The Bonnies entered the Capital One Arena with the weight of the world on their shoulders.
They’ve been here before. Two years ago, Bona’s was a contender for an at-large bid when they entered the A-10 Tournament as the 1-seed vs. Davidson. That game ended in an overtime heartbreak.
This time, Bona’s delivered.
The St. Bonaventure Bonnies extended their win streak to 13 with a 83-77 nail biter over the Richmond Spiders in the Quarterfinals of the Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament.
The first half started off slow for the Bonnies and the Spiders. Both teams did not score until the 16:40 mark off a Courtney Stockard bucket.
Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt emphasized the struggles that they faced offensively in the first five minutes of the game.
“I always tell our guys the first five minutes of the game and the first 10 possessions of the second half are critical,” Schmidt said. “And I thought Matt (Mobley) did a heck of a job to get us going.”
Jaylen Adams started the game off cold. Adams had 0 points in the first half of the game and finished with only five points.
Richmond’s Jacob Gilyard and Khwan Fore proved to be a problem for the Bonnies in the first half. Fore shot 5-6 for 11 points and two rebounds. Gilyard dropped nine points, shooting 3-4 from long range.
The Bonnies went to the locker room tied at 32 a piece.
After a contentious 1st half, Matt Mobley gave the Bonnies the best start possible.
With Adams struggling, someone had to step up. His back court mate Matt Mobley fit the mold. Mobley finished with 29 points, shooting 10-14 from the field and 9-13 from long range.
Mobley talked about his performance from long range and picking his teammate Adams up.
“We told each other last year that no matter what both of us can’t have an off game at the same time, so he was struggling a little bit and wasn’t getting any open looks,” Mobley said. “I had a lot of open looks. My teammates did a great job of finding me and I was knocking down the shots. I just wanted to give us a little bit of confidence.”
Schmidt also placed emphasis on multiple players stepping up for the Bonnies when a teammate has an “off-game.”
“This is not the first time that Jay didn’t play well or Matt didn’t play well,” Schmidt said. “Even in this 13 game winning streak, those guys haven’t played their A-game every game and we’ve had other guys step up and that’s what a team does.”
At one point in the 2nd half Mobley, along with Stockard outscored the whole Richmond team. The Bonnies opened the half on a 21-3 run and kept the pressure up, taking a 53-37 lead. Mobley came back and electrified the crowd again hitting two more threes.
He didn’t miss in the second half until the 10-minute mark. But even with the deficit, the Spiders wouldn’t go away. With nine minutes to go the Spiders knocked down three- straight three pointers and cut the Bonnies lead to single digits. But the Bonnies handled it. And then, Stockard went down. He didn’t return to the game, leaving a big hole on both sides of the ball.
An 11-0 run by the Spiders brought the score to 74-68 with four minutes to play. The Richmond fans took back the Arena from the Bona faithful, out doing the decibel level with their cheers. But as the game went down to the wire; the wolf pack got rowdy.
“We knew our friends were going to come out and support,” Mobley said. “We have the best fans in the country and they’re going to be everywhere. It definitely felt like a home game, but we’ll need them all back tomorrow.”
The momentum had officially shifted. But the Bonnies held tough, even though the Spiders were down just 2 points with 1:30 to go. However, a familiar face sealed it. Adams knocked down three free throws in the final minute and the Bonnies held on, 83-77.
The Bonnies will play the winner of Davidson vs. St. Louis at 3:30 P.M. tomorrow.
Mobley brought up that there is still work to be done for the Bonnies if they want to be in the NCAA Tournament.
“The only way we can secure our spot is winning [this] whole thing, honestly,” Mobley said. “The snub In 2016, everybody remembers that and we don’t want to go through that again. The only way to avoid that is win [this] whole thing.”