Bonnies’ Defense Sets Record In Win

[Alaina Walker scored a team-high 16 points in St. Bonaventure’s victory over Rhode Island on Wednesday night – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

By Joe Phelan, Assistant Sports Editor, @jphelan13

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — After earning their first Atlantic 10 Conference victory of the season on Saturday, St. Bonaventure aimed to grab their first two-game winning streak since last month.

Meanwhile, the Rhode Island Rams entered the Reilly Center winless in A-10 play and Bona made sure it stayed that way.

Utilizing both a stifling defense and poor play by the Rams, St. Bonaventure won their second straight game, 48-28.

The 28 points allowed by the Bonnies (9-10, 2-2) set a record for the fewest points allowed in a game in program history.

“Any time you score 48 and still win by 20, you’re playing some pretty wicked defense,” Bona head coach Jim Crowley said.

While CeCe Dixon did not play due to internal issues, Bona’s defense did not skip a beat as they forced Rhode Island (5-14, 0-4) to shoot just 26.8 percent from the field.

And nothing pleases Bona’s head man more than playing tough defense.

“I’m just really proud of our defense,” Crowley said. “I think our kids are really starting to get what we are about.”

While Alaina Walker is mostly known for her impact on the defensive side of the ball, the senior has started to pick her offensive game as well.

Walker’s 16 points led all scorers and her nine rebounds left her one shy of recording a double-double on the night.

“A couple days ago, after the Richmond game, we challenged the team, who wants the ball. Who is going to make plays?” Crowley said.

No one has responded to the challenge more so than Bona’s senior leader who also recorded 21 points in their victory over UMass on Saturday.

“Her (Walker) and I talked about just taking over and how much confidence we have in her,” Crowley said. “She is doing what she is certainly capable of.”

And what she is capable of is doing the little things that mean everything for a winning program. Walker crashes the boards on every possession, she willingly takes charges and hedges on screens.

But her work in the gym has helped her expand her role as well.

“What you are seeing now is how hard she worked in the gym,” Crowley said. “From a kid that couldn’t make a shot to a kid that we want taking shots.”

After shooting 1-for-4 from the free-throw line in a 51-46 loss to Richmond, Walker needed to find her stroke.

“I know I struggled down at Richmond,” said Walker. “Immediately after that, next day, I knew I had to get back in the gym and increase my percentage.”

Since her 25 percent shooting performance performance on January 16, Walker has connected on 15 of her last 17 free throws.

Along with Walker, freshman Katie Healy displayed glimpses of what is sure to be an exciting four seasons with the Brown and White with her offensive ability..

“It was great to see Katie deliver,” Crowley said. “And certainly she is capable of that.”

Healy finished with 14 points (an A-10 career high) and seven rebounds, while shooting a remarkable 75 percent from the field.

Slowly, but surely, the Bonnies are figuring out exactly who they are.

“At some point as players as teams, you just decide what you are going to be able to do,” said Crowley.  “And right now, our kids have made a decision to defend really well, to make the free throws and soon the shots will come.”

And after two straight victories, the Bonnies have decided they want to keep winning by doing the little things and aim to take down St. Joseph’s on Saturday.

phelanjc11@bonaventure.edu

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Bonnies Pick Up Key A-10 Win

[The St. Bonaventure bench was all smiles during a game they controlled from the opening tip – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

By Joe Phelan, Assistant Sports Editor, @jphelan13

Trying to avoid an 0-3 start in Atlantic 10 Conference play, St. Bonaventure took to Reilly Center court with determination and it was evident from the opening tip.

The Bonnies employed a stifling defense that seemingly frustrated UMass throughout the game and helped Bona pick up a 61-49 victory.

However, the game did not come without some drama.

The Bonnies nearly blew a 16-point lead, but Doris Ortega and Alaina Walker withstood UMass’ late surge.

“I thought Alaina (Walker) had kind of brought us to that point,” said St. Bonaventure head coach Jim Crowley. “And I thought Doris (Ortega) did an amazing job of wanting the basketball and making plays and really trusting the execution.”

Ortega had eight points of her season-high 19 in the last four minutes of the game.

“Our coaches talk to us about teams are going to make runs but it’s that answer shot that stops their run and just helps us going,” said Ortega

The Bonnies offense featured Ortega at the top of the key for an isolation.

Ortega either did a spin, head-fake to draw a foul or a step back fade away jumper

As much as the Bonnies needed Ortega down the stretch, Walker provided the biggest all around spark.

Walker scored 21 points, had eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block.

Walker also had one turnover in 32 minutes of play.

“They (my teammates) always want me to be aggressive and when I am not aggressive it hurts the team,” said Walker “I try to get everyone involved at first and that opens up driving lanes and I am able to finish or kick to one of these guys.”

After losing to Richmond on Wednesday, coach Crowley wanted one of his starters from last season’s Sweet 16 to step up.

“I challenged them the other day, who is going to be the leader, who is going to want the basketball and they both (Ortega and Walker) responded in a terrific way, which is the way we figured they would,” said Crowley. “They’re great competitors.”

As alarming it might sound to nearly surrender a 16-point lead (the closest UMass cut it was to one with 4:26 remaining) Crowley sees the victory as beneficial.

“When you are struggling to figure out who you are those things happen,” said Crowley.

But Crowley was pleased with how the Bonnies turned a scare into a 16-point triumph.

“It was really good for our kids to have some adversity, handle it, trust each other and good things happen,” said Crowley.

Ortega put it best: “We didn’t panic, we just continued to executed. We didn’t let that lead effect us.”

A key matchup for UMass was Jasmine Watson.

Despite getting off to a hot start (two baskets in the first one minute and 50 seconds) the Bonnies did an excellent job in containing her for the rest of the game.
After Katie Healy had a difficult time covering Watson the first few possessions, Crowley made the decision to put Ortega on the six-foot-three senior.

Watson finished with eight total points.

“Doris had 19 points, but we are not talking about how well she defended inside,” said Crowley “That allowed Katie’s length to help a little bit which I thought was a really good thing. A really good job by Doris, but also by her teammates to ball pressure and be there and not let her (Watson) get any easy turns.”

The pressure inside and out forced 16 UMass turnovers, which resulted in 13 St. Bonaventure points.

“I think all three of our conference games we’ve done a really great job buying in and understanding what our defense is supposed to do,” said Crowley. “And how we can feed off it. “

The Bonnies not only created turnovers, but they held Massachusetts to 32.1 percent shooting for the game.

“They’re bigger than us, at almost every position, but because of our positioning and because of our willingness to trust one another,” said Crowley. “We were able to create a low shooting percentage for them and do a pretty decent job on the boards.”

The Bonnies take on Rhode Island on Wednesday night at the Reilly Center. They will look for their second Atlantic-10 win.


Column: Team Effort Leads To Big Win

[St.Bonaventure regroups in the huddle following a timeout – Photo courtesy of gobonnies.com]

By Joseph Phelan, Assistant Sports Editor, @jphelan13

Take this scenario — What happens when Alaina Walker and Doris Ortega combine to shoot 1-for-10?

It means that the Bonnies must have lost, right?

Not even close.

The Bonnies beat Binghamton 61-34 in front of 1,121 spectators to open their season.

After trailing 12-11 with 11:03 remaining in the first half, the Bonnies went on a 22-6 run to end the half.

Katie Healy was a reason why.

In her first collegiate game, Healy torched the Bearcats defense with 8 first half points.

“I saw that some of the players were struggling,” Healy said after the game. “And my coaches told me that I need to step it up, really bring some energy.”

Healy provided the necessary offensive spark around the midway mark of the first half by utilizing her distinct height advantage.

“Katie gave us a presence inside,” Bona head coach Jim Crowley said of his freshman.

Healy’s inside presence gave the Bonnies open shots, which junior Ashley Zahn didn’t pass up.

Zahn, who scored a career-high 14 points, provided two 3-pointers and three deep 2-pointers.

But the junior wasn’t hot from the get-go, missing her first two 3-point attempts before settling down.

“Me and coach talked about this week is how you forget about your misses, you correct them and then you keep going from there,” Zahn said.

Zahn also talked about team defense.

“In the exhibition game we had trouble helping off the post, so we worked on that all this week,” said Zahn. “(We) really drilled it.”

A player who stepped up on defense was freshman Emily Michael.

Michael had two steals and played great on-ball defense on the Bearcats’ Stephanie Jensen.

“I am really confident in Emily’s abilities, so is the team,” said Crowley. “We know we are going to get effort and we know she has really good feet.”

Michael, who also had three assists and two 3-pointers in her college debut, realized the importance of team defense.

“As a team, we work on defense all the time and it is really what we feed off of to get our offense going,” Michael said.

Michael’s ball pressure helped force 16 Bearcats’ turnovers that resulted in 22 Bona points.

“A goal I set for myself and the team was that I was going to bring it on defense and I think today is worked out,” Michael said.

Defense has been the staple of Crowley’s system for years and the Bonnies tied a school record held by last year’s team by allowing just 34 points.

Even while many saw glimpses of a defense that finished first in the Atlantic 10 in scoring defense last year, Crowley was not pleased.

“We made a lot of mistakes defensively in the second half. We were very fortunate they missed some easy shots,” Crowley said. “But that’s what first games are for.”

Crowley had an important message to his team after the win.

“I told them after this game, they’re never going to satisfy me, but as long as they’re working really hard to satisfy each other and understand that accountability then we will be fine with whatever the scoreboard says.”

phelanjc11@bonaventure.edu

Ndoye’s Improvement Bodes Well For The Bonnies

[Youssou Ndoye soars for a dunk last season against Rhode Island – Photo courtesy of gobonnies.com]

By Joseph Phelan, Assistant Sports Editor, @jphelan13

After losing the production of Andrew Nicholson and Da’Quan Cook from last year’s team, St. Bonaventure turns to Youssou Ndoye to supply the force inside.

The Brown and White have a deep and experienced team, but one that lacks bigs. The 7-footer from Senegal is the only active Bona player taller than 6-foot-8 on the roster.

“We are very limited as far as bigs and size,” senior guard Michael Davenport said.

And in a league full of talented big men, the Bonnies needed Ndoye to develop his game and he has done just that. Attending the same big man camp that turned Nicholson into a star, Ndoye has already improved greatly.

“He used be like that tripod right there that skinny, but in the summer he took a lot of time to work on his body,” Davenport said as he pointed toward a skinny cameraman. “He’s gained a lot of muscle.”

But the gained muscle won’t prevent Ndoye from picking up the cheap fouls that made him find a spot on the bench. Davenport said that it’s up to everyone on the court to help their big man out.

“The other four guys out there have to protect Youssou because at all times we need him out on the floor,” Davenport said. “We don’t need him in foul trouble. That comes with staying up on defensive assignments.”

Ndoye excited the Brown and White faithful last year with the energy and raw ability he brought to the floor, but his goal was to turn the raw ability into sustained talent.

“I went to the camp that Andrew (Nicholson) used to go for the last three years,” Ndoye said.“I spent like a month lifting, conditioning and basketball stuff. I wanted to get better in all areas of my game.”

And it seemed like he did just that when the Bonnies took on Mansfield this past weekend during their exhibition tune-up. While the Mountaineers are a Division II school, it was still obvious how much the Bona big man improved.

Ndoye shot 5-for-8 from the field for 14 points in just 21 minutes of action. And two of those points may have come on the most impressive dunk one will ever see.

His footwork was better around the basket, his shot seemed to fall easier and his extra strength helped him dominate the smaller opponent

Head coach Mark Schmidt said that while most freshman do not play well, he liked the way Ndoye continued to develop in tough circumstances.

“He wouldn’t have played a lot last year if Marquise (Simmons) didn’t get hurt, but he learned,” he said. “The only way you gain some experience is by playing and getting into the fire and getting your feet wet and I thought he did a great job as the season went along and as he played more he got better.”

And that experience will only help Ndoye and St. Bonaventure defend their Atlantic 10 Conference title.

“I think that first year was a tremendous learning experience for him and it gave him some confidence because there was times during the season that he played really well and that’s going to be a carryover hopefully to this year,” Schmidt said.

However, the Bonnies do not need Ndoye to dominate to win games, they just need him to be himself.

“We’re not expecting him to replace Andrew — no one is going to replace him. We’re expecting him to be Youssou,” Schmidt said. “To be able to run the court, score inside, play that physical game, be a guy that we can rely on and be a guy that can do the dirty work for us inside.”

And if Ndoye can do just that, the Brown and White faithful will be witnesses to plenty of wins in the Reilly Center and the continued development of a talented big man.

phelanjc11@bonaventure.edu

Bonnies Begin Season On A Good Note.

By Joseph Phelan, Assistant Sports Editor, @jphelan13

The Bonnies beat Mansfield 104-61 in Saturday’s afternoon exhibition game.

It was a statement game for St. Bonaventure as they begin to try to duplicate the success of last season without Da’Quan Cook and Andrew Nicholson in the fold.

“We wanted to set our identity today,” said head coach Mark Schmidt. “Make sure the fans knew what type of team we were going to be.”

The identity was set. This team has an excellent mix of shooters and drivers led by senior Demitrius Conger.

Conger finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists, including a ferocious dunk in the first half that made the crowd erupt.

“I thought Demetrius did a great job,” said Schmidt. “I told him at the very beginning that he needed to be a stat-stuffer.”

Conger might be the go-to player, but the rest of the Bonnies are capable of scoring the basketball.

Five players scored more than 10 points, including redshirt senior Michael Davenport.

Davenport knocked down two 3-pointers en route to 10 total points.

Davenport, along with Marquise Simmons, played their first basketball games at the collegiate level since their respective season-ending injuries last year.

“I think when you are off for a year and come back to play in a competitive environment like that it is tough, especially early,” said Schmidt.

The main message taken out of Saturday’s ball game came from Charlon Kloof.

“Our chemistry took off where we left off last year,” said the junior point guard. “We grew tighter. Now we are even more brothers than last year. 

Schmidt stressed the importance of sharing the basketball and finding the open player.

“We made the extra pass. We have good guys on our team,” said Schmidt. “Unselfish guys. And it showed today.”

Kloof said it best, though— “You see a white shirt open? Pass him the ball.”

There are no egos. Everyone’s capable of scoring the basketball and that is the identity of this team.

For the first time, in a 40-minute regulation game, since December 31, 2002 against Ohio the Bonnies scored 100+ points.

But Schmidt put everything in perspective.

“We can’t get comfortable because we beat Mansfield,” said Schmidt.

There are things that need to be worked on.

“We have to sure up our defensive part of our game and our rebounding part of our game,” said Schmidt. “We need to continue to work on our offense.”

The real thing begins this Friday with the season opener against Bethune-Cookman.

“We are 0-0,” said Schmidt. “Our goal from the very beginning of the season was to be, on November 9, 1 and 0.”

phelanjc11@bonaventure.edu

The Bonnies Are Back And Ready For The Season.

By Joseph Phelan, Assistant Sports Editor, @jphelan13

St. Bonaventure led Edinboro 10-9 with 13:19 remaining in the first half. That would be the Bonnies last lead until 5.2 seconds left in the ball game.

Senior Jordan McGee knocked down a jump shot to give her team a 63-62 win.

“She worked really hard on that shot,” said head coach Jim Crowley. “There was no hesitation.”

An exhibition game was important, especially for a team with six new players and three new starters.

“Other people are in new roles; we don’t know what they are going to deliver, so there’s some excitement with that, but there’s also some frustration with that and, we got to build that consistency,” said Crowley.

Edinboro took advantage of the Bonnies lack of defensive consistency, connecting on eight 3-pointers and shooting 48 percent from the field.

“Our defense is really built on trust,” said junior Doris Ortega.

There were obvious wrinkles in the Bonaventure defense.

“We were leaving people out on islands because we were worried about our kid scoring instead of defending everyone. The best way to teach that is against another opponent,” said Crowley.

But what did Crowley like about Saturday’s win?

“The two things that I really liked: that we made plays late and, we took care of the ball,” said Crowley. “The team pressed us pretty much the whole game, and I think we had nine turnovers.”

One of those players who made plays late was junior Ashley Zahn.

Zahn struggled with her shot for most of the game.

“I thought she passed up a few shots. I thought she got bothered at times that she missed some, but we know she is a competitive kid,” said Crowley.

She finished 2-8 from the 3-point line.

But her last three with 4:44 left in the game was huge.

“For her to make that last one doesn’t surprise us, but it is also really good to see because now we can make sure she remembers that on other days she struggles,” said Crowley.

Moving forward, Crowley trusts Zahn and her abilities.

“We need a shooter. Everybody does, but the way we play, we especially need it,” said Crowley. “She (Zahn) is the kid most ready to do that for us.”

This Saturday, the Bonnies will face off against Binghamton in the team’s first official game of the season.

It’ll be an exciting time when the Sweet 16 and Atlantic 10 regular season champion banners are raised, but for the Bonnies, it’ll be all business with test No. 1.

phelanjc11@bonaventure.edu

Column: Bowker’s Injury A Blow To The Bonnies

[Photo courtesy of gobonnies.com]

By Joseph Phelan, Staff Writer, @jphelan13

Injuries to star players and senior leaders can often cripple a team’s chances of surviving and the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team is already behind the eight-ball.

Senior guard Chelsea Bowker, is set to undergo season-ending ankle surgery which will require at least six months of recovery time.

“It’s big,” Bonnies head coach Jim Crowley said. “Anytime you lose an experienced player and a talented player it is a big thing.”

Bowker was an integral member of the Bonnies Sweet 16 run last season when she averaged 7.1 points per game and shot 3-pointers at a 38 percent clip — second best on the team.

However, after rolling her ankle three weeks ago, she knew it was devastating.

“I went to the doctor and they said it was pretty bad right away,” she said emotionally. “I tried to go and I just couldn’t.”

But Bowker is not going to let the injury hamstring her from helping the team.

“I’m trying to turn this injury into something positive,” the senior said. “I can be on the sidelines to coach these freshmen.”

St. Bonaventure opens the season with an almost entirely different squad after hauling in six freshman. And with the latest injury, they will all be playing significant minutes.

“The freshmen are going to have to step up and help us out,” said junior forward Doris Ortega. “Right now, it is about us building confidence in the freshmen so they can fill Chelsea’s spot.”

And Bowker will be hard to replace.

The senior knew where to be at all times after playing in Crowley’s system and was able to stretch defenses with her 3-point shooting capabilities.

In fact, she ranks seventh all-time in St. Bonaventure history with 146 3-pointers made.

“We are going to need somebody to hit some jump shots cause that was obviously one of her most valuable things,” said Crowley.

Junior Ashley Zahn has now been in the program for three seasons and is someone that can conceivably get the first crack at Bowker’s spot.
Last year Zahn knocked down two threes against Villanova, and so far she has had a good beginning to the season by giving it her all in practice and impressing everyone from the coaching staff to Bowker.

“She has been killing it,” Bowker said of Zahn. “This is her chance to get up and shoot the ball. She just needs to keep her confidence up and put it in.”

It’s tough for any player to have to sit down with injuries, especially when they are a senior in Bowker’s case, but her teammates have helped her out throughout the process.

“They’ve been very supportive,” Bowker said. “We have to take in the best positive manner as we can.”

Despite losing a senior leader, the goals for this St. Bonaventure squad remain the same.

“What we are is what we are,” Crowley said. “People have to understand and build into some things quicker then we thought maybe they have to, but they are up for it.”

And if last season taught us anything, these Bonnies step their games up at the most crucial points and make the impossible into probable.

phelanjc11@bonaventure.edu

Bonnies Dream Season Ends In Sweet 16

[Photo courtesy of gobonnies.com]

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.

phelanjc11@bonaventure.edu