(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Cameron Hurst @CameronNHurst
With 7.7 seconds left, it looked as if the Bonnies just might do it.
Mariah Ruff had just drained two free throws to give St. Bonaventure a 60-59 lead over the Dayton Flyers. A win would extend a nine-game home winning streak against Atlantic 10 opponents and would give the Bonnies, who were chosen to finish tenth in the conference before the season, a seemingly unexpected victory over a Flyers team that was chosen to finish second.
Following a timeout, the next possession by the Flyers would play right into SBU coach Jesse Fleming’s game plan. But the ball found the newly inserted Christy Macioce, who, with a hand in her face, drained a 20 foot three, leaving only .8 seconds on the clock. A last second shot by Ruff from beyond the arc would rattle at the rim, but ultimately be no good.
“That last play is literally everything you want and you’re fine with that shot,” said Fleming following the 62-60 defeat. “It’s an NBA three and the ball bounces either one way or the other.”
Loss aside, the Bonnies head coach was more than encouraged by the level of play his team exhibited on Wednesday night.
“[The girls] were so locked in,” Fleming said. “I’m just thrilled with the way we played.”
The Bonnies got it going early in the first half, putting up a 17-13 lead at the end the first quarter thanks to 10 early points from Ruff, who would tie her career high in points with 25, and significant contributions from Sarah Hart, who would set her career high in points with 15.
However, Dayton began the second quarter on a 7-0 run, holding the Bonnies scoreless until a Gabby Richmond lay-in at the 6:26 mark. From there, the Bonnies outscored Dayton 14-8 over the next 6 minutes, heading into halftime with a 33-31 lead.
The second half would find a rollercoaster of lead changes, and while the Bonnies trailed 47-45 at the end of the third quarter, they answered the call to regain the lead after beginning the fourth quarter on a 8-0 run capped by a deep trey by Mckenna Maycock with 7:53 left in the game.
Momentum shifted soon after, however, as a personal foul and ensuing technical foul by Matea Britvar disqualified her from the game and result in four consecutive free throws by Kelley Austria and JaVonna Layfield that completed a comeback for the Flyers.
With the Bonnies down 59-58 with 1:45 left, Alex Harris had an opportunity to nearly seal the game for the Flyers, but her two missed free throws opened the door for a Bonaventure rally, as Ruff knocked down two foul shots to give the Bonnies their last lead of the game prior to the silencing and game-winning three pointer by Macioce.
Despite the loss, Fleming was proud of his team’s efforts, noting Wednesday’s loss was “as complete of a game as we have played this season.”
“Everything that you did is what you’re trying to do,” said Fleming. “I think [the girls] believe [in what the team is trying to do]. I think over the last couple of weeks, even watching the film, when you watch the team, with the way that they’re playing, I could kind of see this game coming.”
As for Ruff, the pain of coming so close was evident following the game. When asked about her final shot attempt, you could see her angst and competitive nature in her belief the ball would find the bottom of the net.
“It was a shot,” remarked Ruff with a smirk.
As for her own personal performance, Ruff once again credited her teammates who, combined, totalled eight assists, apart from her own three.
“I was getting good spots,” she said. “People were hitting me. My teammates were helping me out, setting good screens and finding me when I was open which was a good thing.”
The Bonnies, who fall to 6-9 and 1-2 in the league, now look to regroup ahead of Saturday’s 3 p.m. road matchup against Richmond. But, after a strong outing against one of the conference’s best teams, Fleming is looking forward to what should be an exciting second half of the season.
“This was a game that we deserved to be in at the end and we went punch for punch against a good team,” Fleming said. “[The team] is starting to understand what we’re trying to do with them and they’re getting a little more comfortable with what they’re expecting.”