St. Bonaventure erased a 17-point deficit

BOCA RATON, Fla. – St. Bonaventure erased a 17-point deficit and stormed back to capture the Boca Beach Classic Hall of Fame Bracket Championship Monday night with a 71-64 victory over Florida Atlantic.


An 18-3 run in the second half proved the difference for the Bonnies, fueled from a large contingent of fans that made the contest seem like a home game down the stretch despite playing on FAU's home floor.


"We were dead in the water, but our guys believed and kept working hard,“ said Bona coach Mark Schmidt. “We found a way. They hit some big shots."


As has been the case in the past three victories, a different face stepped up to help sway things in favor of the Bonnies.


Dominick Welch led the team with 15 points while Kyle Lofton added 14 points – including the clinching three late – and six assists. That duo received tremendous contribution off the bench from Bobby Planutis who unquestionably produced his best game in a Bonnies uniform, fueling the second half rally with 14 points and seven boards.


"Amadi played tremendous in the second half, he stepped up. Dom hit some big shots, Bobby made some big shots,“ Schmidt said. ”We played much better in the second half. I'm proud of our effort."


Florida Atlantic led from the start and built a commanding 30-13 lead thanks to a 15-2 run in which the Bonnies went ice cold, going 1-for-11 from the floor.


The Bona defense finally locked in following the final media timeout of the half, keeping FAU off the board for nearly the final four minutes before intermission. An 8-0 Bonnies run drew them back within single digits, 33-25, after 20 minutes.


The Bonnies fans in attendance – and there were hundreds who made the trip to support the Brown and White – were brought to life on a steal that resulted in a thunderous dunk from Jaren English to cut the deficit to 39-34.


FAU responded with back-to-back three-pointers and the lead returned to double digits at the 14-minute mark.


Planutis started the rally with a layup, followed by work on the block by Amadi Ikpeze to cut the deficit to 47-41. An FAU bucket momentarily stalled the comeback, but five consecutive points from Planutis brought Bona within one possession with nine minutes left.


The Bonnies would tie the game on a corner trey by Welch off a feed from Lofton with 6:59 remaining and a floater off the glass from Lofton gave the Bonnies their first lead since the opening 90 seconds at 56-54.


Bona (4-4) would never trail again.


FAU (4-4) closed the gap to 64-62 with 2:11 showing on the clock following a Kenan Blackshear layup, then Ikpeze worked to the line and made one of two.


The three-point margin remained until 50 seconds to play when Lofton drilled a clutch three from the wing to essentially put the game on ice.


"I thought in the first half FAU did a great job of getting by us and making things happen and in the second half we did a much better job of making it tough on them,“ Schmidt said. “We did what we needed to do at the end. We came down here to get two wins and bring home a championship and we were able to do that."


Cornelius Tyalor paced the Owels with 14 points and Jailyn Ingram added 12.


GAME NOTES


For the second straight night, the Bonnies used a starting lineup of Kyle Lofton, Dominick Welch, Jaren English, Osun Osunniyi and Justin Winston.


Dominick Welch and Kyle Lofton were named to the Boca Beach Classic All-Tournament Team.


The Bonnies shot 46 percent from the floor and 57 percent from distance (8-for-14) and won the battle of the boards, 41-38.


St. Bonaventure went 16-for-28 from the floor and 6-for-8 in the second half while holding FAU to a 33 percent success rate from the field and just 3-for-13 from distance.


Despite playing without Osun Osunniyi during the second half, the Bonnies posted 32 points in the paint.


UP NEXT


St. Bonaventure returns home to host Hofstra on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The Bonnies will welcome back the 1970 Final Four team as part of the 50th anniversary of that unforgettable season. Saturday's game will immediately follow the Bonnies women's game against Buffalo which begins at noon.