Behind the Wolfpack: Defensive play sends Bonnies into semifinals

[Charlon Kloof soars toward the rim for two of his career-high 19-points in a 71-68 St. Bonaventure victory over Saint Joseph’s – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

By Ryan Lazo, Co-editor in chief/feature columnist, @RMLazo13

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (March 9) – In a game that featured 24 lead changes, it seemed destined to move to 25 as the Saint Joseph’s Hawks took the ball down the court with 36 seconds left.

As the seconds ticked down, the Hawks fans grew louder, while St. Bonaventure fans held their collective breaths, anticipating the play that was unfolding before them.

Langston Galloway came quickly off a ball screen at the top of the key and drove the lane while the Bonnies’ Andrew Nicholson deftly moved to his left and sealed off the middle.

Galloway took off for a mid-range jumper, Nicholson soared straight up and the whistle blew – a charge.

St. Bonaventure ball.

“I shot an air ball on offense, so I wanted to get it back on defense,” Nicholson, the Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year said. “I made a big play, took the charge.”

The play stamped the Bonnies’ ticket into the semifinals of the A-10 Championship Tournament, a 71-68 victory that sets up a date with University of Massachusetts Amherst at 1 p.m. tomorrow.

After these two teams played a two-overtime thriller at the Reilly Center, the Hawks had their game plan.

They knew they had to focus all of their defensive assignments around stopping Nicholson.

They knew they had to keep Demitrius Conger off the boards.

But they did not account for Youssou Ndoye or Charlon Kloof.

Ndoye dominated the first half by grabbing eight rebounds, two less than the entire Hawks team in the game’s opening 20 minutes, blocked two shots and slammed in two dunks.

Meanwhile, Kloof used his agility to his advantage, driving into the lane and finishing shots with ease. The sophomore set a career-high with 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field.

“Everyone knows we wouldn’t be here without Andrew, but we also wouldn’t be here without Charlon,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said of his point guard.

However, no one’s line was more impressive than the Bonnies’ senior forward.

Nicholson dropped in 25 points on 9-of-18 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked four shots during the final games of his Bona career.

The Bonnies now face a UMass team that they lost to earlier this season, but that was a different St. Bonaventure team.

This team has heart, drive and an A-10 Player of the Year leading the way as it tries to head to the final for the first time since 2000.

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