MBB: Osunniyi, Adaway frustrate Saint Louis; Bonnies punch ticket back to A-10 final

photo courtesy of Atlantic 10 conference

By Jeff Uveino

RICHMOND, VA— Mark Schmidt has admitted that his team’s offensive efficiency comes and goes. Schmidt’s defense, however, continues to be the staple that wins games for the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team.

The No. 1 Bonnies (15-4), the Atlantic 10’s top-ranked defensive team, frustrated No. 4 Saint Louis (14-6) on the defensive end of the floor on their way to beating the Billikens, 71-53, in an A-10 tournament semifinal at the Siegel Center on Saturday.

Osun Osunniyi made his presence felt in the post from the game’s start.

The junior center tallied eight points, five rebounds and seven blocks while matching the signature physicality that Saint Louis brings in the paint. Osunniyi’s presence under the basket could be felt around the arena, as he repeatedly rejected Billiken shots in a first half that saw six of his blocks.

“I thought that (Osunniyi) was terrific,” said Schmidt, SBU’s 14th-year head coach. “He was the difference defensively. He was the eraser. He was the rim protector, and he did so much for us defensively.”

The Bonnies, which allow a league-best 60.1 points per game, held the Billikens to 37% shooting from the field and 29% from 3-point range. Holding an opponent to under 40% shooting, as Schmidt has said periodically, is a goal of his team each game.

“From a defensive standpoint, we couldn’t have played better,” Schmidt said. “Saint Louis is a very physical team and they dominated us in St. Louis earlier in the year. I thought that the key to the game was that we needed to control the paint.”

Bona avenged a regular-season loss to the Billikens that came exactly one month before Saturday’s victory. In that game, SLU out-scored Bona 20-18 in the paint, while SBU built a 34-20 advantage in that category on Saturday.

“We didn’t play on our heels. I thought that in game one, they knocked us back and we played on our heels,” Schmidt said. “You need to play downhill against Saint Louis, against those physical, athletic bodies. I thought we did a good job of playing downhill.”

While Osunniyi anchored Bona’s defensive unit, Jalen Adaway kept SBU’s offense rolling in a second half that Bona led for its entirety. Adaway scored a game-high 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field, while also pulling down seven rebounds.

Adaway said that SBU’s quick start, including the 11-2 lead that it assembled to start the game, was key.

“We’ve been harping on things like that the whole year, just coming out energetic from the jump,” Adaway said. “Tonight especially, we just emphasized coming out from the jump and getting on top, playing confident and playing our game.”

Schmidt praised Adaway’s effort on both ends of the floor, saying that he played “extremely well.”

“He’s not the biggest guy, but I thought he defended the block really well,” Schmidt said. “He scored for us and moved the ball both ways.”

The Bonnies used bench scoring to jump on the Billikens early. Sophomore guard AJ Vasquez came on to replace Adaway in the game’s first minute while Adaway was treated for a bloody nose.

Vasquez gave the Bonnies an immediate boost by hitting two 3-pointers. Dominick Welch, who scored a game-high 18 points in SBU’s quarterfinal win over Duquesne on Friday, hit a triple of his own shortly after. The Bonnies navigated the rest of the half without the junior guard, however, after he picked up his second foul.

Bona took a 33-25 lead into halftime before dominating a second half in which they shot 52% from the field. SBU entered the game as two-point underdogs, but led by 22 points at the under-eight media timeout. By that point, a Saint Louis comeback was far from in the works.

“We really emphasize patience because the defense is going to lead the offense,” Adaway said. “We have so many talented players offensively that it’s going to come. Just locking in on defense really opens things up and makes it a lot easier for us.”

Jaren Holmes finished with 15 points for the Bonnies, nine of which came in the second half. The junior guard also pulled down seven rebounds and dished out three assists. Kyle Lofton earned his second double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Welch scored nine points to round out the SBU starting five.

Jordan Goodwin scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds for Saint Louis, while Javonte Perkins scored 10 points.

SBU now advances to its fifth A-10 tournament championship in program history, a game in which the Bonnies are 1-3. Their lone A-10 championship came over Xavier in the 2012 tournament, while their most recent trip to the final was 2019’s loss to Saint Louis.

Bona will have eight off-days before the final, which will be held at University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio on March 14. SBU will play No. 2 VCU, with which it split two regular-season games.

“We’ve won playing half-court defense and rebounding the ball,” Schmidt said. “And today, we did well at both ends.”

Osunniyi’s seven blocks gave him 47 on the season, a league-best average of 2.61 per game.

“He’s a special player, especially a defensive player, and there isn’t anybody better,” Schmidt said.

Adaway agreed with his head coach.

“Defensive player of the year,” he said of Osunniyi.”He has to be.”

PREVIEW: Bona faces Saint Louis with A-10 final on the line

photo courtesy of Atlantic 10 conference

By Jeff Uveino

RICHMOND, VA — They beat St. Bonaventure in the 2019 Atlantic 10 championship game. They beat them by 23 points in Bona’s 2019-20 season finale. They beat them exactly one month ago.

Now, the Saint Louis men’s basketball team stands in the Bonnies’ path to the 2021 A-10 championship game.

After beating No. 9 Duquesne in Friday’s quarterfinals, No. 1 St. Bonaventure will play No. 4 Saint Louis at the Siegel Center on Saturday with a trip to next week’s A-10 final on the line.

The Billikens beat No. 5 Massachusetts, 86-72, in Friday’s quarterfinals, and a familiar face to Bona fans led the way for Saint Louis. Senior guard Javonte Perkins, who scored a game-high 21 points in SLU’s 70-59 defeat of the Bonnies on Feb. 6, scored a team-high 16 points on Friday.

Saint Louis’ senior class has developed as fierce a rivalry with SBU as any other A-10 team in its four seasons, as the Bonnies and Billikens have split six contests since 2017-18. The Bonnies took the first three games, two of which were won by a Jaylen Adams-led Bona team in 2018. However, since SBU beat the Billikens at the Reilly Center in 2018-19’s regular-season finale, Saint Louis has taken three straight.

If there’s one thing that Bona head coach Mark Schmidt’s team has done since its core of now-juniors joined the team prior to the 2018-19 season, however, it’s mature.

When Kyle Lofton, Dominick Welch and Osun Osunniyi started the 2019 A-10 championship game, all three were freshmen. While Schmidt said after Friday’s win that his players didn’t think about past games such as that defeat, he’s been consistently adamant about his team’s experience level this season.

“I’ve been lucky to have these experienced guys that know how to win,” said Schmidt, reiterating a point he’s made about his team since the preseason’s first press conference.

Lofton, Welch and Osunniyi have combined to make 210 starts for the Bonnies in just under three years.

The only matchup between the two defensive-minded teams this season was at Chaifitz Arena in Saint Louis, where the Billikens held the Bonnies to 36% shooting from the field while shooting it at 43% themselves. Bona junior guard Kyle Lofton scored a team-high 17 points in that game, while junior guard Jaren Holmes scored 12 points and junior forward Jalen Adaway tallied 10 points.

SBU is the A-10’s top defensive team, allowing an average of 60.5 points per game, while Saint Louis checks in at third in the league, giving up 64.7 points per game.

Saturday could be the last time that Bona battles SLU’s current senior class. Hasahn French, Javonte Perkins and Jordan Goodwin have each become familiar names to the SBU fans that have watched them beat their Bonnies three times in a row.

Now, Schmidt’s core of juniors gets a chance to avenge its recent losses to the Billikens. And, if they do, University of Dayton Arena and the A-10 championship game await them on March 14.

MBB: Osunniyi leads Bona offense from inside out

photo by Megan Lee/The Commonwealth Times

By Anthony Goss

RICHMOND, VA — When the college basketball season reaches its peak in March, the stars of a team must shine so it may advance. St. Bonaventure center Osun Osunniyi certainly shined bright in the team’s 75-59 Atlantic 10 quarterfinal victory over Duquesne on Friday.  

Lately, the Bonnies have been hot from the perimeter, and their shooting beyond the arc has placed them as the top seed in the A-10 tournament. As a result, a lot of attention has been diverted to this development and the play of the guards during this stretch. However, Osunniyi has remained a constant presence inside the paint.

Friday was a reminder of the importance of his role on Bona’s team.  

Osunniyi posted a stat line of 18 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, but his best work came on the defensive end. 

“I thought ‘(Osunniyi) was terrific offensively, but more importantly defensively blocking shots,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said.  

Osunniyi finished with three blocks to lead a defense which held the Dukes to 34% shooting from the field.  

Offensively, the numbers by his name in the box score show how well number 21 in white played, but the way the big man scored explained why the Bonnies were so effective in their first game of the tournament.  

Osunniyi had several putback finishes and alley-oop dunks. Duquesne had no answer for Osunniyi on the offensive glass. Each time Osun slammed the ball in, he deflated the Dukes and boosted the Bonnies. Dominating the paint this way provided the momentum Bona needed to stay in control.  

“I pride myself on defense, so if my defense is going, whenever I get a put back dunk it just energizes everybody,” Osunniyi said. 

Osunniyi’s six assists also demonstrated his ability to facilitate from his position. When St. Bonaventure runs through Osunniyi, less responsibility falls on the back court to continuously generate the looks for Bona.  

“You wanna go inside early cause if I’m being a presence inside, it kind of shrinks the defense,” Osunniyi said. “It’s easier for my teammates to make shots when the ball is going inside outside.” 

The Bonnies will enjoy this victory, as it was necessary in keeping their postseason hopes alive. But, bigger challenges, figuratively and literally speaking, wait ahead in Saturday’s semifinal contest with Saint Louis.  

After today’s game though, Osunniyi appears locked in and will do his part in securing another Bona win this weekend. 

“Whatever it takes to get the team going,” Osunniyi said. “Whatever it takes to get a win.” 

MBB: Bonnies hold off Duquesne in Atlantic 10 quarterfinals

photo by Megan Lee/The Commonwealth Times

By Jeff Uveino

RICHMOND, VA — The last time Dominick Welch, Osun Osunniyi and Kyle Lofton had played in the Atlantic 10 tournament, they fell eight minutes short of a conference championship.

That was in 2019, when the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team lost a second-half lead to Saint Louis, abruptly ending the Bonnies’ run at the NCAA tournament. Two years later, the top-seeded Bonnies (14-4) avoided a second-half comeback by No. 9 Duquesne (9-9) and beat the Dukes, 75-59, in Friday’s A-10 quarterfinals at the Siegel Center.

Welch scored a game-high 18 points for the Bonnies while pulling down nine rebounds. The junior guard shot 7-of-15 from the floor and 4-of-10 from 3-point range.

SBU dominated the Dukes on both ends of the floor in the first half, taking a 40-19 lead into halftime. Duquesne cut into that lead in the second half, going on a 12-0 run in less than two minutes of game time. Emotion filled the arena during DU’s comeback, culminating in a bench-clearing scuffle at mid-court that resulted in an “administrative technical,” as it was called by the public address announcer, being called on the Bonnies.

“I thought we lost some focus,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said of the Duquesne comeback. “We got lackadaisical, loose with the ball. Duquesne upped their pressure a little bit, we didn’t handle it that well.”

Jaren Holmes ended the run by hitting a floater, which he followed with a dunk after a Duquesne turnover. After a media timeout with 12 minutes remaining, the Bonnies regained control of the game and didn’t give it back.

“Sitting in the timeout, letting the guys know, we’re still up by 10, so we were still in decent shape but we needed to make a run,” Schmidt said. “I thought our guys refocused and they got some stops, got some buckets and that was the game.”

Holmes, a junior guard, scored 14 points for the Bonnies, while Osunniyi stuffed the stat sheet with 18 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and three blocks. During the Dukes’ comeback, Osunniyi said that Schmidt told his team to keep its composure.

“We knew that they were going to make a run, they’re a good team,” Osunniyi said. “So, while they were figuring everything out, (Schmidt) just told us to relax, play loose, play to win and we got our composure back and played our game.”

Bona made a conscious effort to get the ball to Osunniyi in the post, which the junior forward/center said shrinks opposing defenses.

“It’s easier for my teammates to make shots when the ball is coming inside out, so you want to go inside early,” Osunniyi said. “Because if I’m being a presence inside, it kind of shrinks the defense to come help me more.”

He was equally impactful on the defensive end of the floor, where he battled with Duquesne senior center Michael Hughes for much of the game.

“I thought (Osunniyi) was terrific offensively, but more important, defensively,” Schmidt said. “Blocking shots. That was a huge key.”

Hughes led Duquesne with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Tavian Dunn-Martin and Tyson Acuff each scored 12 points. Bona held Marcus Weathers, Duquesne’s leading scorer that had averaged over 16 points per game going into Friday’s contest, to three points.

This was Bona’s third victory over the Dukes this season, as SBU has held Duquesne to an average of 57 points per game.

“We got some stuff off of our defense, got some stuff in the open court,” Schmidt said. “I thought against Dayton (on Monday), we were sluggish with the ball, the ball was sticking… we moved the ball from side-to-side a little bit better today in the first half.”

Junior forward Jalen Adaway scored 12 points for SBU, while Lofton scored 11 points and handed out five assists. The Bonnies shot 49% from the field while holding Duquesne to 34% shooting from the field and 25% from 3-point range.

With the win, the Bonnies advance to Saturday’s semifinals, where they’ll play No. 4 Saint Louis in a rematch of the fateful 2019 A-10 championship game. While much speculation exists over their NCAA tournament chances, Friday’s win moved the Bonnies a step closer to a berth.

“Our guys have done a really good job of being able to turn the page,” Schmidt said. “The task at hand today was to leave 1-0.”

Despite the hype surrounding a potential NCAA appearance in Indianapolis in two weeks, Schmidt said that the team still has business to take care of in Richmond.

“We didn’t come (to Richmond) to go 1-0, we came here to go 2-0, and now we’re halfway there,” Schmidt said. “Now we’ve got to go back, get some rest and hopefully we can play better (Saturday).”

PREVIEW: Bonnies look to stay hot, seek redemption at Saint Louis

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Nic Gelyon

ST. LOUIS, MO — This is a big weekend for the Bonnies.  

They have a chance to put a strangle-hold on the Atlantic 10. To make people notice them. 

A win against Saint Louis (7-3) would not only see the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team beat a former Associated Press Top 25 team and extend its winning streak to eight games. It would see the Bonnies continue a streak of A-10 dominance that has been unmatched this season. 

Just consider this: seven of SBU’s first 10 opponents currently have a record over .500. Bona went 7-0 against those opponents. 

And the Bonnies are blowing out virtually everyone. Since their loss to Rhode Island, they are winning by an average 13.4 points. And, against all opponents that are currently over .500, the Bonnies have won by an average of 9.9 points. 

They now face what could be their toughest opponent yet in Saint Louis. 

But what makes this Billikens team difficult to analyze is that they’ve played, in essence, two different seasons. Their first, which lasted until Dec. 23, saw them go 7-1 in all non-conference games. But they wouldn’t play again for over a month, as a COVID-19 outbreak within the program halted all team activities. 

Just last Tuesday, a game-starved Saint Louis returned. They lost a close game to Dayton, 76-61. They then lost at La Salle, 82-75, on Wednesday.

To say Saint Louis’ last two games are representative of what it was before the team’s outbreak would be unfair. Let me remind you what the Billikens have the potential to be at full-strength. 

They averaged 84 points in non-conference play, and held opponents to 65. They shot over 50% from the field and were the 13th-best three-point shooting team in the nation.  

They had a plus-11 rebound advantage, and nearly ten more assists per game than their opponents. They won a close game against LSU, dominated North Carolina State, and played a relatively even game against Minnesota before losing by eight points.

This is what Saint Louis was.   

But this week, the Billikens haven’t had much time to rest. It seems that what Saint Louis has lost in momentum, St. Bonaventure has gained in steam.  

The Bonnies lived up to their potential against George Mason on Saturday. Shooting 61% from the field, the Bonnies put 84 points on the Patriots, the most points they’d allowed in a non-overtime game this season. 

 84 is also the highest number of points that the Bonnies have scored this season.  

Junior guard Dominick Welch led the way in that game, shooting 4-for-6 from three, with four rebounds, four assists and 22 points. He played all 40 minutes against the Patriots. 

What does this mean for Saturday’s game against the Billikens? 

Saint Louis’ biggest weakness is currently its defense. Against Dayton and La Salle, the Billikens have allowed 12 and eight three-point makes, respectively. The three-ball has accounted for nearly 40% of the points they allowed in those two games.

The Bonnies have the shooters to exploit this weakness. Junior guard Kyle Lofton knows having himself, Welch, Jaren Holmes and Jalen Adaway makes life easier for the Bonnies. All are averaging over 10 points a game this season. 

“Having guys that can do that… it takes pressure off me,” Lofton said. “It’s hard to focus on one or two guys because we have so much talent on this team where guys can just go off every given night.” 

And for what the Bonnies bring to the table in skill, they have the motivation to match—especially in this game. This will be the first time the Bonnies have played Saint Louis since last March, a one-sided, 72-49 loss, just before the COVID-19 pandemic halted college basketball. 

“Seeing how freshman year we lost, and how last year we lost, like it wasn’t even a game, we talk about all that stuff,” Lofton said. “Everyday we look at it, like all right, this is it, it’s not going to happen anymore.” 

Welch knows that beating this team will require a strong presence on the glass—they can’t let senior Hasahn French notch 18 rebounds this time around, as he did a year ago against SBU. It’s a good thing the Bonnies are one of the best rebounding teams in the country, averaging 39.4 a game. 

Bona will also need to be weary of Jordan Goodwin, SLU’s preseason first-team all-league senior guard who is averaging 15.8 points per game this year.

“This year, we’re a much smaller team,” Welch said. “We just need to be the more physical team, really get them off the glass. We need to win the battle of the boards, match their physicality, and just make shots.” 

As bonus motivation for Bona, the team received 19 votes in last week’s AP poll, the 32nd-most in the country. A win likely inches the Bonnies closer to the Top 25. It may even put them in the Top 25.  

The Bonnies have set out to prove themselves. Many will argue that they already have. Some, of course, will say otherwise. But it will be hard to argue with a 10-1 record, an undefeated non-conference schedule, and an 8-1 record in the A-10 if they beat Saint Louis on Saturday. 

MBB: Bonnies can build on national recognition with pair of road wins this week

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — For the second-consecutive week, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team received recognition from the Associated Press that it hadn’t previously gotten in nearly three years.

The Bonnies received 19 “votes” for inclusion in the AP’s Top 25 rankings on Monday, 11 more than they did a week ago. One voter listed the Bonnies as the 21st-best team in the country this week, while one ranked them 22nd, two ranked them 24th and six voters ranked them 25th.

“I think you use it as a positive,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “All the hard work that the kids have put in, and the way we’ve gotten off to a good start, they deserve some national recognition. But, at the same time, they need to remember what got us here.”

SBU’s 19 points are good enough for 32nd in the country, although the AP only officially ranks the top 25 teams. The Bonnies hadn’t previously received votes since late in the 2017-18 season, when they appeared for three-consecutive weeks in the midst of a 12-game winning streak to end the regular season.

Just two days after beating then-No. 16 Rhode Island at home, Bona received 13 votes, which was good enough for 31st in the nation. Two weeks later, the Bonnies received 72 votes, missing the Top 25 by one spot.

SBU hasn’t been ranked in the Top 25 in over 50 years, since it was ranked No. 10 on Jan. 19, 1971. Two more wins this week, however, including one over Saint Louis on Saturday, would help Bona’s case for re-joining the rankings after a half-century absence.

“The notoriety is good and our players deserve that, but at the same time, I think we have an experienced team that understands that all the notoriety could be (short-lived),” Schmidt said. “If we continue to do our job, those accolades will come. That’s the message to the players.”

Saint Louis checked in just behind the Bonnies in this week’s rankings, receiving 11 votes, which tied the Billikens with Belmont for 33rd-best in the nation. After a 7-1 non-conference schedule that included wins over LSU and North Carolina State, the Billikens were forced to wait until Jan. 26 to play their first A-10 game.

The result was a home loss to Dayton, which knocked SLU out of the Top 25, where it had been ranked 22nd the week before.

Before playing at Chaifitz Arena on Saturday, however, the Bonnies will travel to Saint Joseph’s to play a Hawks team that it has beaten six-consecutive times dating back to the 2017-18 season. The Bonnies ran away with a win over Saint Joe’s on Jan. 6 at the Reilly Center, as career-high scoring nights from Jaren Holmes (38 points) and Jalen Adaway (24 points) led SBU to an 83-57 victory.

Schmidt warned, however, that his team isn’t overlooking SJU after already beating the Hawks once this season.

“That final score wasn’t indicative of how that game went,” Schmidt said. “Our guys understand that it was 32-28 at half time, and we were down most of the first half. It got out of hand in the last 10 minutes of that game.”

After leading by just four points at halftime, Bona out-scored Joe’s 51-29 in the second half, aided by 60% shooting from the field and 7-for-9 shooting from three-point range.

“Our guys experienced them,” Schmidt said. They understand how difficult it is to guard them. They got our attention and we understand how good of an offensive team they are.”

Absent from the teams’ first meeting was Hawks redshirt senior forward Ryan Daly, who has not played since Dec. 21 due to injury. The Hawks are hopefully that Daly could return to their lineup for Wednesday’s matchup with SBU.

The return of Daly, a third-team all-league selection a year ago and SJU’s “best player,” according to Schmidt, could help an offense that has averaged just under 70 points per game this season while giving up over 83 points per game.

“The way they play, they’re trying to get 30 or 40 (three-point attempts) up,” Schmidt said. “On any given night, especially at home, they’re making those threes.”

The Hawks’ three-point shooting struggled at the Reilly Center in January, shooting 10-for-34 (29%).

Bona will seek its eighth-consecutive A-10 victory against the Hawks, and if it takes care of business, will be primed for one of its most important games of the season against the Billikens on Saturday.

Wednesday’s game, which is scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m., will be broadcasted on ESPN+.

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.

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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.

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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.”

Women’s basketball: Bonnies look to rebound against talented Billikens team

By Cameron Hurst @CameronNHurst

After a disappointing loss to La Salle on Tuesday night, the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team welcomes a familiar foe to the Reilly Center this afternoon as it faces off against Saint Louis (19-6, 9-3 A-10) at 1 p.m. The Bonnies were defeated by the Billikens on Jan. 11 by a score of 64-49.

“They’re an experienced team,” Bonnies head coach Jesse Fleming said. “All five kids will touch the ball on every play. They can put five scorers on the floor all at once. I like the makeup of their team.”

The Billikens are led by legendary head coach Lisa Stone, who has totalled 587 wins over her 31-year coaching career. Stone, who has led the program to great success since her hiring in 2012, is someone Fleming personally admires for her success and demeanor.

“She treats her people right,” said Fleming. “I know two of their assistants and they talk about how she’s just a pleasure to work for. She’s just a good human being. She treats people the right way. I admire the way they play … It’s not an isolation one-on-one game. They play team basketball. My personal interactions with her, she’s been nothing but kind to me and just a good person.

“If we could have 13 Lisa Stone’s in this league, we’d be in good shape.”

Continue reading “Women’s basketball: Bonnies look to rebound against talented Billikens team”