By Joe Pinter, @JPinter93
BROOKLYN, N.Y. (March 15) — If someone would have told Mark Schmidt back in October that his St. Bonaventure Bonnies would win 18 games and make it to the Atlantic 10 semifinals, he wouldn’t have been sure how to respond.
“I would have looked at them a little bit sideways,” the coach said.
Turns out it wasn’t such a far-fetched thought.
The Bonnies’ unexpected run to the A-10 semifinals came to an abrupt end today as their lack of depth was exposed against a deeper, more rested St. Joe’s team. The Bonnies fell 67-48.
“We missed a lot of layups,” Schmidt said. “It’s frustrating, but you continue to play. St Joe’s is a good defensive team; they gave us a lot of problems. But we missed a lot of shots. Part of it could be fatigue. When you make four field goals in the second half you’re not going to win doing that.”
St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli said the Bonnies came out strong, but after playing three games in three days, they ultimately ran out of gas.
But the bigger story is how long Bonaventure was able to stay alive after being written off by so many this season, Schmidt said.
“We always emphasize overachieve and I thought we overachieved,” he said. “You never want to be part of a team that underachieves. We have a bunch of guys that got the most out of their ability.”
“I thought our guys really came together. With what we lost — we lost a great deal last year. We really didn’t have one go-to guy coming back. For us to be able to win 18 games and play in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament speaks volumes of our guys and how far they’ve come.”
For seniors Matthew Wright, Charlon Kloof, Marquise Simmons and Danny Farrell, today was their last A-10 game. Bonaventure is expected to get an invite for a postseason tournament, but nothing has been announced yet.
“We shouldn’t even be here,” Wright said. “We should be at home doing individuals. Our season should have been over a week ago, but we’re still not done. We still have games left. We want to play four or five more games. We don’t want to end the season with a bad taste in our mouths like this…It’s back to the gym.”
Wright said the loss hurts, and it’s too hard to try and think back on the season just yet.
Wright symbolizes how far this program has come under Schmidt. He says NBA player Andrew Nicholson convinced him the most to attend Bonaventure. Wright has played in many A-10 Tournament games and even an NCAA Tournament game in his time with the Bonnies. He, along with the other seniors, has been a part of one of the best four-year stretches the school has had in a long time.
“Two years ago, we were 3-0 (in the tournament) and we had a great player in (Nicholson) and some really good players that graduated,” Schmidt said. “But I think that with Charlon and Matt and Marquise, they’ve been through it. They have good experience, and I think that helped us in this tournament — knowing what to expect.”
The graduating seniors aren’t the only players with lots of postseason experience. Coming into today’s game, Kloof (who joined the team in 2011 as a sophomore), Youssou Ndoye and Jordan Gathers had been undefeated in the conference tournament, beginning their Bonaventure careers with five wins and no losses.
That experience is invaluable, Schmidt said.
So now the Bonnies await news from the three postseason tournaments (Collegeinsider.com Tournament, College Basketball Invitational and the National Invitation Tournament). An 18-15 record in the A-10 all but ensures an invitation from at least one of the three.
Being in this position is a credit to the job Schmidt has done with the Bonnies this season. They came together after a few rough stretches and made a serious run. For the first time since 2000, they beat a ranked opponent. And they even did it twice — Jan. 29 vs. No. 18 UMass and yesterday vs. No. 18 Saint Louis.
The run will not disappear from fans’ memories. Gathers’ buzzer-beating shot to knock off Saint Louis will forever have its place in Bonaventure infamy. And the team could still win a few more games.
Back in October, who could have seen this coming?