By Chuckie Maggio, @ChuckieMaggio
With 20 seconds on the clock and the game knotted at 68, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies had the ball with a chance to win the game.
Bonnies point guard Charlon Kloof took a couple slow dribbles down the court, trying to plan his attack to the basket. He drove, was engulfed by two defenders and passed the ball out to Jordan Gathers at the top of the key.
What happened next will go down in Bonaventure lore. Gathers jumped, let it fly- and watched as the ball swished in as the buzzer sounded. The nine-seeded Bonnies had pulled off the upset over the top-seeded Saint Louis Billikens, 71-68. The crowd erupted as the players mobbed Gathers. He may not have been the leading scorer (he scored five points), but no one would remember that after this one. Gathers was the hero.
“When I let it go, I knew it was going in,” Gathers said. “Charlon gave me a great pass and I just tried to make a play.”
Gathers, just like every player, had dreamed this scenario before countless times in his head.
“It’s every player’s dream to hit the big shot there. I give all the glory to God,” he said.
Leading to the buzzer-beating heroics was an incredible shooting performance by Matthew Wright, who made five threes in the second half. Two of those shots from behind the arc tied the game, and one of them gave the Bonnies the lead with 39 seconds to play.
“I’m not going to lie, I was a little numb in the second half,” Wright said. “I kept telling the team the game wasn’t done yet and that we had to keep playing.”
Wright and Schmidt also acknowledged that Charlon Kloof played a huge part in the win with his 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists. The leadership factor is never lost on the team.
“(Charlon) is the heart and soul of our team. Wherever he goes, we go, and I wish he was up here (on the podium at the postgame press conference) with us,” said Wright.”
“He was voted as captain as a junior,” Schmidt said. “For a kid who came in speaking little English, to be named captain by your teammates in your junior year is a great testament to the leadership he brings to the team.”
Defensively, the Bonnies helped key their comeback by only allowing 30 second-half points after giving up 38 in the first. Coach Schmidt noted that a change from the 1-1-3 zone to the 1-3-1, with 6’8 forward Dion Wright at the top of the key, definitely made an impact.
“You can’t run a 1-3-1 with a small guy at the top,” Schmidt said. “Having Dion at the top, with his body and active hands, is a big thing for our defense.”
All in all, this was an absolutely incredible win for St. Bonaventure, who will face the winner of the Dayton/St. Joseph’s game in the semifinals on Saturday. Are the Bonnies on another magical run like they had in 2012? Only time will tell, but the team and student body definitely believe.