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.

xroz33wq0kj3v4tb
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.

2jxv92d50ai33l11
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.”

Advertisements

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”

Men’s basketball: Adams and Mobley get microwave hot, Bonnies best Billikens

(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

For about 26 minutes on Wednesday night, the Saint Louis Billikens looked ahead of schedule- at the expense of St. Bonaventure. Travis Ford’s squad looked less like a lower-half Atlantic 10 team and more like a serious challenger to the fifth-best team in the league.

All of a sudden, the Bonnies got hot.

Down 43-38, Matt Mobley threw a long pass to Jaylen Adams, who rose up and slammed it home. It was one of those dunks Adams performs about once a game when he gets enough space, just to let you know he’s capable of them. After that, Mobley drained a three on Adams’s assist to cut the lead to two. After Billiken Elliott Welmer’s tip-in, Adams scored a layup and three-pointer, giving SBU a one-point advantage.

The Billikens would battle, re-taking the lead once and keeping the game within reach until after the under-four minute media timeout. But the hot streak from the fourth highest-scoring duo in the nation gave SBU assurance there would be no upset special in the Reilly Center after a 32-26 halftime deficit.

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: Adams and Mobley get microwave hot, Bonnies best Billikens”

Men’s basketball: “24-hour rule” important as Bonnies prepare for Billikens

(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball coaching staff has the same rule after each game, win or lose.

Mark Schmidt and his assistants give the team 24 hours to reflect on the last matchup, to revel in victory or lament in defeat. After that 24-hour window is up, the squad collects itself and focuses only on the next one.

Those 24 hours are the same no matter how the game ends, and they expired around the time of Super Bowl kickoff on Sunday. The last few days, the challenge has been levied: VCU, and the bizarre ending that turned Bona’s seventh conference win into a fourth loss, has to be forgotten.

SBU (14-8, 6-4) has to pay its undivided attention to hosting the Saint Louis Billikens (3-7, 8-15) on Wednesday at 7 at the Reilly Center.

“You just can’t let VCU beat us tomorrow,” senior forward Denzel Gregg said. “We’ve just gotta move on, trying to focus on Saint Louis and just gameplan and get ready.”

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: “24-hour rule” important as Bonnies prepare for Billikens”

Men’s basketball: Bona visits Saint Louis in regular season finale

(Marcus Posley Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

At the beginning of the season, many St. Bonaventure men’s basketball fans would have been content with a top-seven finish in the Atlantic 10, with a chance at a National Invitational Tournament (NIT) invite.

Today, the Bonnies have a chance at a share of the league’s regular season title, a two-seed in the A-10 Tournament and a potential NCAA Tournament at-large bid.

A checklist of sorts stands in the way of those scenarios. For one, VCU has to lose to Dayton for Bona to get an opportunity for a piece of the regular-season title. Also, St. Joe’s has to beat Duquesne to give SBU its easiest path to the two-seed.

Most importantly, the Bonnies have to win at Saint Louis’s Chaifetz Arena at 8 p.m. tonight to make any of these scenarios possible in the first place.

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: Bona visits Saint Louis in regular season finale”

Women’s basketball: Drummond returns, Bonnies bounce Billikens

(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Katie Faulkner @kfaulkner20

After falling at VCU last week, the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team got back on track with a 80-59 win over Saint Louis on Wednesday evening in the Reilly Center. The Bonnies improved to 20-4 overall and 9-2 in Atlantic 10 play. Saint Louis dropped to 18-6 on the season.

A two-game hiatus did not seem to affect Miranda Drummond’s shot, as the sophomore went 4-of-4 from beyond the arc in the first half and 6-of-8 overall for 19 points. Senior Nyla Rueter also knocked down four treys in the first half on 4-of-5 shooting. She finished with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting.

Continue reading “Women’s basketball: Drummond returns, Bonnies bounce Billikens”

Women’s basketball: Bonnies hope to bounce back in Pink Game

(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Katie Faulkner @kfaulkner20

The St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team is set to hold its annual Pink Game as it hosts Saint Louis this Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Reilly Center. The night will celebrate cancer survivors by offering free admission for all survivors and $3 tickets for their family members.

The Bonnies are coming off of a 52-47 road loss against VCU last Wednesday at the Siegel Center. Despite a game-high 19 points, senior Katie Healy committed her second foul with 7:36 left in the second quarter and would be forced to sit for the remainder of the half. The two teams exchanged baskets throughout the fourth quarter, but an off-shooting night for the Bonnies would allow the Rams to power ahead in the final minutes.

Continue reading “Women’s basketball: Bonnies hope to bounce back in Pink Game”

Men’s basketball: Bonnies down Billikens on Adams’s buzzer-beater

(Jaylen Adams Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

When the Bonnies prepared to inbound the ball with the game tied and 15 seconds on the clock on Sunday, Marcus Posley looked at backcourt mate Jaylen Adams and pointed to his wrist.

“It’s go time,” Posley said.

“That’s something Jaylen and I have been doing since last year,” said Posley. “It’s kind of like our little inside thing. He knows to look, when we hit that wrist, it’s time to go and he knows to lock in.”

Bona never really got going in its 65-62 victory over Saint Louis, but on the final play, Posley found Adams behind the arc and the sophomore knocked down the 24-foot buzzer-beater. A year to the day of Posley’s buzzer-beater to defeat VCU, the brown and white had another last-second shot to celebrate.

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: Bonnies down Billikens on Adams’s buzzer-beater”