A-10 Quarterfinals: From Buzzer Beaters to Dominance
I’ve been to some crazy sporting events in my life. I’ve seen the Jets clinch a playoff berth at home against Cincinnati on what was probably the coldest day of the year. I witnessed Palice Malice take home the 145th running of the Belmont Stakes. I’ve seen the Rangers win in overtime and I’ve seen the Yankees pull off an impressive ninth inning comeback. But I don’t think anything was as crazy as watching Saint Bonaventure’s Jordan Gathers nail a three as time expired to send his team to the semifinals of the A-10 tournament.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. Saint Louis, their opponent, was the number one team in the Atlantic 10. The Bilikens had a 19 game winning streak earlier in the season. They had the A-10 player of the year Jordair Jett leading the way – this was their game.
And in the first half, they played like it. Saint Louis had a 10 point 38-28 lead, a low-scoring game like the Bilikens were used to, going into halftime. But just three second before halftime, Bonnies’ head coach Mark Schmidt says it was Youssou Ndoye’s layup that changed the game’s momentum.
The Bonnies started the second half on a 5-0 run, and eventually took a 54-52 lead with 9:14 to go in the game. St. Louis wasn’t done yet, as the teams would tie it up at 63 all with just over two minutes to play and with under 30 seconds to play Dwayne Evans would hit a three tying the game, again, this time at 68. Everyone was surprised a number 9 seed taking the number 1 seed to overtime. But the Bonnies weren’t done. Guard Charlon Kloof set up Jordan Gathers, the senior that had scored just 2 points in the game up until then, with a perfect pass and the rest is history. Gathers nailed the buzzer beating three and sent the Bilikens packing. As for his team, well their Cinderella run continues into the semi-finals.
That game would have been enough for me, but you know since it’s March Madness time, Dayton and Saint Joseph’s added their own nailbiting follow up performance. The Hawks won in the last seconds, with a three of their own thanks to the star of the game, guard Langston Galloway. Galloway, who was in the running for A-10 player of the year dropped 31 on the Flyers, despite all their valiant efforts to shut the senior down.
Later on, VCU added two different kinds of thrill: a dominant presence that the day had been missing and an electrifying crowd. The team outrebounded Richmond 50-28 and Coach Shaka Smart was even able to rest some of his starters toward the end, saving them for tomorrow. As for their fans, Wiz Khalifa’s Black and Yellow comes to mind, but let’s put it this way, the fans are led by their incredible band, which will be featured on the Today Show again – seriously it’s that good. In all honestly, even if you hate college basketball, though after a day like today, I don’t know if that’s possible – come to the Barclays and watch VCU’s band and their fans. It’s worth it.
The sad part is that all this comes on the day rumors are swirling that the ACC plans to have their tournament at the Barclays Center, the place the A10 championship has called home for the past few years. It’s not official nor will it take place until 2017. Still, on a day when this so-called mid-major conference is on display, it was the one slight smudge the A-10’s incredible day.