By Joe Pinter, @JPinter93
BROOKLYN, N.Y. (March 14) — St. Bonaventure Bonnies’ fans everywhere knew how this story ended.
Or at least they thought they did.
Saint Louis’ Dwayne Evans’ game-tying three in the face of Youssou Ndoye with 20.9 seconds left gave Bonaventure fans that same punch in their stomachs that is all too familiar to them this season.
But this time, there was more to the game.
On the final possession, Jordan Gathers caught a short pass from Charlon Kloof, and let the ball fly as the clock ticked toward zero.
The rest was a blur. Actually, the whole thing was a blur, Gathers said. He didn’t hear or see anything after the ball left his hands.
Ballgame, Bonaventure. 71-68.
“Charlon passed me the ball — it was a great pass,” Gathers said. “He’s our senior veteran and captain… I’ve been in the gym working hard. I just wanted it to pay off.”
For a long time this afternoon, it looked like Gathers impact would be mostly on the defensive end. He had two bad turnovers and only hit one of his first six shots. Coach Mark Schmidt had a relatively short leash, pulling the junior guard almost immediately after he made a mistake.
But most of the attention was on Matthew Wright, who was red-hot in the second half, shooting 5-for-7 from beyond the arc, and 6-for-9 overall. It was Wright, after all, who put the Bonnies up three points with just over half a minute to go.
After Evans’ basket, Schmidt called a timeout to draw up what he hoped would be the last play of the game.
“We wanted Charlon to have the ball in his hands and create,” Gathers said. “We knew we had the last shot. We kind of put ourselves in a good situation with a lot of seconds on the clock. I knew Charlon was going to come off and make the right play. You don’t think a lot about it, you just go out there and try to make a play.”
“He played tremendous today,” Schmidt said of Kloof, who scored 22 points. “He’s the leader of our team. He has the ball in his hands. We’re going to talk about Jordan’s shot, and it was a great shot. But if it wasn’t Charlon to deliver the ball, that shot may never have presented itself.”
In most cases, the performances of Kloof and Wright wouldn’t be overlooked. Kloof had a great game, shooting 6-of-8 and making all nine free throws he attempted. But Gathers made one of the most important shots in this school’s history.
“Jordan’s big shot was the biggest shot of the year, and probably one of the biggest shots in Bonaventure history,” Schmidt said. “It was a great victory. We showed some character and we fought together. I’m really proud of my team.”
The Bonnies move onto the Atlantic 10 semifinals, facing St. Joe’s tomorrow afternoon at 1:30.
By now most basketball fans know who Gathers’ uncle is. But you have to think of how often Gathers thinks of Hank, especially after days like today.
“It’s every player’s dream to hit that big-time shot or make that play in a game,” he said. “This is truly a blessing. I give God all the glory for that shot I made today.”
Gathers has played in his fair share of big games, starting the final few regular season games and tournament games when the Bonnies won the A-10 Tournament in 2012. But he had never in his life hit a game-winning shot before, at any level.
Today, Gathers stole the spotlight. Basketball fans everywhere will hear his name and his story.
And the Bonaventure fans will forever be happy that he changed the ending to a story all too familiar to the 2013-14 season.