"It seemed like we made every shot we put up," St. Bonaventure Coach Jim Satalin said afterward.
He wasn't far off.
The Bonnies missed only five shots in the second half of their 69-66 victory over George Washington last night in the first round of the Eastern Eight Conference playoffs at Smith Center. They made 73.6 percent of their field-goal attempts and 91.7 percent of their free throws.
The baskets weren't easy ones, either. GW Coach Gerry Gimelstob was not upset at his team's defense. St. Bonaventure guards Mark Jones and Norman Clarke scored 31 of the Bonnies' last 33 points, mainly on long jump shots and free throws. A three-point play by Jones, evolving from a 17-foot fadeaway jumper that his coach thought was not a particularly good shot, broke a 59-all tie with 90 seconds left.
Jones, the conference's leading scorer who played with a splint protecting the nose he broke in practice Sunday, had 20 points, including 18 on seven-for-seven shooting in the second half. Clarke scored 17 points, 13 after intermission. Andy Moore, a key reserve, had 16. Wilbert Skipper led GW with 23. Center Mike Brown had 14.
"Unbelievable," said Brown about the Bonnies' second-half shooting.
"Anybody shoots 73 percent the second half. God, I think that says it," said Gimelstob. "They shot 73 percent and they were hitting 20-, 22-foot jump shots with good pressure on them."
"I said to myself on the bench, 'We can't keep making jump shots,' " Satalin said. "I thought, 'Maybe we should hold the ball.' But we kept making them."
The victory in a matchup of two teams that had never previously won an Eastern Eight tournament game advanced St. Bonaventure (14-13) to Friday's semifinal against West Virginia at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena. The top-seeded Mountaineers defeated Massachusetts, 91-70. In other first-round games, Pitt defeated Duquesne, 66-64, and Rutgers defeated Rhode Island, 67-63. GW (13-14) was the only home-court loser.
The Bonnies led, 30-28, at halftime, even though Jones had made only one of five shots and Clarke two of seven.
Foul trouble struck both teams early in the second half. It initially hurt St. Bonaventure more. Penny Elliott scored nine of his 12 points in the next five possessions, and it appeared that momentum was turning GW's way. GW had a 52-48 advantage and a chance to take the biggest of the game for either team. The Colonials worked the ball into Brown for an eight-foot turnaround jumper.
"I thought it was perfect. I thought it was going in," he said. But it hit the back of the rim and came out. The momentum continued to swing back to St. Bonaventure after Elliott picked up his fourth foul and played much less aggressively the rest of the way.
The Colonials made only four of nine free throws in the final minutes, while Jones made four of five and Clarke four of four in the final 90 seconds.
"Usually one of us is on and the other isn't. But the last five games, we've been on together," said Jones, a 6-foot-2 junior who shaved his head prior to last night's game while Clarke gave himself a Mohawk. "Do I like having my hands on the ball with the game on the line? Oh, yes."
Said Gimelstob, standing near a hallway leading to his team's locker room: "I'm very happy with the year we've had. We've laid the foundation for what we want to do here--go to a postseason tournament every year . . . I gotta go and recruit this young man right here."