[St. Bonaventure seniors Demitrius Conger and Eric Mosley, along with Chris Johnson and Michael Davenport will play their final home game tomorrow on Senior Day – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]
By Ryan Lazo, Editor in Chief, @RMLazo13
ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — While tomorrow’s game against Fordham represents a win and in scenario to make the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament for the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team, it also represents the final home contest for four seniors who have changed the program around.
Demitrius Conger, Michael Davenport, Chris Johnson and Eric Mosley.
Each of these seniors have etched their names into Bona program lore for their accomplishments, but all are aiming to leave a final mark on the program.
“It’s there, man. Everyday we come into the gym, you see the banners and stuff like that,” Chris Johnson said before practice. “But we still got an opportunity to make something happen this year and that’s where the focus is.”
And he’s right.
Because after starting the Atlantic 10 Conference season off with three consecutive losses and facing a daunting road trip to Philadelphia, a place of horrors for the Bona program, things looked bleak.
But those three losses, part of a six-game losing streak, were a turning point for a team that stunned everyone last season by capturing the A-10 Conference Tournament title with a late-season run.
Bona has seemingly captured their footing, winning three out of their last four games. Even more impressive: during their three-game winning streak, Bona averaged 93 points per game, getting hot at the right time once again.
“It’s a different team,” Johnson said. “We’re definitely turning it on in the stretch, but we’re running different plays, different guys are stepping up.”
Perhaps no one has stepped their game up more than the Bonnies’ senior point guard. While Mosley, at 5-foot-10, is the smallest Bona player on the roster, he has played bigger than any of his teammates.
With Bona needing every win they can get, Mosley entered Wednesday night’s game against Dayton averaging 27 points per game over the past four games. What makes that even more scary — it’s nearly identical to Andrew Nicholson’s 27.6 points per game average during last year’s Bonnies’ run.
“I’ve been telling Andrew that he wasn’t better than me,” Mosley said with an ear-to-ear grin. “I don’t know if he believes me or not, but we’re just trying to win games, stats don’t matter. I just want to get another ring.”
This coming from the same program that won just 32 games during a five-year span from the 2003-04 season to the 2007-08 season.
Why the sudden change?
Because players such as Davenport committed to a program that they believed was only going to get better, but even the Cincinnati native did not know the challenge that awaited him.
“I didn’t realize that they went 8-22 until after I had signed,” Davenport said. “My dad said, ‘you know they went 8-22’ and I was like, ‘what?’ To me, that was exciting. To start from scratch and be one of many to leave an imprint on rebuilding a program. That’s the biggest thing that will stick with me.”
But Davenport has also left Bona fans with memories that will stick with them for a lifetime. There was Davenport’s last-second 3-pointer against in Duquesne in 2010, handing the Dukes their first A-10 loss of the season.
Then, there were the numerous highlight dunks, none more so than when on a break, he received a bounce pass from Conger and skied over Lamont Samuel of Fordham. It’s a picture that is enshrined on the walls inside the Reilly Center.
With each highlight play, each signature win like the one over St. John’s, the near misses versus perennial powers such as N.C. State and Virginia Tech, the Bona program rose. And one player who rose each step of the way with it was No. 11.
Conger is truly in a class of his own.
Additionally, this season may be Conger’s best.
The senior forward is the only player in the A-10 to lead his team in points (14.2), rebounds (7.1) and assists (3.1).
But more importantly, the quiet and humble Conger has become more of a leader on the court, talking to his teammates and quieting them down when they become heated with the opposition or referee.
“It’s just something that going into your senior year, you need to do,” Conger said. “You look back on the people before you like Ogo, (Andrew), Quan. You look back on the leadership they showed and what they had done and you try to take that and use your own personality.”
And the personality of the team has changed.
For years, Bona sat in the basement of the A-10 as a perennial joke, but with the additions of players who aimed to make a difference, they have become a tough-minded team capable of anything.
“Once we get our foot in the door, we can play with anyone,” Davenport said. “Last year, while it wasn’t a surprise we got the No. 4 seed, we earned it. And we’re doing the same this year.”
While this year’s Bona squad has not reached the heights of last year’s team, the confidence of being defending A-10 Champions is still there.
“We could have had a better record, but we just dropped a couple of games,” Mosley said. “Making it to the tournament, anyone can win it.”
Whether this Bonnies’ team has any magic left remains to be seen, but with a core group of seniors looking to make a final mark on a program they helped rebuild, anything can happen.