Bona fans– Don’t think what it could have been. Think what it can be

photos courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

BROOKLYN– It looked like a story book ending.

But it ended in a way that broke the hearts of the thousands of Bonnies fans that traveled to Brooklyn over the weekend.

When the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team’s 2018-19 season came to an end Sunday afternoon, it left an opportunity on the table that could have only been dreamed about at the beginning of the year.

The Bonnies fell to Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10 championship game, and the college careers of Courtney Stockard, LaDarien Griffin and Nelson Kaputo came to an end.

St. Bonaventure entered the tournament as the fourth seed, but once Sunday came around, it looked like everything they needed to happen to win the tournament came true.

 

The top three seeds in the tournament (VCU, Davidson, Dayton) had all been knocked out, and the Bonnies awaited a Saint Louis team in the final that they had beaten eight days before.

 

But when the final buzzer sounded, it brought sorrow instead of joy for Bonnies fans.

Bona was so close, so close, to making an an improbable run to the NCAA tournament. It would have been the first time the program had ever went to the tournament in back-to-back years and a remarkable end to the careers of three seniors that have been through a lot over the past four seasons at SBU.

But for many Bonnies fans, it became the game, the championship and the tournament run that could have been.

 

Sure, it’s easy to look back at the past and think what could have resulted if a bounce or two could have gone Bona’s way. It’s also easy to look at the turnaround that this team had, after starting the season 4-10 and then coming within seven minutes of an A10 championship.

But at the culmination of this season, what Bonnies fans should really be excited is the year to come– and probably the next three.

xroz33wq0kj3v4tb
Bonnies center Osun Osunniyi during their win over Rhode Island

The team started three freshmen (when they were healthy) for the majority of the season. Kyle Lofton, Dom Welch and Osun Osunniyi averaged a combined 30 points and 14.4 rebounds per game during the regular season. The trio also scored 35.3 points per game and pulled down 18 rebounds per game during the A10 tournament.

 

Under a coach that is notorious for giving freshmen time to develop before he gives them significant playing time, it is remarkable what this year’s freshman class did.

Lofton and Osunniyi, prep school teammates, each blossomed into impact players in the Atlantic 10 over the course of the year. Both were named to the conference’s All-Rookie team, and Osunniyi was also named to its All-Defensive team.

For his play over the weekend, Lofton was named to the A10 All-Tournament team.

Welch, who missed nine games in the regular season with an injury, took longer to come around than the other two.

2jxv92d50ai33l11
Bonnies guard Dom Welch after hitting a three against George Mason

But the Buffalo native showed his potential in Brooklyn. Welch shot 6-12 from beyond the arc and scored 20 a career-high points in Bona’s quarterfinal win over George Mason, and followed it up with a 13-point performance the next day against Rhode Island.

 

What impressed me the most from Welch over the weekend was his defensive awareness. He was all over the court, and his defensive play, along with his offense, showed that he was finally ready to play at the level Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt had hoped he could.

“The future is bright,” said Schmidt after the loss to Saint Louis. “We’ve got to bring in some more guys, but they are a talented group that is going to continue to get better.”

Schmidt has already landed several players who could fill the roles the seniors left, including Bobby Planutis, a transfer from Mt. St. Mary’s who had to sit out this season, and Justin Winston, a three-star recruit from the same prep school that Lofton and Osunniyi came from (Putnam Science Academy).

Those players and the other returners will have 25-point-per-game shoes to fill that Stockard and Griffin will take with them when they graduate.

Sounds tough, but Bona was put in the same situation this year after they lost Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley’s combined 37.2 points per game.

Maybe I’m just trying to be positive.

But it’s hard to ignore the fact that the Bonnies have a special trio of freshmen on their hands who have big-game experience after playing into Sunday of the A10 tournament. That experience will go a long way in future years if they can find themselves in the same spot.

The 2019 Bonnies came close. But this tournament run, which was almost one for the ages, could be just the beginning of what this young group can accomplish.

I’m not the only one who feels that way. In the final press conference of his career, Griffin showed his enthusiasm for the future of the Bona program.

“Those guys are gonna use this season as motivation and as long as they stay together they’re going to be really special,” said Griffin.

“They’re going to be really, really good.”

Advertisements

Second half run pushes the Bonnies past Rhode Island

By:Isaiah Blakely 

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies had a slow start offensively again in the Barclays Center, this time in the semifinals against the Rhode Island Rams.

The Bonnies picked it up on both ends of the floor late in the first half. The momentum and confidence carried through the rest of the game as the Bonnies (18-15) defeated the Rams (18-15) 68-51 to move on to the Atlantic 10 tournament final tomorrow afternoon.

The Rams came out fast early on holding a 22-12 lead with nine minutes left in the first half. Rhode Island guards Jeff Dowtin and Fatts Russell scored a combined 18 points on 8-29 shooting. Seven of their points were scored early in the first half. Junior Cyril Langevine lead the Rams in scoring with 15 points.

Rhode Island’s defense was also giving the Bonnies fits early. The Bonnies were shooting 3-14 halfway through the first half.

The Rams took a 15-point lead after a Tyrese Martin three pointer with four minutes left in the half.

Then the Bonnies made their run.

The Bonnies went on a 13-0 run led by Bonaventure’s freshmen Dominick Welch and Kyle Lofton.

Welch helped keep the Bonnies afloat in the first half scoring 10 of his 13 points in the first half.

Lofton was good all afternoon scoring 23 points and adding five assists.

“The freshmen don’t play like freshmen. Kyle (Lofton) in my opinion was the best guy on the court,” Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt said.

The Bonnies went into the locker room down 29-27. Second half was more of the same for the Bonnies.

The Bonnies outscored Rhode Island 41-22 in the second half.

The Bonnies offense also got some help from their big men. LaDarien Griffin and Osun Osunniyi combined for 5 points in the first half. Second half the duo combined for 19 points. The senior Griffin had 13 points and six rebounds while the freshman Osunniyi had a double-double 10 points 11 rebounds and four blocks.

Senior Courtney Stockard struggled from field only shooting 1-11 but free throws from him, Griffin and Lofton helped put the game away. The Bonnies as a team shot 16-17 from the line.

Along with the almost perfect free throw shooting from the Bonnies, the Rams went seven and a half minutes without a field goal. During that period the Bonnies went on a 20-3 run that gave them a 21-point lead.

The Bonnies calling card continues to be defense as they move to 15-0 when holding opponents to under 60 points. The Bonnies have also held 10 straight opponents to under 40 percent shooting.

“It’s the best defensive team we’ve had since I’ve been the coach,” Schmidt said. “It’s a mindset. We’re not a great offensive team. We haven’t been a great offensive team all year, but the kids are figuring it out that in order for us to win we’ve got to defend.”

The Bonnies face off against the winner of Saint Louis and Davidson for the Atlantic 10 tournament title and a ticket to the NCAA tournament tomorrow at 1:00.

 

 

PC: GoBonnies.com

Men’s basketball: Bonnies should be just fine with underdog role

(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

The tweets started to pour in, all with a similar theme or agenda.

“Leaving for Brooklyn in a half hour. Four spots left in my car. Come to the Plassmann/Murphy lot with gas money.”

St. Bonaventure guard Jordan Gathers had just made a buzzer-beating three-pointer to upset No. 1 seed Saint Louis in the 2014 Atlantic 10 Tournament at Barclays Center. The Bonnies, who had fallen to the No. 8 seed in the tourney after losing four straight games to close out the regular season, were going to Semifinal Saturday. And an ambivalent-turned-spontaneous SBU community was joining them.

Bona lost that semifinal game to a St. Joseph’s team that had two future NBA players on the roster in DeAndre’ Bembry and Langston Galloway. However, the Bonnies went on a mini-run that pleased the fans and masked the fact that they went 6-10 in A-10 regular season play that year.

In a tournament that has proven to be unpredictable, the Bonnies should be just fine with another underdog role this year, as the No. 5 seed.

Last year, Bonaventure was in the rare position of being the third seed and one of the favorites to earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Coach Mark Schmidt’s team played a strong game that Friday night, but lost to Davidson in overtime. Dayton, VCU and SBU were the three big favorites, but it was No. 4 St. Joe’s, which had lost three of its last five regular season games, that claimed the title on Sunday.

The No. 1 overall seed has won the Atlantic 10 Tournament twice since 2004. Over that time, three teams outside of the top four, without the benefit of a double-bye, won four straight to take the title: Xavier in 2004 (third West division), Xavier in 2006 (No. 10 seed) and VCU in 2015 (No. 5 seed).

In an unpredictable tournament, the Bonnies have three things every champion for the past nine years has had:

-A top five seed in the tournament

-An All-A-10 First Team player.

-A coach who has been to an NCAA Tournament before as a head or assistant coach.

Bona is, indeed, a dangerous team, with the best backcourt and highest-scoring offense overall in the conference.

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: Bonnies should be just fine with underdog role”

Column: Bonnies will be a focus- and box office hit- in Brooklyn

(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

It will be lights, camera, action at the Barclays Center on Friday night.

The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team’s Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinal matchup against Davidson in Brooklyn has a prime 9 p.m. start time. It’s a fitting time slot for a regular season co-champion that has captivated the conference by exceeding expectations and playing exciting ball.

The Bona community doesn’t want to miss out on its team’s run, and that support has contributed to a Barclays Center A-10 first.

Lower-level tickets to Friday night’s session, which also includes the UMass-VCU game at 6:30, sold out around 10 p.m. on Thursday. The upper sections of the arena will be opening up for the first time in the four years Brooklyn has hosted the tournament. Since fans of SBU and VCU knew for weeks that their teams would be starting the tournament on Friday, they were able to plan ahead and purchase seats in record numbers.

Continue reading “Column: Bonnies will be a focus- and box office hit- in Brooklyn”

Men’s basketball: Bonnies lose to Dayton in heartbreaking fashion

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies won some thrilling nail-biters in the 2014-15 basketball season. On Friday night, however, they just didn’t have enough as they fell 75-71 to the Dayton Flyers in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals.

Unlike Thursday night’s game against St. Joseph’s, the Bonnies had a very strong first half. They shot 66.7 percent from the floor in the opening 20 minutes, including a 4-of-9 mark from long range. Dion Wright, who had made one three all season before the game, hit two triples in the span of two minutes to give Bona a huge boost. Marcus Posley led all scorers with 16 points going into the break, including two threes and 4-of-4 foul shooting.

Wright was able to continue his incredible shooting night in the second half, when he hit two more threes and scored 12 more points, giving himself 24 for the game. Posley added 10 more points in the second half to give himself a team-leading of 26.

“Dion couldn’t have played better, Marcus couldn’t have played better,” Schmidt said.

“Coming into the game, we knew the game plan,” Posley said. “We knew we were going to have to shoot the ball a lot better than we did the first two times we met them and depend on the three-point line.”

Bona led 67-66 with a minute and a half to go when Andell Cumberbatch saw his layup roll out and Flyers guard Jordan Sibert hit a three to put Dayton up three with a minute to go. On Bona’s next possession, Denzel Gregg was unable to connect with Posley on a pass, resulting in a Sibert steal and score to put the Flyers up five.

Posley went up the middle for a quick layup with 39 seconds to play, followed by an intentional foul that sent Sibert to the line. He made one of two and Posley made a layup to cut the Flyer lead to one. Sibert made one of two foul shots once again, giving SBU one more possession down 73-71. Posley drove to the basket but Kendall Pollard stole the ball, leading to a Kyle Davis layup to ice the game for Dayton.

“Seeing the gap, (I) thought I could make a basket,” Posley said. “Unfortunately he got his hand on the ball.

“Unfortunately it didn’t pan out the way we wanted it to, but proud of the guys. It was a great effort today.”

Bona committed 16 turnovers in total, eight more than the Flyers. The lack of ball protection was a large part of Bonaventure’s undoing in the end.

Unless the Bonnies accept an invitation to the College Basketball Invitational (CBI), which they did not do last year, this game was the last in the college careers of seniors Youssou Ndoye, Andell Cumberbatch and Chris Dees.

Ndoye, who was hobbled by a knee injury for much of the game, finishes his four-year Bonaventure career with 967 career points, 697 rebounds and 204 blocks. Cumberbatch and Dees were junior college transfers. Cumberbatch scored 558 points over his two years and Dees scored 85 in his.

“(It’s) most disappointing for the seniors because you know it’s the end and (you know) how much work you put in… and you build up such great relationships with them,” Schmidt said.

The Bonnies finish the season at 18-13. They made the quarterfinal round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament in two of the last three years.

Quick Hitters: St. Joseph’s (A-10 Tournament)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies defeated the St. Joseph’s Hawks 60-49 in their second round matchup on Thursday night at the Barclays Center. Here are some quick hitters from the game:

  • Rough first half: The Bonnies struggled mightily on offense in the first half, going 9-of-27 from the field in the opening 20 minutes. Despite the sluggish offensive start, they only trailed St. Joseph’s by five (28-23) going into the locker room, thanks largely in part to St. Joe’s going just 9-of-26 in the first session.
  • Rebounding resurgence: The Bonnies outscored the Hawks 37-21 in the second half, with rebounding being a key factor. After leading the battle of the boards just 21-20 going into the break, Bona outrebounded the Hawks 27-13 in the second half. Denzel Gregg led all rebounders with 15 boards, a career high.
  • Ndoye and Wright lead Bona scorers: Youssou Ndoye scored 18 points, 10 in the second half, to lead the team’s scoring. Despite getting a technical foul after a scuffle in the early going (his second year in a row picking up a “T” in the team’s first tournament game), Ndoye was able to compose himself. The 7-foot senior made all four of his free throws in the second half to ice the game. Wright scored 15 points after 7-of-11 shooting from the floor, continuing to be arguably SBU’s most consistent offensive threat.
  • Free throws are the clincher: The afore-mentioned foul shots were vital for Bona in the second half. After going 4-of-8 from the stripe in the first half, they went 12-of-13 in the second.
  • Next up: The Bonnies face the Dayton Flyers in the quarterfinal game Friday at 6:30. Dayton beat Bonaventure by a combined 31 points in the two regular season contests.

Men’s basketball: #Bonnies beat Saint Louis, advance to semifinals

By Chuckie Maggio, @ChuckieMaggio

With 20 seconds on the clock and the game knotted at 68, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies had the ball with a chance to win the game.

Bonnies point guard Charlon Kloof took a couple slow dribbles down the court, trying to plan his attack to the basket. He drove, was engulfed by two defenders and passed the ball out to Jordan Gathers at the top of the key.

What happened next will go down in Bonaventure lore. Gathers jumped, let it fly- and watched as the ball swished in as the buzzer sounded. The nine-seeded Bonnies had pulled off the upset over the top-seeded Saint Louis Billikens, 71-68. The crowd erupted as the players mobbed Gathers. He may not have been the leading scorer (he scored five points), but no one would remember that after this one. Gathers was the hero.

“When I let it go, I knew it was going in,” Gathers said. “Charlon gave me a great pass and I just tried to make a play.”

Gathers, just like every player, had dreamed this scenario before countless times in his head.

“It’s every player’s dream to hit the big shot there. I give all the glory to God,” he said.

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: #Bonnies beat Saint Louis, advance to semifinals”