BY ANDREW HALE, SPORTS STAFFER
Looking to snap its four-game skid, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies battled the St. Louis Billikens Sunday afternoon. The Billikens were a force to be reckoned with, as they defeated the Bonnies 75-61.
The Bonnies sported pink uniforms on Sunday afternoon as the team played in honor of breast cancer awareness and the Pink Pumpkin Project Fund in Olean.
“To support the fight that so many strong women have gone through means a lot to us,” interim head coach Erica Morrow said. “Of course, everyone loves the pink uniforms but just the cause in itself, and to honor those women and their resilience means a lot.”
Like many of its previous games, the Bonaventure defense struggled early as Saint Louis began the game on a 6-0 run. Graduate senior Nikki Oppenheimer, who came off the bench, hit a three to stop the early bleeding.
After the Bonnies’ offense started to settle in, Breauna Ware heated by up scoring a layup whilst getting fouled with 3:58 left. With a chance to tie the game at the free-throw line, Ware’s shot hit the back rim but she was able to gather her own shot and put in the layup to take the lead 9-8.
The freshman guard wouldn’t be done there as she hit a three to cut the lead to one with 33 seconds left. After a three from Billiken Kiley Bess, Ware raced down the floor to hit a buzzer-beating jumper whilst being fouled again. Ware’s free throw put the Bonnies within one going into the second quarter.
Ware finished the first quarter with 14 points and two rebounds.
“Breauna has been playing well for us, she’s maturing,” Morrow said. “Some of the changes that we’ve made in terms of the plays and things we’re looking for are more at her speed and her pace that she can play comfortably at. She’s done an awesome job and she’s only a freshman, so she has a long career to go but she’s doing all the things I’ve asked of her.”
The shootout continued in the second quarter as Saint Louis quickly went on a 5-0 run to go up 27-22 with 5:40 left.
Junior Payton Fields provided a spark for the Bonnies off the bench, scoring eight points in seven minutes and giving Bonaventure a 31-29 lead with three minutes left in the second quarter.
Fields finished the game with 13 points, six rebounds and one steal.
“Payton plays hard, and since the beginning of the season she has gone up substantially in minutes,” Morrow said. “As long as she keeps doing the little things she’ll have minutes to play consistently.”
Following a pair of free throws from Saint Louis’s Peyton Kennedy, the Billikens went back up 34-31. With 48 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Oppenheimer hit her second three, tying the game at 34.
Oppenheimer came out firing in the third quarter hitting a pair of jumpers and collecting six quick points. Up 42-41, the Bonnies’ defensive struggles came back to bite them as the Billikens proceeded to go on a 10-2 run.
St. Louis would keep applying pressure for the remainder of the third until an Oppenheimer three at the buzzer cut the lead to six going into the final quarter.
Oppenheimer finished with a team-leading 17 points, three assists and two rebounds.
The fourth quarter saw much of what happened in the third as St. Louis would prove to be too much. The Bonnies fell 75-61 to the Billikens but look to improve their effort on the glass during next week’s road trip.
“We have to clean up some stuff – the rebounding struggles are killing us,” Morrow said. “We have to change our effort when it comes to rebounding, that’s literally all it is – a matter of effort.”
Bonaventure heads to Fairfax, Va. where they’ll face George Mason on Wednesday. The game can be heard on WSBU 88.3 FM with the pre-game show starting at 6:45 p.m. for a 7 p.m. tip.