

But for many Bonnies fans, it became the game, the championship and the tournament run that could have been.

 

Sure, it’s easy to look back at the past and think what could have resulted if a bounce or two could have gone Bona’s way. It’s also easy to look at the turnaround that this team had, after starting the season 4-10 and then coming within seven minutes of an A10 championship.

But at the culmination of this season, what Bonnies fans should really be excited is the year to come– and probably the next three.

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Bonnies center Osun Osunniyi during their win over Rhode Island

The team started three freshmen (when they were healthy) for the majority of the season. Kyle Lofton, Dom Welch and Osun Osunniyi averaged a combined 30 points and 14.4 rebounds per game during the regular season. The trio also scored 35.3 points per game and pulled down 18 rebounds per game during the A10 tournament.

 

Under a coach that is notorious for giving freshmen time to develop before he gives them significant playing time, it is remarkable what this year’s freshman class did.

Lofton and Osunniyi, prep school teammates, each blossomed into impact players in the Atlantic 10 over the course of the year. Both were named to the conference’s All-Rookie team, and Osunniyi was also named to its All-Defensive team.

For his play over the weekend, Lofton was named to the A10 All-Tournament team.

Welch, who missed nine games in the regular season with an injury, took longer to come around than the other two.

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Bonnies guard Dom Welch after hitting a three against George Mason

But the Buffalo native showed his potential in Brooklyn. Welch shot 6-12 from beyond the arc and scored 20 a career-high points in Bona’s quarterfinal win over George Mason, and followed it up with a 13-point performance the next day against Rhode Island.

 

What impressed me the most from Welch over the weekend was his defensive awareness. He was all over the court, and his defensive play, along with his offense, showed that he was finally ready to play at the level Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt had hoped he could.

“The future is bright,” said Schmidt after the loss to Saint Louis. “We’ve got to bring in some more guys, but they are a talented group that is going to continue to get better.”

Schmidt has already landed several players who could fill the roles the seniors left, including Bobby Planutis, a transfer from Mt. St. Mary’s who had to sit out this season, and Justin Winston, a three-star recruit from the same prep school that Lofton and Osunniyi came from (Putnam Science Academy).

Those players and the other returners will have 25-point-per-game shoes to fill that Stockard and Griffin will take with them when they graduate.

Sounds tough, but Bona was put in the same situation this year after they lost Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley’s combined 37.2 points per game.

Maybe I’m just trying to be positive.

But it’s hard to ignore the fact that the Bonnies have a special trio of freshmen on their hands who have big-game experience after playing into Sunday of the A10 tournament. That experience will go a long way in future years if they can find themselves in the same spot.

The 2019 Bonnies came close. But this tournament run, which was almost one for the ages, could be just the beginning of what this young group can accomplish.

I’m not the only one who feels that way. In the final press conference of his career, Griffin showed his enthusiasm for the future of the Bona program.

“Those guys are gonna use this season as motivation and as long as they stay together they’re going to be really special,” said Griffin.

“They’re going to be really, really good.”

Saint Louis second half comeback clinches A-10 title

By: Isaiah Blakely 

With 3:04 left in the first half the St. Bonaventure Bonnies (18-16) were up 34-19 and had a 91.8 percent chance to win and book their ticket to the NCAA tournament.

But Saint Louis (23-12) didn’t give up.

The comeback started when the Billikens ended the first half strong by cutting the lead down to nine because of a Jordan Goodwin three pointer.

The second half completely flipped in St. Louis’s favor.The Billikens outscored the Bonnies 30-19 in the second half.

Saint Louis started out on a 7-0 run. The Billikens stymied the Bonnies offense in the second half. The Bonnies shot 26 percent in the second half and had multiple long scoring droughts including a six-minute drought in the middle of the half.

Goodwin was the catalyst for the Billikens scoring 16 points and had 13 rebounds including six offensive rebounds.

Courtney Stockard was keeping the Bonnies in it by scoring 10 of the final 12 points for the Bonnies, but he fouled out with a less than a minute to go in the game.

The Billikens down the stretch went on a 12-2 run to take a six-point lead with 1:30 left. Missed free throws and a turnover gave the Bonnies the ball back down two with 45 seconds left.

The Bonnies had three chances to tie or win the game, but shots from Dom Welch, Kyle Lofton, and Nelson Kaputo all missed, and the Billikens came away with the 55-53 victory in the Atlantic 10 championship and now have an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

“We had three opportunities that we missed, but they were good shots…that’s the way it goes. Some jump shots just don’t go in, Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt said.

The Bonnies freshmen struggled to score. Lofton, Welch and Osunniyi combined for 13 points.

Stockard ended his Bonaventure career with 22 points and five rebounds. LaDarien Griffin was the only other player in double figures. Griffin finished with a double-double 10 points and 11 rebounds.

A-10 tournament’s most valuable player Tremaine Isabel had nine points and five assists.

Lofton joined Isabel on the A-10 tournament all conference team alongside Isabel’s teammate Javon Bess, VCU’s Marcos Santos-Silva and Rhode Island’s Cyril Langevine.

 

A10 Championship Preview: Bonnies will battle Saint Louis

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

An improbable run by the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team has put them in a place they haven’t been since 2012– the championship game of the Atlantic 10 tournament.

The Bonnies (18-15) came into the tournament seeded fourth, and a quarterfinal victory over No. 5 George Mason followed by a semifinal win over No. 8 Rhode Island propelled them to Sunday’s title game against the No. 6 Saint Louis Bilikens (22-12).

The run that Bona is currently on has been somewhat remarkable, as they have played to a 14-5 record since beginning the season 4-10. Two months ago, it was hard to think that this team could have turned their season around and put themselves a game away from the NCAA tournament.

“We’ve persevered and fought through it,” Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said. “The kids believe. You’re always going to hit adversity and need to find a way to get it done, and that’s what they’ve done.”

The Bonnies have relied on their freshmen so far in the tournament, as Kyle Lofton has averaged 21.5 points over the first two games and Dom Welch has averaged 16.5 points.

Saint Louis defeated No. 11 Richmond in the second round of the tournament before taking down No. 3 Dayton and No. 2 Davidson in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.

Tramaine Isabell, Jr. has been a force for the Billikens on offense, averaging 20 points per game so far in the tournament. Javon Bess will also look to cause problems for the Bona defense. He has averaged 17.7 ppg, and scored 24 points  in the semifinal win.

The Bonnies and the Billikens played just eight days ago in each side’s regular season finale. St. Bonaventure won at home, 66-57, behind 20 points from Courtney Stockard and 14 points from Lofton.

The game was tight the whole way, and Saint Louis led by five points at halftime (27-22) before the Bonnies pulled ahead late in the second half and put them away.

Isabell Jr. scored 21 points for the Billikens in that game, and Hasahn French added 14 points.

A key matchup in this game will be French against SBU’s Osun Osunniyi in the paint. French, regarded as one of the best big men in the A10, got Osunniyi in foul trouble the last time the two went head-to-head.

If the freshman can control the boards for the Bonnies, there may be some 2012-type magic on tap for Barclays Center.

Second half run pushes the Bonnies past Rhode Island

By:Isaiah Blakely 

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies had a slow start offensively again in the Barclays Center, this time in the semifinals against the Rhode Island Rams.

The Bonnies picked it up on both ends of the floor late in the first half. The momentum and confidence carried through the rest of the game as the Bonnies (18-15) defeated the Rams (18-15) 68-51 to move on to the Atlantic 10 tournament final tomorrow afternoon.

The Rams came out fast early on holding a 22-12 lead with nine minutes left in the first half. Rhode Island guards Jeff Dowtin and Fatts Russell scored a combined 18 points on 8-29 shooting. Seven of their points were scored early in the first half. Junior Cyril Langevine lead the Rams in scoring with 15 points.

Rhode Island’s defense was also giving the Bonnies fits early. The Bonnies were shooting 3-14 halfway through the first half.

The Rams took a 15-point lead after a Tyrese Martin three pointer with four minutes left in the half.

Then the Bonnies made their run.

The Bonnies went on a 13-0 run led by Bonaventure’s freshmen Dominick Welch and Kyle Lofton.

Welch helped keep the Bonnies afloat in the first half scoring 10 of his 13 points in the first half.

Lofton was good all afternoon scoring 23 points and adding five assists.

“The freshmen don’t play like freshmen. Kyle (Lofton) in my opinion was the best guy on the court,” Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt said.

The Bonnies went into the locker room down 29-27. Second half was more of the same for the Bonnies.

The Bonnies outscored Rhode Island 41-22 in the second half.

The Bonnies offense also got some help from their big men. LaDarien Griffin and Osun Osunniyi combined for 5 points in the first half. Second half the duo combined for 19 points. The senior Griffin had 13 points and six rebounds while the freshman Osunniyi had a double-double 10 points 11 rebounds and four blocks.

Senior Courtney Stockard struggled from field only shooting 1-11 but free throws from him, Griffin and Lofton helped put the game away. The Bonnies as a team shot 16-17 from the line.

Along with the almost perfect free throw shooting from the Bonnies, the Rams went seven and a half minutes without a field goal. During that period the Bonnies went on a 20-3 run that gave them a 21-point lead.

The Bonnies calling card continues to be defense as they move to 15-0 when holding opponents to under 60 points. The Bonnies have also held 10 straight opponents to under 40 percent shooting.

“It’s the best defensive team we’ve had since I’ve been the coach,” Schmidt said. “It’s a mindset. We’re not a great offensive team. We haven’t been a great offensive team all year, but the kids are figuring it out that in order for us to win we’ve got to defend.”

The Bonnies face off against the winner of Saint Louis and Davidson for the Atlantic 10 tournament title and a ticket to the NCAA tournament tomorrow at 1:00.

 

 

PC: GoBonnies.com

St. Bonaventure takes on Rhode Island in the semifinals

By: Isaiah Blakely 

Two of the hottest teams in the Atlantic 10 square off at 1 p.m. today in the Atlantic 10 tournament semifinals. The Rhode Island Rams (18-14) have won six straight games including yesterday’s upset win over the VCU Rams. Rhode Island is going up against the St. Bonaventure Bonnies (17-15) who have won eight of their last 10 games including their win yesterday over George Mason.

The Bonnies and Rams faced off once during the regular season in Rhode Island where a strong first half from the Rams was enough to beat the Bonnies comfortably 75-63.

Both teams are very different since then. Rhode Island went on a downward spiral winning only three of their next 10 games. While the Bonnies started to trend upward by playing 3-3 in conference play before going on a seven-game win streak.

The biggest change for the Bonnies has been them getting healthy and gaining continuity.

“We got healthy and we got some chemistry, and the freshmen got a lot of confidence and we just started playing,” said Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt.

The Bonnies have been headlined by freshmen Kyle Lofton and Osun Osunniyi, but freshman Dom Welch’s emergence on the offensive end has helped the Bonnies offense specifically with his perimeter shooting. Welch has hit two or more three pointers in seven of his last 10 games. In the 13 games prior Welch had only hit two or more threes five times.

“It there’s anybody who has made the most strides it’s Dom,” Schmidt said.

For Rhode Island sophomore guard Fatts Russell was the catalyst for the Rams down the stretch of the regular season. In the last five games of the regular season Russell averaged nearly 25 points a game.

Russell has kick started the offense for the whole team. Before this win streak for Rams the were only averaging 54 points per game in their previous five games. During the win streak Rhode Island is averaging nearly 81 points a game.

One of the constants for Rhode Island has been junior Cyril Langevine. Langevine is an All-Conference Second Team and All-Defensive team player. The junior is averaging a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds a game.

A major match up in this game will be Langevine against Osunniyi who is also on All-Defensive team. Langevine is the second leading scorer for Rhode Island while Osunniyi is the anchor for the Bonnies defense averaging more than two blocks a game.

Rhode Island guard Jeff Dowtin against the freshman guard Lofton is going to be the other major match up to watch because both guards have similar numbers to each other, but Dowtin with the edge in points and rebounds. Lofton was in a bit of a shooting slump until last night when he scored 20 points on 6-12 shooting including four three pointers. Dowtin had a big game as well scoring 22 points and making both of his three pointers.

These two teams are looking to book their ticket to the A-10 final on Sunday against the winner of Saint Louis and Davidson.

Freshmen lead Bonnies to quarterfinal win over George Mason

By Jeff Uveino

BROOKLYN— Dominick Welch had the biggest game of his young career, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for St. Bonaventure.

The No. 4 Bonnies men’s basketball team prevailed over the No. 5 George Mason Patriots in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament at Barclays Center, 68-57.

Welch’s impact was felt on both ends of the floor. The freshman scored 20 points and shot 6-12 from beyond the arc, and also had five rebounds and three blocks.

“I’ve been feeling good shooting the ball for awhile now, so once that first one went in, I just felt good,” said Welch.

Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said it was nice to see Welch have a break-out game after missing time earlier in the season with an injury.

“If there’s anybody that has made the most strides this year, it’s (Welch), said Schmidt. “He’s got a really good sense of how to play now and he’s learned a lot of stuff defensively. He’s got a natural stroke, and when you put confidence on top of that, good things happen.”

Fellow freshman Kyle Lofton quietly scored 20 points of his own for the Bonnies. He shot 4-6 from beyond the arc, and the Bonnies shot 10-24 from there as a team.

Lofton talked about what it was like to see Welch have a break-out game.

“I played against him in prep school a couple of times so I know what he’s capable of,” said Lofton. “I know what type of player he is, and it’s good that he brought it out.”

The Bonnies led almost the whole way, as they took the lead for good with 12:27 remaining in the first half. Each time the Patriots got momentum, SBU took it right back with a big shot or defensive play.

Senior forward LaDarien Griffin added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Bonnies. He spoke about how important Lofton and Welch are to the team’s success.

“Those guys have been impressive all year,” he said. “Usually when you’re a freshman, it takes a little bit of time to get things down. But those guys jumped on board and I’m proud of them and lucky to have them.”

Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt added to the praise.

“The reason why we’re at where we are is the freshmen,” said Schmidt. “Those three guys (Welch, Lofton, Osun Osunniyi) have really blossomed into great young players. They play like veterans.”

Osunniyi played his usual game of tough defense around the rim for the Bonnies. He scored seven points, pulled down eight rebounds and blocked three shots.

For George Mason (18-15), Justin Kier led with 20 points and Jordan Miller added 13 points. The Patriots out-rebounded the Bonnies, 43-34, but shot just 28% from deep.

GMU’s second-leading scorer, Otis Livingston II, was held to just six points in the loss.

Next up for St. Bonaventure (17-15) is a semifinal date with the Rhode Island Rams on Saturday at 1 p.m. back at the Barclays Center.

 

Bonnies defense leads the way to fifth straight win

photo courtesy of gobonnies@sbu.edu

By Isaiah Blakely

The all-time season series between the St. Bonaventure Bonnies and the Duquesne Dukes was 60-60 coming into Wednesday night in the Reilly Center. The Bonnies had won five of the last six meetings with the Dukes by six points or less.

But this night was a different story for St. Bonaventure (14-14, 10-5 A-10) which clinched its 10 win in Atlantic 10 play for a program record fifth season in a row beating the Dukes (18-10, 9-5 A-10) 68-47.

The Bonnies defense led the way once again only allowing one Dukes player to score in double figures. Two of Bonaventure’s seniors led the way. Courtney Stockard led all scorers with 21 points and LaDarien Griffin had his second double-double of the year with 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Stockard got Bonaventure rolling, scoring six early points to help the Bonnies jump out to a 19-7 lead. That early run was capped off by freshman Osun Osunniyi’s two-handed slam. The Bonnies had four scorers in double figures including Osunniyi who had 10 points and added nine rebounds and three blocks. Freshman guard Kyle Lofton also scored 10 points and had six assists.

St. Bonaventure’s biggest lead in the first half was 17, but Duquesne it strong including a layup right before half by freshman Lamar Norman Jr., to cut the Bonnies halftime lead to 33-22. Norman Jr. was the Dukes only scorer in double figures, he had 20 points.

The Bonnies started the second half fast with an 8-0 run to go up 19.

Stockard sealed the win in the final minutes with a three pointer from the wing and a reverse jam on the fast break to put the Bonnies up 20.

Duquesne only shot 28 percent from the field and head coach Mark Schmidt talked about the defensive performance.

“It was as good of a defensive performance as we’ve had all year,” Schmidt said. “If someone would’ve told me that we would’ve held them to 47 points, I would have told them they were crazy.”

The Bonnies have held six of their last seven opponents to 60 points or less are 12-0 this season in those games.

The Bonnies now have a .500 record for the first time since they were 1-1 after their win over Jackson State in November.

The Bonnies are looking to get over .500 for the first time all year on Saturday at George Washington