By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
The St. Bonaventure Bonnies women’s basketball team looks to extend its win streak to nine games when it hosts Niagara in the Reilly Center at noon on Wednesday.
With the eight-game win streak they currently own, the Bonnies are doing something the 2011-12 Sweet Sixteen team was unable to do; that team’s longest non-conference win streak was seven games. A win on Wednesday would move the brown and white into a tie for the second-best record in the A-10 with VCU.
The Purple Eagles head into the Reilly Center on the opposite end of the spectrum, with a 1-8 record. After a 73-72 victory over Cleveland St. on Nov. 27, they lost the past five games by an average of 14 points. Last game, they lost 57-48 to a Buffalo team that only mustered 32 points in a 27-point defeat against Bona. To make things worse, leading scorer and rebounder Victoria Rampado suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the third game of the season.
Will the Bonnies roll to another victory, or will Niagara pull off a shocker on Bob Lanier Court without its best player? Here’s the full breakdown:
Key players for Niagara:
Kaylee Stroemple- 5-foot-11 sophomore forward. Stroemple, a Canton, Ohio native, will bear much of the scoring load in Rampado’s absence. She is averaging 13.3 points a game on 40 percent shooting from the field, including eight three-pointers. Her defense is strong too; she has grabbed 6.3 rebounds a contest, with 15 steals on the year as well. A 20-point game against Monmouth on Dec. 6 was her career-high, and she has played 114 of the 120 possible minutes in the past three games. Stroemple has the ability to be an all-league player if she continues to replace Rampado’s offensive and defensive prowess.
Sam Lapszynski- 6-foot-3 senior center. Lapszynski, like Stroemple, is a highly skilled two-way player. The Jefferson, N.J. product is the other Purple Eagle averaging double figures in points (11.7) and over five rebounds (6.3), while also blocking 20 shots in the first nine games. The best statistical game of her career was against Monmoth, when she scored 12 points, corralled 11 rebounds and swatted five shots. The matchup against Katie Healy, also a gifted scorer, shot blocker and rebounder, will be an interesting one to watch.
Jamie Sherburne- 5-foot-7 sophomore guard. Sherburne, the point guard, doesn’t score much but cannot be overlooked offensively. She is leading the team in assist-to-turnover ratio with 38 assists to 31 turnovers, and while she doesn’t shoot the ball a whole lot for someone who plays 32 minutes a game, seven of her 12 field goals are three-pointers. The Hudson, N.H. native is the main distributor, and the more efficiently she takes care of the ball, the better off Niagara will be.
Keys to victory for Niagara: The Purple Eagles will have to shoot much better than their season average of 38.7 percent if they’re going to stun the Bonnies. One of the main reasons Bonaventure has been so successful in the early going is its team defense, which is holding opponents to just 33 percent field-goal shooting (23.2 percent from three). Bona has held three of its last four opponents under 50 points, and this Niagara team will be next if it continues to shoot at such a poor mark.
Keys to victory for Bonaventure: Besides the clear key of not taking Niagara lightly (which is important, since simply showing up and going through the motions will get you a quick seat on the bench courtesy of coach Jim Crowley), SBU will have to control the glass on Wednesday afternoon. If there’s a bright spot for this Purple Eagles team, it’s that they average 34 rebounds a game, only about four fewer boards than the Bonnies. Crowley’s team cannot allow Niagara to win the rebounding battle, because that would surely increase the chances of a shocking dent in the loss column.