Bonnies Come Up Short Of Ultimate Goal

DALLAS — With St. Bonaventure and Florida due to tip off on Thursday night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, a familiar sound came over the speakers accompanied by a NCAA-produced video celebrating national champions in every collegiate sport.

The sound?

“One Shining Moment.”

Immediately, I was brought back to my senior year of high school, sitting in Carl Cappa Theater at the Robert H. Jackson Center, two seats over from St. Bonaventure legend, Billy Kalbaugh.

That June evening, as a member of a panel interviewing the former Bona guard, I remember vividly something Kalbaugh said right after seeing a few excerpts from “Unfinished Dreams,” the documentary produced by Empire Sports Network documenting the Bona’s 1970 run to the Final Four.

“Whenever I watch the end of the Final Four and ‘One Shining Moment,’ whenever I see that, I kind of break down, to be honest with you,” Kalbaugh said with tears in his eyes. “The 12 of us that were on the team, to a man, thought we were the best and thought we were going to win the NCAA championship.”

There’s something chilling about that song and I felt it last night, especially in thinking how far this 2018 Bonaventure team has come.

And, although their “One Shining Moment” came to an end in the Lone Star State to a talented Florida team, the 77-62 loss will not erase the accomplishments this program made over the course of the last five months from the minds of the Bona faithful anytime soon.

There was the shorthanded upset over Maryland, the buzzer beater against Vermont, the overtime victory at the Carrier Dome, back-to-back 40-point games by Jaylen Adams, upsetting a ranked-Rhode Island team at home and defeating Davidson in a three-overtime shootout.

Yeah, losing in the NCAA tournament is a tough draw. It certainly doesn’t ease the pain of heading home earlier than this team had expected, but ending the season at 26-8 won’t look too bad in the record books one day.

“When we came 11 years ago, when I walked into the locker room, we had three players,” St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt said following the First Four victory against UCLA on Tuesday night. “They had won 24 games in four years. Some people said I shouldn’t take the job.”

From basketball purgatory to the NCAA Tournament, this loss and the disappointment behind it signals something rather positive for the Bonnies. It signals that Schmidt has created a Bona program finally respectable enough to the point where its fan base is not satisfied with one win in the NCAA tournament.

That was evident when, with 1:22 left to play and down by 15, they still found enough energy and gumption to take over the arena with a “Let’s go Bonas” chant. Five straight 20-win seasons will do that to you. A victory over UCLA will do that to you.

Hallmark players will do that to you.

And so, though Adams and Matt Mobley are forced to call their college careers quits — and they didn’t have their best games against the Gators — it’s safe to say their impact on the program will grow over time, because they have proven that the school located in the Southern Tier is a desired destination.

Don’t hang your heads, Bona Nation. It was one incredible ride.

Pax et Bonum.