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Bonnies' Dream Season Ends in Sweet 16

Bonnies' Dream Season Ends in Sweet 16

Social Media Recap
Postgame Quotes: St. Bona | Notre Dame
Regional Semifinal Notes Highlights
Postgame Press Conference

RALEIGH, N.C. – The greatest season in St. Bonaventure women's basketball history came to an end Sunday, as Notre Dame (33-3) advanced to the Elite 8 with a 79-35 win over St. Bonaventure (31-4) at PNC Arena.

Playing in the program's first NCAA Tournament, SBU fell behind early and top-seeded Notre Dame kept the pressure on to advance for the 11th time in 16 seasons.

Bona – the smallest active program in NCAA history to reach the women's Sweet 16 - ends the season at 31-4, setting records for both wins (31) and games played (35), while owning the school's first NCAA hoops victories since Bob Lanier guided the men's team to the Final Four in 1970.

Column: Bitter Defeat Doesn't Spoil Remarkable Season
By: Tom Missel

The game had long since been decided, as early as late in the first half when the Bonnies struggled to reach double digits and needed a pinball three from CeCe Dixon at the buzzer just to get off of 10.

But the sobering reality of a painful loss and the end of a remarkable career didn't strike Jessica Jenkins until Coach Jim Crowley made a wholesale lineup change with about 3 minutes to play and the Bonnies down 40 to top-seeded Notre Dame.

She took a seat, buried her head in her jersey, and wept. One of the greatest three-point shooters in NCAA history had been held scoreless by a smothering Irish defense.

And then, with less than 2 minutes to play, more than 400 Bonaventure fans who stayed until the bitter end did their very best to put a bandage on the fresh, open wound. A loud and passionate chant of "We love Bona's" broke out in the arena. Rarely has a team beaten so badly been serenaded so beautifully.

Inconsolable as she was, Jenkins couldn't help but hear the loving screams of the Bonaventure faithful who gathered in Raleigh.

"To hear the crowd still chanting at the end of the game shows just how far this program has come," said Jenkins, a smile emerging to serve as counterpoint to her swollen, red eyes. "That was the best part."

In truth, aside from a 5-minute stretch in the the first half when the Bonnies held the Irish scoreless, the fan support was the only good part of the game from Bonaventure's perspective. But the incredible ride to reach the NCAA Sweet 16 was not forgotten even in the immediate aftermath of the crushing loss.

 "Forty minutes isn't going to define our season," said Crowley. "The fact that we're here means a ton to us, and to see the number of fans who came to support us, to stay until the very end, even though we didn't play as well as we're capable of, shows what our university is all about and we're so appreciative of that."

Despite her disappointment, Jenkins was able to reflect with pride on what her team was able to accomplish this year.

"I'm really proud of how far we've come," she said. "Playing with these girls, this year, was just so much fun."

Crowley paused and gathered his emotions when asked what the senior class of Jenkins, Megan Van Tatenhove, Armelia Horton and Jennie Ashton meant to him.

"These kids came in and had three terrific years, but they didn't rest on their laurels like seniors sometimes do. They refocused and got in the best shape of their lives," Crowley said. "Just the way they established themselves as leaders was great. We have 2,000 students, no women's basketball history, and we made the Sweet 16. It's absolutely remarkable, for them to get us here ... Thank you seems like too soft of words."

Senior Jessica Jenkins leaves as Bona's all-time leader in 3-point field goals (338) and ranks seventh in career points (1,441), with classmate Megan Van Tatenhove sitting sixth on the career scoring ledger (1,453). Fellow seniors Armelia Horton and Jennie Ashton complete a senior class that finishes with a glittering 98-37 record over the past four seasons. 

Sophomores Cece Dixon and Doris Ortega led the way for SBU in the loss, scoring 13 and 11 respectively. Bona held All-America guard Skylar Diggins to just eight points on 3-of-8 from the field, but Natalie Norvosel (16 points), Kaila Turner (14) and Kayla McBride (10) filled in to pace the Irish.

Notre Dame held St. Bonaventure to just one field goal over the first 10:47, before Ortega added the Bonnies' second hoop while being fouled to make it 16-5 in favor of ND.

Bonaventure, which led the nation in fewest turnovers per game, reached its season average 12 giveaways with 7:36 to go in the half, as ND worked for a 35-13 lead by intermission. Dixon's 3-pointer rattled home just before the buzzer and marked the only SBU trifecta of the game.

ND began the final frame with 10 unanswered, never looking back and building a lead as large as 45 with 2:38 to go. Notre Dame held SBU to just nine field goals for the game, the fewest ever in an NCAA Tournament game. The 35 points also marked the lowest point total in a Sweet 16 game.

The Bonnies are just the third A-10 team to advance to the Round of 16 (George Washington, Xavier) … Notre Dame (79) is the first opponent to score 70 or more against SBU in 38 games dating back to a 75-56 loss to Temple Mar. 5, 2011 … the contest was the first between Notre Dame and St. Bonaventure … ND's 44-point margin of victory matches the biggest in a Sweet 16 game … Ortega was a perfect 5-for-5 from the line … The Bona contingent on hand gave the seniors a standing ovation when they were replaced late in the game … He told each senior "These 40 minutes can't take away what you've done here."