BY ANDREW HALE, SPORTS STAFFER
Less than a week after St. Bonaventure University relieved Jesse Fleming of his duties as head coach, interim head coach Erica Morrow led the Bonnies to a 54-53 win over Dayton on Thursday night. The team stopped historic nine-game skid.
With the first minute and a half consisting of tightly contested shots and forced turnovers on both sides, it looked as if the Bonnies and the Flyers were headed toward a defensive slugfest. Junior guard Maddie Dziezgowski put an end to that conversation as she began the game 3-for-3 from three.
The Bonnies’ hot start was capped off by a Nadechka Laccen three as time expired in the first quarter.
Carrying an 18-11 lead into the second quarter, the Brown and White started to slow down as Dayton cut the Bonaventure lead to three midway through the second.
With 30 seconds remaining in the opening half, Dayton found itself in a tie game after a Mariah Perez layup. Similarly to the end of the first quarter, Bonaventure senior forward I’yanna Lops hit a go-ahead jumper to beat the buzzer, giving the Bonnies a 27-25 lead going into halftime.
While the Bonnies entered the half shooting 29.6% from the field, their defense kept the game close as the team forced nine turnovers.
The Flyers came out of the locker room firing as senior guard Sydney Freeman gave Dayton its first lead of the game, 28-27, 30 seconds into the third quarter. Dayton kept applying pressure as the Flyers took their biggest lead at eight with 1:45 left in the third.
Laccen took matters into her own hands as she drew a foul and got a layup to go, bringing the Dayton momentum to a halt and cutting the lead to five at 42-37.
A nifty inbound play in the final seconds leading to an open layup from junior guard, Taisiya Kozlova, gave the Flyers a 44-37 lead heading into the final quarter.
Unlike the first three quarters, the fourth turned into a back-and-forth affair. The Bonnies’ offense came alive in the fourth as sophomore forward Taylor Napper made a contested layup and drew the foul.
The Bonaventure zone defense created some problems for the Dayton offense as the Bonnies forced five turnovers leading to seven fast break points during the fourth quarter.
While the zone defense proved to be an effective way to stop the Flyers’ offense it also left gaps around the paint and led to the Bonnies being outrebounded 51-26.
“Obviously, Dayton did a great job on the boards, and we’ve struggled on the boards all year,” Morrow said. “A lot of that comes from the fact that we are playing in a zone, so we are no longer matched up against people but matched up in areas. We told the girls that there were going to be a lot of 50-50 balls, but we had to be the last ones standing.”
With 5:58 remaining, Laccen scooped and scored, cutting the lead to two. Dayton freshman guard Nayo Lear responded with a euro step past the defenders, adding to the Flyers’ lead.
Through the full-court press, Napper got a steal and passed to Laccen who scored the fastbreak layup to tie the game at 51 with two minutes to play.
The Reily Center came to life as members of each sports team were in attendance to cheer on their fellow student-athletes.
“To see the St. Bonaventure family there was amazing,” Morrow said. “Those girls deserve to be able to play in that atmosphere. They deserve to know that they matter and that their hard work is noticed because they work extremely hard day in and day out.”
After consecutive defensive stops for the Bonnies, Lops stepped to the free throw line with a chance to take the lead with 1:21 left on the clock. Lops split at the line but gave Bonaventure a 52-51 lead in the process. Making up for her miss at the line, Lops ran down the court and swatted a Dayton shot out of bounds.
With 30 seconds left, Dayton inbounded the ball to Lear who missed a midrange jumper. The Bonnies’ rebounding problem came back to bite them as Lear gathered her miss, leading to a wide-open shot for the Flyers who took the lead 53-52 with 15 seconds remaining.
In her first game as Bonaventure head coach, Morrow got the chance to draw up a potential game-winning shot during the team’s final timeout.
Dziezgowski, who started the game on fire from three, was the inbounder on the Bonnies’ final play of the game. After passing to Laccen who led the Bonaventure offense all night, Dziezgowski found herself with the ball in her hands and a chance to give the Bonnies their first win in over a month.
The Dayton defense seemed to have Dziezgowski tightly guarded but that did not matter as the junior guard pulled up for a deeply contested two-pointer and drained the game-winning shot as the Reily Center crowd erupted.
As the clock hit zero members of the men’s basketball team rushed the floor to celebrate the team’s dramatic win.
“That wasn’t the primary shot, that was actually the third shot that we were trying to get,” Morrow said. “They went through four progressions so that’s why it took so long. That’s just a testament to Dayton doing a great job defending our primary actions.”
Dziezgowski finished the game with 11 points leading the Bonnies to a 54-53 win. Bonaventure will be back in action Sunday as they face Rhode Island. The game can be heard on WSBU 88.3 FM with the pre-game show starting at 12:45 p.m. for a 1 p.m. tip.