Behind The Wolfpack: Bona Freshmen Provide Spark In Win

[Jessica Jenkins and Megan Van Tatenhove are just two of the seniors who have casted a shadow over St. Bonaventure’s freshman – Photo courtesy of gobonnies.com]

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

Jim Crowley, his staff and players stood on the half court line on Bob Lanier Court in the Reilly Center as an Atlantic 10 regular season champions and Sweet 16 banners were raised to the rafters.

In their minds was the success of its past senior class, winners of 98 games – most in program history – and the ones who led the team to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

While they are no longer suiting up for the Brown and White, their memory is everlasting in the product now seen on the court.

And the shadows of those players is casted entirely on the six freshmen entrusted to continue building on the foundation that is laid before them. In the season opener against Binghamton, the freshmen showed the promise of a brighter future mixed with immediate success.

The Bonnies (1-0) struggled early, falling behind 10-3, before utilizing a 30 to 6 run to take over the game and never looked back. The 61-34 victory tied a program record for  second fewest points allowed in a game and perhaps set the tone for the rest of the season.

“We didn’t start well and were settling for jump shots,” Crowley said following the game. “But I thought Emily and Tatiana came in and gave us a boost with their attacking ball pressure.”

Emily Michael, a freshman guard, entered the game in the middle of the first half and immediately made an impact. The 5-foot-8 guard zeroed in on Binghamton’s guards and did not let them out of her sight as she picked their pockets for two steals on the game.

“We work on defense all the time, and it’s really what we feed off of to get our offense going,” Michael said after her 2-for-6 shooting performance for 6 points. “The goal that I set for myself, and the team, was me bringing it on defense, and today it worked out.”

However, Michael was not the only freshman who made an impact. Katie Healy entered the game and utilized her height advantage in the interior.

Healy showed off a great post game, using quick pivots and surprising strength to put the ball in the basket. But she also showed some decent range, hitting shots from 15 feet out as well, similar to Megan Van Tatenhove.

The 6-foot-1 forward went 5-for-8 from the field for 12 points and nabbed seven rebounds to solidify her presence inside.

“My teammates and coaches said I needed to step it up,” Healy said modestly after the game. “And it’s all a credit to the post players that are on my team that go hard against me in practice. Through that I’m able to get better, and it shows on the court.”

Getting better in practice – a Crowley team staple. His teams are never going to be the most talented in the country, but they play the game the right away and execute to their strengths.

“We are never going to win the lay-up line,” Crowley said during last year’s run. “We’re not flashy, but we’re smart and do the little things.”

And it’s still the case with an entirely different team. Bona committed just seven turnovers in a game that 11 players saw game action, including five of the six freshmen.

While Crowley was pleased with the effort of his team, especially the freshmen, he is still the all-too-concerned coach.

“I have confidence in my team, and I have no confidence in my team,” ESPN’s National Coach of the Year said. “I know how good they are, but what I don’t have confidence is them showing they can do it all the time.”

But with the few returners pushing the freshmen in practice coupled with immediate success on the court, St. Bonaventure’s future is looking brighter than many assumed after losing four special seniors.

lazorm09@bonaventure.edu

A preview of women’s basketball

By Joseph Phelan, Assistant Sports Editor, @jphelan13

Last year happened—St. Bonaventure won 31 games, the Atlantic 10 regular season championship and advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, but as great as it was, it is now only a sweet memory.

 Jessica Jenkins, Megan Van Tatenhove, Armelia Horton and Jennie Ashton have graduated. It is a new chapter in St. Bonaventure women’s basketball. But don’t think for a second that history can’t repeat itself, especially with Jim Crowley still at the helm.

 With six new faces and three new starters, the Atlantic 10 coaches picked Bonaventure to finish seventh out of 16 teams in the conference.

 That is a fair assessment, considering the Bonnies will be without 67.7 percent of their scoring from a year ago.

 Despite being chosen to finish in the middle of the Atlantic 10, the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll gave Bonaventure six votes for the preseason Top 25.

 Bonaventure was the only Atlantic 10 team to even receive votes. 

The Bonnies will return four players who averaged more than twenty minutes a game.

 Alaina Walker might be the most important.

 A member of the Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team a year ago, Walker is one of two seniors who will play this season. Senior Chelsea Bowker is out for the year because of surgery on her ankle.

 At 5’9”, Walker might not be the tallest, but her defensive abilities allow her to cover many positions on the perimeter and inside.

 Last year, because of an injury to Van Tatenhove, she covered 6’2” Laura Sweeney of Villanova.

 Walker might be the most versatile defender in the Atlantic 10.

 Another key contributor to last season’s Sweet 16 team: Doris Ortega.

 Ortega played exceptionally in three tournament games, averaging a team-high 11.3 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game and connecting on 91 percent of her free throws.

 Ortega, a junior, has the ability to put up even better numbers this season, as she becomes the unofficial No. 1 scoring option.

 CeCe Dixon electrified opposing defenses with her quickness, ball handlinga seasonand ability to knock down 3-pointers a season ago.

 Dixon will now face the challenges of becoming a full-time starter.

 Like Ortega, Dixon played exceptionally in March. She averaged 8.7 points per game in three NCAA Tournament games.

 The nucleus of Dixon, Ortega and Walker will be crucial for the success of the Bonnies.

 But it is the players who will play with them that are the most meaningful if the Bonnies are looking to the postseason tournaments.

 Senior Jordan McGee, a junior college transfer a year ago, made great strides during her first season with the Brown and White.

 McGee, who played in all but one game last year, is the type of player every coach wants on his or her team. This team player works hard, plays great defense and dives on the floor for loose balls.

 A player who has patiently been waiting for her opportunity is Ashley Zahn.

 Zahn, a junior, spent the last two seasons behind Jenkins and Bowker. And just like the two of them, Zahn can shoot the ball.

 Last year Zahn connected on 77.8 percent (7 of 9) of her 3-pointers last season.

 Sophomore Tatiana Wilson saw limited minutes last year, but she has the capabilities of scoring the basketball and playing tough defense.

As for the freshmen.

“They have all shown flashes at times at being able to deliver the specific skill that we recruited them for,” said assistant coach Ryan Gensler.

Despite the early growing pains of adapting to college basketball, Gensler senses an admirable trait among them.

“One of the great things about them is they’re eager to learn, they’re eager to put in the time,” he said.

Saturday marks the beginning of their collegiate basketball careers.

 “Once the lights come on, we really hope that confidence starts to exude, and they’ll really start to value the things that we value as a program on the court,” said Gensler.

Although there might be uncertainty on how good this Bonnies team can be this year, one thing is certain: Crowley gives them the best chance to win.

phelanjc11@bonaventure.edu