By Jeff Uveino
When St. Bonaventure basketball coach Mark Schmidt walked into the postgame press conference at around 12:30 A.M. and said “It’s past my bed time,” he spoke for everyone in the room.
The St. Bonaventure Bonnies and Davidson Wildcats, two of the top teams in the Atlantic-10, put the crowd through a gut-wrenching, triple-overtime game that didn’t conclude until 12:15 in the morning.
Five players scored over 30 points, eight players fouled out, and 79 free throws were attempted in this instant classic.
The Bonnies eventually prevailed, 117-113, but let’s rewind in order to recollect a night that will go down in Reilly Center history.
This game had everything, right from the start. Senior night. Unusually late 9 p.m. tip-off. No students due to spring break. The nearly 5,000-strong Reilly Center crowd was about to witness a special night.
Courtney Stockard started off the game hot for the Bonnies. The junior forward hit four three-pointers within the first four minutes of the game, sending the crowd into a frenzy before Davidson even knew what hit them. Stockard scored 17 points before any of his teammates got on the board. Early in the first half, it looked like the Bonnies could run away with this one.
However, the Wildcats’ sharpshooting swung the momentum, propelling them to a 41-37 lead at halftime.
“That was two really good teams going at each other and not one team taking a step back,” Schmidt said. “One team would hit a shot; the other team would go down and answer it.”
In the second half neither team found a way to pull ahead of the other. A constant buzz rang through the arena. It felt like the crowd was waiting to erupt as soon as a play warranted it.
The Bonnies’ offense kept them in the game down the stretch, but no matter what they did, they couldn’t find an answer for the Wildcats’ three-point shooting.
At the core of the Wildcats’ attack were two players, a senior and a freshman. Senior forward Peyton Aldridge, who leads the team in points at 20.5 PPG, seemed to always have an answer to stifle the Bonnies’ momentum down the stretch.
Aldridge finished with 45 points, including shooting 8-11 from beyond the arc.
Alongside him was freshman Kellan Grady, who finished with a career-high 39 points of his own. Grady didn’t miss a shot from the stripe, shooting an impressive 16-16 from the free throw line, including 8-8 during the overtime periods.
“Aldridge and Grady are two of the best players in our league and they showed it tonight,” Schmidt said.
The teams traded blows throughout the second half, then with a minute to play Grady drove to the hoop and went up and over a Bona defender for the dunk. The basket put the Wildcats up by a point.
After a Bona miss at the other end, Aldridge was fouled and sent to the line for the Wildcats. He made just one of his two free throws, putting the Bonnies down by two with four seconds left to play.
In a last-ditch effort, Bonnies forward LaDarien Griffin drove to the basket and scored as time expired, sending the game to overtime with a score of 78-78.
The first overtime began with a downpour of three pointers. Aldridge and Bona guards Matt Mobley and Jaylen Adams all hit from downtown, keeping the back-and-forth theme alive.
Adams hit threes on consecutive possessions for the Bonnies, bringing the crowd to its feet. However, Aldridge came firing right back as he had the entire game.
Still deadlocked, the Bonnies and the Wildcats went to the second overtime period, 91-91.
After a big Mobley three early in the period to put them up by five, things were looking good for the Bonnies. However, with 1:24 left in the second overtime, Jaylen Adams picked up his fifth foul.
Adams finished with 34 points and 5 assists, leaving Bonnies fans wondering if they could pull out a win with their star player on the bench. Although annoyed, Adams said he had to keep his composure for the team.
“I was just nervous that I couldn’t finish the game for my team,” Adams said. “But at the same time, I needed to turn into another coach on the bench.”
With 19 seconds to play in the second overtime, Kellan Grady sunk two free throws to force a third overtime with the game knotted up at 100.
Hey, what’s five more minutes of basketball? As the clock approached midnight, the energy in the Reilly Center didn’t dwindle. It was on another level, something Coach Schmidt made note of.
“Give kudos out to our community,” Schmidt said. “Without the students here, they rallied around us. They came, and they were terrific.”
Two Kellan Grady free throws opened the third overtime. On the ensuing Bonnies possession, Courtney Stockard was called for a charge, his fifth foul.
Stockard left the game with a career-high 31 points.
The St. Bonaventure bench was starting to thin, but things evened out shortly after Stockard fouled out.
On the next Davidson possession, Aldridge was called for a foul away from the ball, his fifth of the night. Players were dropping like flies at the hands of the officials, and it looked like this game might turn into a battle of the benches.
Two more players fouled out shortly after; Wildcat senior Oskar Michelsen, and Bonnies senior Idris Taqqee.
The Bonnies found themselves trailing by three half way through the third overtime. But then, the Bonnies caught a break. Junior guard Nelson Kaputo was fouled while putting up a three, sending him to the line with a chance to tie the game. Kaputo, who shoots nearly 95% from the stripe, sunk all three to tie the game.
The Wildcats took the ball down the court and set up shop. Grady drove, put up a shot, and was blocked by freshman Izaiah Brockington. The referees initially ruled that the ball went out off St. Bonaventure, but after review gave the ball to the Bonnies.
“I thought Izaiah did a really good job (on defense) against a really good player,” Schmidt said.
With less than two minutes remaining, a big dunk from freshman Tshiefu “the Chef” Ngalakulondi put the Bonnies up 110-108. From there, they would never look back.
The rest of the game was a free throw shooting contest in which the Bonnies prevailed. After three long overtimes, they outlasted Davidson, 117-113.
Coach Schmidt commented on his team’s ability to pull out a win in a game that was a real grind.
“We showed some toughness,” he said. “I told the team after the first overtime, someone was going to have to step up off the bench that hasn’t played, and we did.”
The Bonnies certainly received contributions from up and down the roster, as two of the biggest plays of the game came late in the third overtime from freshmen. Schmidt was not the only one who had high praise for the Bonnies bench. Star guard Jaylen Adams also commented on the vitality of their contributions.
“Credit to the bench for finishing the way they finished,” Adams said. “The majority of guys who played the last 10 minutes are guys that usually get under 20 minutes a game, so credit to them for stepping up and making plays down the stretch.”
Senior guard Matt Mobley, who finished with 33 points and played the entire 55 minutes of the contest for the Bonnies, said he never came close to throwing in the towel.
“I just told the guys that we weren’t going to leave until we got the win,” Mobley said. “When Jay and Courtney fouled out, I knew I had to try to get good looks on offense.”I was fortunate enough to get to the foul line which helped a lot. I’m just thankful for the win.”
Mobley also spoke about the toll that playing the whole game took on him physically.
“You start to get a little cramping, but you just need to fight through it,” he said. “The game means too much.”
Coach Schmidt had high praise for his seniors on the night that they were honored, pinning much of the team’s success on them.
“You’re only as good as your seniors,” he said. “We wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we are right now without Idris, Matt, and Jay. Those three seniors will never forget this day the rest of their lives. It’s special, and I’m glad I was a part of it.”
It certainly was a special night for the seniors, for St. Bonaventure, and for college basketball. I’d have to speculate that there will be a good amount of “sick days” taken in Olean on Wednesday, and for good reason. The crowd at the RC witnessed one of the best basketball games they’ll ever see.
Jaylen Adams’ postgame emotions sum the night up well.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything better. This is a special game, I’m just glad I could be a part of it.”