Behind The Wolfpack: Bonnies’ Recent Play Gives Hope For The Future

[St. Bonaventure may be on the outside looking in at the Atlantic 10 Tournament, but recent play has given hope for the future – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

By Ryan Lazo, Editor-in-Chief, @RMLazo13

BRONX, N.Y. — Everyone knew it would be tough for St. Bonaventure to even come close to experiencing the same type of success they had during last season’s magical run to the Sweet 16, but the surprise is success now comes in small increments.

The Bonnies compiled a 31-4 record, capturing the regular season Atlantic 10 Conference champion crown and one Jessica Jenkins’ 3-pointer from being the outright champs, but fell short in the tournament finals against Dayton. Graduating three senior starters in Megan Van Tatenhove, Jenkins and Armelia Horton, part of the winningest class in program history, didn’t help either.

However, this Bona squad still had six players returning from last year’s squad, three of which who figured to be instrumental in continuing the winning tradition. But injuries struck, knocking Chelsea Bowker and her career 39 percent 3-point shooting out for the season.

CeCe Dixon averaged 7.6 points per game last season and was expected to pick up some of the scoring slack, but while she has modestly improved her points per game average to 8.4, it has not been the improvement Bona had hoped.

Dixon’s struggles have mirrored the struggles of the team —  a season once full of hope turned to one of lessons to be learned. And against a Fordham squad that eclipsed the 20-win plateau for the first time in program history, school was in session once again.

Bona won the opening tip and as almost as quick as they gained possession, Fordham struck quick by capturing an early 12-4 advantage. But as Bona has done all season, they fought back almost immediately and this run was led by Dixon.

The 5-foot-3 guard nailed two 3-pointers including one in which she was fouled on and completed a conventional 4-point play to cut the deficit to 12-11.

“That’s us,” Bona coach Jim Crowley said of his young team. “That’s been the most frustrating part of this season is that we haven’t embraced that. But in the last three games at least, we have. We can control how hard we play. We may not be great shooters, but we can play really hard and give ourselves a chance.”

Yes, small baby-steps for these Bonnies.

Slowly, but surely they have learned to play hard no matter what the scoreboard might say or the situation is dictating. It’s a trademark of a Crowley coached team and it finally surfaced in a loss to No. 14 Dayton last week.

Trailing by 13 points with just 37 seconds remaining, the Bonnies fought to the bitter end, stealing inbounds passes and swishing threes with ruthless efficiency to pull as close as 65-61. But that was as close as they would come.

Against Fordham, Bona trailed 41-27 at the half only to roar out of the locker room on a mission. After their No. 14 ranked 3-point defense surrender nine 3-pointers in the first half, Bona locked down and contested every shot. It was their defense which fueled the offense as they went on a 20-7 run to open up the half.

But once again, their comeback efforts were for not as they could not finish the deal.

“It’s good to see them buying in,” Crowley said. “We’ll see if they continue to and that can give us some real good momentum as we head into the offseason.”

The dreaded offseason word.

Yes, the defending regular season A-10 Champions were officially eliminated from the A-10 Tournament with last night’s loss, leaving them on the outside looking in after an historical season.

But Crowley had a point.

While the success may not be easy to find on a grisly 9-19 record, including nine losses in a row, progress is being made.

Crowley has overseen rebuilding projects before and is doing so once again. For three consecutive seasons, Bona’s head man oversaw a nine-win team, but then something clicked. The team no longer feared opponents and their play improved much like it’s doing again.

The last freshmen class turned into the winningest in program history. While it would be unfair to compare the two, there are plenty of similarities between them and it begins with Katie Healy.

Healy has improved as she has played more games, especially within conference play. The freshman forward is second on the team, averaging 11 points and nabbing 6.8 rebounds per contest. However, it’s her game, one that includes polished footwork in the paint and a deft touch from the outside that has made some to compare her to Van Tatenhove.

Emily Michael has not scored a lot this season, but she has started in 20 consecutive games, becoming a reliable option for Crowley. The Ohio native continually makes the right decisions and plays tough defense with an ability to hit from the outside at a 30 percent clip.

Even Nyla Rueter has come alive in conference play, scoring a career-high 15 points against Charlotte. Her 38 percent shooting from the field will only improve as she becomes more confident in her stroke.

Add to them the return of Dixon, Bowker and Doris Ortega who leads the Bonnies in points per game, rebounds and assists and suddenly the team looks promising once again.

“We know what they can be, but we don’t see it on a consistent basis,” Crowley said after his team’s loss to Fordham. “It’s been good the past couple of games where we’ve seen that consistent effort. Now that we have that and as we head into the offseason, we can really focus on getting people better.”

A win against La Salle won’t mean anything to the Bonnies record, but it would send Bona into the offseason on a high note, setting the stage for a rapid turnaround next season with a group who has learned how to compete in the A-10 Conference.

Behind the Wolfpack: Bona Fans Chant Shows love for team

[Bona fans stand up and applaud St. Bonaventure for a magical season that ended in the Sweet 16- Photo by Ryan Lazo]

By Ryan Lazo, Co-editor in chief/feature columnist, @RMLazo13

RALEIGH, N.C. – “We love Bona’s…we love Bona’s.”

The chant reverberated throughout the areas of PNC Arena occupied by the St. Bonaventure faithful with 2:06 remaining in a game that had been decided much earlier.

But that didn’t matter to the Bona fans in attendance.

While the final score read Notre Dame 77, St. Bonaventure 35, Bona fans stood on their feet, clapping wildly, continuing their chant and saluting the team that had accomplished so much this season.

“That’s our place; that’s our area,” Bona coach Jim Crowley said as he reflected on the moment. “The fact that the people who were here behind us still believed in us, still appreciated it, speaks volumes about the character of our school area and our fans.”

And that is precisely what makes St. Bonaventure special to those alumni and students who have graced the campus on an everyday basis.

It’s the ability to see through the bad and notice the good. Sure, the Bonnies were beat by an athletically superior team, but that does not take away the special season they had.

“Forty minutes isn’t going to define our season,” Crowley said. “It didn’t earlier this year and it doesn’t now.”

And their season began to be defined in the first game of the season when St. Bonaventure marched into Carnesecca Arena and handed the then No. 19 St. John’s Red Storm a season-opening loss.

The Bonnies would continue to display their road warrior mentality by handing West Virginia just their fourth non-conference loss at home under current coach Mike Carey.

Then, with a chip on their shoulder after being picked to finish sixth in the Atlantic 10 Preseason Coaches Poll, the Bonnies steamrolled through the conference slate.

Finishing with a perfect 14-0 record, they proved that they were the class of the conference, setting numerous records along the way.

They finished the regular season with a perfect road record, achieved the program’s first national ranking, eclipsed 30 wins for the first time and had an 18-game win streak.

After losing to the Dayton Flyers in the A-10 Finals, the Bonnies gathered in the Reilly Center, with more than 1,000 fans in tow, as the selection show was played on a big screen.

Roars erupted as St. Bonaventure was given a No. 5 seed and an opening round match-up with Florida Gulf Coast. But the opponent didn’t matter in the moment.

Instead, those in attendance focused on one note – it would be the Bonnies first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in their history, another record set in a season full of firsts.

And in their tournament debut, the Bonnies recovered from an 11-point deficit against FGCU to win an overtime thriller. Next up was Marist, a team the Bonnies beat in each of the past two seasons.

True to form Bona executed their game plan to perfection.

Jessica Jenkins supplied the scoring load, erupting for 22 points while the defense forced Marist into bad shots as they advanced to the Sweet 16.

But waiting for them were the Irish who did not take the Bonnies lightly and imposed their will from the start, playing fluid on offense and suffocating on defense, holding Bona to 18.8 percent shooting for the game.

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw still came away impressed with St. Bonaventure.

“I told them in the handshake line that they had a great season,” McGraw said. “To make it to the Sweet 16 in your first NCAA Tournament is quite a debut.”

While Bona’s four seniors – Jenkins, Armelia Horton, Megan Van Tatenhove and Jennie Ashton – have played their final game, the impact they have had on the program will last forever. 

“We have 2,000 students,” Crowley said. “We have no women’s basketball history at all and we’re in the Sweet 16.”

After setting numerous records this season, Bona has made their own history. 

It’s a recent history full of winning, one that should continue thanks to the foundation laid by the seniors who saved their best for their final season.

Bonnies Dream Season Ends In Sweet 16

[Photo courtesy of]

By Joseph Phelan, Staff Writer, @jphelan13

Flashback to Nov. 4, a day the Bonnies barely escaped Division II Edinboro in their season-opening exhibition. 

Then flash forward to Sunday and the Bonnies lost to Notre Dame, 79-35, in the Sweet 16. 

Yes, they lost to the Notre Dame team that is ranked No. 4 in the nation and is led by their star junior Skylar Diggans.

What a journey it has been for the 31-4 St. Bonaventure Bonnies.

Yesterday’s loss will not dictate how this team is portrayed.

“Forty minutes does not define our season,” Bona coach Jim Crowley said.

He is right.

The memories and moments from the season are aplenty. There is much to be pleased about in Olean, N.Y.

The Bonnies just happened to run into a more superior team in Notre Dame.

Notre Dame, led by a balanced scoring attack, had its way early on against the Bonnies and never looked back, jumping out to a quick 16-2 advantage.

“They came out ready to go,” Jessica Jenkins said of the Irish. “They were playing with a chip on their shoulder.”

It was readily apparent in the defensive pressure shown by the Irish on defense, suffocating any Bona player who dared take a shot.

They took pride in not allowing the Bonnies to get a shot off, let alone score.

And score they didn’t. 

The Bonnies only drained one field goal over the first 10:47 of the game. 

“My biggest worry the whole time was whether we could score,” Crowley said. “And obviously that came to fruition.”

Doris Ortega and CeCe Dixon, grouped together as a “package deal” when they were recruited, were the only Bonnies who found success Sunday.

Ortega finished with 11 points while Dixon chipped in 13 as the duo scored more than half of the Bonnies points.

Meanwhile, Kalya McBride led the way for Notre Dame in the first half. 

At 5-foot-11 she completely shut down the smaller Jenkins on defense and dominated her on offense.

She recoreded all 10 of her points in the first half and was one of three Irish to reach double-figures.

Kaila Turner and Natalie Novosel  also combined to score 30 points for the No. 1 seeded Notre Dame.

But Notre Dame really put the game out of reach in the second half, outscoring the Bonnies by a 44 to 22 margin.

With the win, Notre Dame will take on No. 2 seed Maryland tomorrow night at PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC.

The final score indicates that the Bonnies historical season is over, but that is not the case.

The moments and memories will remain with the players, fans and alumni for eternity.

“Having the crowd chanting at the end of the game was special,” Jenkins said hiding back the emotion of the moment.

For the first time since 1970, a St. Bonaventure basketball program won a tournament game.

Setting numerous records along the way, the Bona women gave fans something to believe in, helping warm up the cold and harsh winters in Olean, N.Y.

Bonnies set to face Revenge Minded Marist Team

[Photo courtesy of]

By Mike Bednarowicz, Staff Writer, @Mbed10

After winning the program’s first NCAA Tournament game, the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team now has a rematch against Marist.

On Sunday, the Bonnies survived an upset bid by Florida Gulf Coast, overcoming an 11-point deficit in the second half to win 72-65 in overtime.

The the No. 13 seeded Marist Red Foxes are coming off a victory over No.4 seed Georgia 76-70. Marist, out of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) is 26-7 overall with a 17-1 record in conference and have won 11 straight leading up to this matchup with the Bonnies.

The Red Foxes are coached by Brian Giorgis who has an impressive 251-72 record in 10 seasons at the helm and has been named MAAC coach of the year six times. The Red Foxes have also won 8 consecutive MAAC tournament titles.

Marist is led by MAAC player of the year Corielle Yarde who averages 14.3 points per game and is also their leading rebounder, averaging 6.6 rebounds per game.

Another key contributor for Marist is forward Brandy Gang. She averages 12.5 points per game and has the ability to spread the floor with her ability to shoot the three.

Other vital players for Marist include forward Kelsey Beynnon and guard Leanne Ockenden who both shoot the three well and Casey Dulin who leads the team in steals.

St. Bonaventure and Marist are almost mirror images of one another.

Both teams like to shoot the three with Marist shooting 32 percentfrom 3-point range, while the Bonnies shoot 36 percent. 

Both teams are also stout on the defensive end. Marist allows 55.4 points per game while St. Bonaventure allows 53.4 points per game.

The all-time series between the two schools is tied at three with the most recent meeting coming earlier this year on Dec. 18 with St. Bonaventure coming out victorious, 67-56.

One key to the game for the Bonnies will be to attack early and often and get off to a good start. In the games that they have lost this year, they have a tendency to get down early and not be able to come back. 

It will also be crucial for the Bonnies to have Jessica Jenkins, the team’s best outside shooter hitting on all cylinders as she has struggled the past few games as team’s look to deny her the ball.

The last time these two teams met, Megan Van Tatenhove only played 18 minutes after recovering from a concussion, but is now fully healthy for the rematch.

The Bonnies only lost once this year when they had their normal starting five of Jenkins, Alaina Walker, Armelia Horton, Van Tatenhove and Doris Ortega available. 

Chelsea Bowker also may play a key role in this game. In the Bonnies last two meetings with Marist, Bowker has tallied 17 and 19-points, with most of those points coming from 3-point range. 

On the defensive end the Bonnies need to work on forcing turnovers and preventing Marist’s top player Yarde from getting hot. 

After overcoming a big deficit against Florida Gulf Coast, the Bonnies have to get past a revenge minded Marist team to advance to the Sweet 16.

Behind the Wolfpack: Bonnies comeback bid falls short

[Jessica Jenkins and the rest of the Bonnies walk off the court as they fell to the Flyers, 56-53 – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

By Ryan Lazo, Co-editor in chief/feature columnist, @RMLazo13

PHILADELPHIA – Trailing the Dayton Flyers 27-5 with 7:20 remaining in the first half of the 2012 Buick Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Championship, St. Bonaventure had two options.

They could either quit, knowing full well that its No. 16 ranking in the AP Poll and 29-2 record would get them into the NCAA Tournament, or they could fight to come back.

And fight back they did, ending the half on a 10-0 run. 

In the second half, the Bonnies played team defense and displayed a ball-control offense to take their first lead of the game with 2:16 remaining  but could not hang on as they fell to the Flyers, 56-53 in Hagan Arena.

Bonnies coach Jim Crowley said the loss is on his shoulders.

“I didn’t have our kids where they needed to be at the start of the game,” Crowley said. “We just dug ourselves too deep a hole.”

Players may not have been in the right mindset, but Dayton’s defense gave the entire Bonnies team fits.

Megan Van Tatenhove and Jessica Jenkins scored a combined 49 points in the victory over La Salle yesterday but managed only 18 points on 7-for-22 shooting combined.

Uncharacteristic sloppiness with the basketball also hurt the Bonnies.

“The biggest stat, I think, was here’s a team that’s No. 1 in the nation in the least amount of turnovers,” Dayton coach Jim Jabir said. “And we force them into 19.”

Even with the turnovers climbing and the deficit growing larger, St. Bonaventure never stopped hustling.

“That’s not even in their DNA to quit,” Jabir said.

Key to their comeback effort was Doris Ortega who scored a team-high 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Ortega displayed all of her offensive skills for the 2,014 fans in attendance. Backing defenders into the post, Ortega would quickly pivot to the left and right before fading away for a short jumper.

The sophomore also took players off the bounce, dribbling into and out of traffic, having enough strength to finish around the basket over the taller Dayton defenders.

“She wasn’t caught up in the moment,” Crowley said. “She really was making some plays for us.”

For the second consecutive game, Jordan McGee provided the spark the team needed. 

Playing the last six minutes of the first half, her energy and ability to attack the basket sparked a Bonnies rally. 

It is this fact that makes St. Bonaventure’s NCAA Tournament prospects inviting.

This team never gives up. They hustle for all of the loose balls and play great defense.

As they took the ball down the court with 7.9 seconds remaining, Bonnies fans everywhere felt they would tie the game.

They saw Jessica Jenkins receive the pass, tightly contested by two Dayton defenders, move to her left slightly and let one rip.

The ball hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity before it clanked off the back iron, inciting a Flyers celebration.

The last time the Bonnies lost, they won 18 straight games.

They only need to win six consecutive to become national champions.

Assistant Sports Editor Joseph Phelan contributed to this report

St. Bonaventure beat Saint Joseph’s, 78-52, Sunday to make it to the 2012 Buick Atlantic 10 Championship. Monday’s contest between SBU and Dayton will be on ESPN 2 at 5 p.m.

Coach Jim Crowley, Jessica Jenkins, Megan Van Tatenhove and Armelia Horton talked about Sunday’s semifinal game vs. Saint Joseph’s and Monday’s championship game vs. Dayton.

[Related: Dynamic Duo leads Bonnies into A-10 finals]

[Related: Podcast interview with Ryan Gensler]

[Related: Podcast interview with Jennie Ashton]

Column: Dynamic Duo leads Bonnies into A-10 Finals

[Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

By Joseph Phelan, Staff Writer, @jphelan13 Pin It

PHILADELPHIA- In what has been a record setting season thus far, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies reached another milestone with their 78-52 victory over the Saint Joseph’s Hawks in Hagan Arena.

The victory in the semifinal round of the Atlantic 10 Championship Tournament moved the Bonnies (29-2) into the finals for the first time in program history. 

Credit has to be given to the dynamic duo of Megan Van Tatenhove and Jessica Jenkins, who combined to score 49-points, just three shy of the entire Hawks team.

Van Tatenhove scored early and often as she dominated the post and took advantage of the absence of St. Joseph’s best interior defender, Samira Van Grinsven, who had two quick fouls.

“We wanted to get her touches,” Crowley said. “We thought it was a favorable matchup.”

[Related: Video of Crowley, Jenkins, Van Tatenhove, Horton talking about SJU and Dayton games]

Van Tatenhove used an assortment of moves to devastate the Hawks defense. Pump-fakes, dips, up and unders and spin moves were all on display to those in attendance. 

She went 9-of-17 from the field including 1-for-2 from 3-point range en route to scoring 27-points.

It was the senior’s dominance inside that opened things up for the Bonnies on the perimeter, especially for Jenkins.

Jenkins, utilizing the space given to her because of Van Tatenhove, knocked down three 3-pointers in the opening half. 

“Every time she shoots it I know it is going in,” Van Tatenhove said. 

But maybe the most impressive of Jenkins game-high four 3-pointers was the lone one she hit in the second half.

With 9:17 remaining in the game and the Bonnies up 50-40, St. Joseph’s Ashley Prim drove to the lane looking to bring the Hawks to within eight.

But Jenkins was waiting for her.

She stripped the ball for a steal, dribbled up the court and spotted up for the 3-pointer, buried it and effectively ended a Hawks rally. 

That steal prompted a 17-5 Bonnies run that ended the Hawks chances and turned the game into a laugher. 

“There a lot of people who make shots,  but there are not a lot of people who can make big shots,” Crowley said.

Luckily for the Bonnies, Jenkins is one of those players. 

Jenkins shot 7-of-11 from the field including 4-for-7 from 3-point range, finishing with 22-points.

But it was not all Van Tatenhove and Jenkins.

Alaina Walker provided a spark of her own when on a loose ball she dove to the floor, fully extending her body to gain possession.

“That is the backbone of who we are,” Crowley said. “We can control how hard we play and the clock doesn’t matter, the score doesn’t matter, the opponent doesn’t matter and our kids believe that.”

The Bonnies will bring the same intensity into the finals for a rematch with the Dayton Flyers, a team they beat on the road, 56-55.

One step away from an A-10 Championship, the Bonnies will continue to play their game, following the lead of their dynamic duo.

The Intrepid’s Melissa Scott (@lissa_michelle_) and Kenny Nguyen (@KennyT_Win) took photos from No. 22/25 St. Bonaventure’s 66-48 victory against Xavier Saturday.

[Related – Column: Van Tatenhove shines brightest on Senior Day]

[Related – Behind the Wolfpack: Bona seniors cementing their legacies]