BY ANDREW HALE, BEAT WRITER
After five consecutive games on the road, the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team returned home, Friday, as they took on Big 4 rival Niagara. The Bonnies defeated the Purple Eagles, in a back-and-forth contest, 61-57.
The Bonnies, who are already without key players in Tianna Johnson and Maddie Dziezgowski, were bit by the injury bug once again as senior I’yanna Lops appeared to turn her ankle on the team’s first offensive possession of the game.
The Brown and White relied on fellow forward, Taylor Napper, as she scored six of the team’s first ten points. The Bonnies went up early on the Purple Eagles 10-5.
Bonaventure quickly got reinforcements as Lops returned back into the game midway through the opening quarter. Lops immediately made an impact in the game gathering a defensive rebound and swatting away a Purple Eagles’ shot.
Reigning player of the week for the Bonnies, Nadechka Laccen, pushed the pace early getting past Niagara’s defensive front. This high-speed pace was ultimately a blessing and a curse for Laccen as she finished the game with seven assists and ten turnovers.
“She’s (Laccen) a competitor… she’s aggressive,” Bonaventure coach Jesse Fleming said. “I have to make sure that I let Nadechka be Nadechka. I thought her mentality from the start was huge, so I’m proud of her growth.”
The hot start didn’t last long and thanks to a collection of missed shots by the Bonnies, the Purple Eagles were able to shut down Bonaventure and end the first quarter on a 12-3 run, leading 17-13.
Niagara’s momentum carried over to the second quarter as they quickly gathered a nine-point lead.
Freshman Aaniya Webb put a halt to the Purple Eagles’ run as she tallied six points to begin the second quarter. However, turnovers hurt the Bonnies once again as they gave the ball back to Niagara eight times in the second quarter.
With a minute left, a Lops jumper cut Niagara’s lead to one. Purple Eagle guard Ary Hicks, responded by hitting a floater, off the glass, giving Niagara a 30-27 lead going into the half.
The beginning of the second half had a rough start as Laccen went down hard on the Bonnies’ first defensive possession 27 seconds into the third quarter.
The Brown and White turned up their defensive intensity from the first half. After blocks from Lops and Napper on back-to-back possessions, the Bonnies took the lead, 35-32, for the first time since they were up 10-9 at the beginning of the first quarter.
The Bonnies’ offense came to life in the third shooting 7-of-9 from the field, but the Purple Eagles would prove to be resilient as they stormed back and took the lead 41-36.
“Their (Niagara) lifeblood is to force turnovers and they press you from the minute they get off the bus,” Fleming said. “Playing Niagara, you are either going to make your shots or turn it over.”
Like Lops, in the first half, Laccen would return to the game, quickly, with 4:32 remaining in the third. Lops and Laccen would help the Bonnies cut into the deficit, combining for six points in the final minutes of the quarter.
With the score being 45-42 in favor of the Purple Eagles, headed into the final quarter, the Bonnies would flip the script entirely.
To open the quarter, Niagara guard Angel Parker pulled up for a smooth step-back jumper extending their lead to 47-42. This, however, would be the final time the Purple Eagle would see points until the 1:12 mark.
After Parker’s two-pointer, the Bonnies proceeded to go on a 17-0 run. The fuel in this run was ignited by Bonaventure’s defensive tenacity.
The keys to the defensive success were Lops and freshman Kirah Dandridge. Lops finished the game with 19 points, five blocks and 11 rebounds. Dandridge finished the night with a team-high four steals, 11 points and eight rebounds.
While the Purple Eagles tried to make a late comeback, the Bonnies would ultimately get their second win of the season by a score of 61-57
“It was good to be back home and get a win with some adversity over a team like this (Niagara),” Fleming said. “For me, win, lose, draw, let’s just show that we are getting better, and I see kids on the roster getting better and growing into roles.”
Bonaventure will have a quick turnaround as they face Kent State on Sunday. The game can be heard on WSBU 88.3 FM with the pre-game show starting at 1:45 p.m. for a 2 p.m. tip.