Behind the Wolfpack: Bona Fans Chant Shows love for team

[Bona fans stand up and applaud St. Bonaventure for a magical season that ended in the Sweet 16- Photo by Ryan Lazo]

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

RALEIGH, N.C. – “We love Bona’s…we love Bona’s.”

The chant reverberated throughout the areas of PNC Arena occupied by the St. Bonaventure faithful with 2:06 remaining in a game that had been decided much earlier.

But that didn’t matter to the Bona fans in attendance.

While the final score read Notre Dame 77, St. Bonaventure 35, Bona fans stood on their feet, clapping wildly, continuing their chant and saluting the team that had accomplished so much this season.

“That’s our place; that’s our area,” Bona coach Jim Crowley said as he reflected on the moment. “The fact that the people who were here behind us still believed in us, still appreciated it, speaks volumes about the character of our school area and our fans.”

And that is precisely what makes St. Bonaventure special to those alumni and students who have graced the campus on an everyday basis.

It’s the ability to see through the bad and notice the good. Sure, the Bonnies were beat by an athletically superior team, but that does not take away the special season they had.

“Forty minutes isn’t going to define our season,” Crowley said. “It didn’t earlier this year and it doesn’t now.”

And their season began to be defined in the first game of the season when St. Bonaventure marched into Carnesecca Arena and handed the then No. 19 St. John’s Red Storm a season-opening loss.

The Bonnies would continue to display their road warrior mentality by handing West Virginia just their fourth non-conference loss at home under current coach Mike Carey.

Then, with a chip on their shoulder after being picked to finish sixth in the Atlantic 10 Preseason Coaches Poll, the Bonnies steamrolled through the conference slate.

Finishing with a perfect 14-0 record, they proved that they were the class of the conference, setting numerous records along the way.

They finished the regular season with a perfect road record, achieved the program’s first national ranking, eclipsed 30 wins for the first time and had an 18-game win streak.

After losing to the Dayton Flyers in the A-10 Finals, the Bonnies gathered in the Reilly Center, with more than 1,000 fans in tow, as the selection show was played on a big screen.

Roars erupted as St. Bonaventure was given a No. 5 seed and an opening round match-up with Florida Gulf Coast. But the opponent didn’t matter in the moment.

Instead, those in attendance focused on one note – it would be the Bonnies first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in their history, another record set in a season full of firsts.

And in their tournament debut, the Bonnies recovered from an 11-point deficit against FGCU to win an overtime thriller. Next up was Marist, a team the Bonnies beat in each of the past two seasons.

True to form Bona executed their game plan to perfection.

Jessica Jenkins supplied the scoring load, erupting for 22 points while the defense forced Marist into bad shots as they advanced to the Sweet 16.

But waiting for them were the Irish who did not take the Bonnies lightly and imposed their will from the start, playing fluid on offense and suffocating on defense, holding Bona to 18.8 percent shooting for the game.

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw still came away impressed with St. Bonaventure.

“I told them in the handshake line that they had a great season,” McGraw said. “To make it to the Sweet 16 in your first NCAA Tournament is quite a debut.”

While Bona’s four seniors – Jenkins, Armelia Horton, Megan Van Tatenhove and Jennie Ashton – have played their final game, the impact they have had on the program will last forever. 

“We have 2,000 students,” Crowley said. “We have no women’s basketball history at all and we’re in the Sweet 16.”

After setting numerous records this season, Bona has made their own history. 

It’s a recent history full of winning, one that should continue thanks to the foundation laid by the seniors who saved their best for their final season.

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