BUFFALO, N.Y. – Canisius College senior Harold Washington scored a game-high 23 points, with 18 coming in the game’s final 20 minutes, and fellow senior Isaac Sosa added 14 points as the host Golden Griffins defeated long-time rival St. Bonaventure 72-69 Saturday afternoon in front of a sold-out Koessler Athletic Center. The win improves Canisius to 2-0, the program’s first 2-0 start since 2000-01, while the Bonnies slipped to 2-1 on the year with the loss.
For the game, Washington went 7-for-14 from the field, 3-for-3 from 3-point land and 6-for-8 from the foul line, making two key free-throws with four seconds left on the clock to put the Blue and Gold up 72-69. St. Bonaventure had a chance to tie the contest and send it into overtime, but St. Bonaventure guard Matthew Wright’s 3-point attempt from the right wing hit the back-iron as the horn sounded and Canisius left the floor with the victory.
“This was a hard-fought game,” Canisius head coach Jim Baron said. “I knew the intensity was going to be high because I coached in the Atlantic 10 for a number of years and I’ve coached against St. Bonaventure for the past 11 years. [St. Bonaventure is] a good team. They have a lot of experience. I told our players we have an opportunity here. I told them we had to make shots and rebound the basketball. We never put our heads down and we played to win this game today.”
The Bonnies led by seven points at 64-57 with 7:03 left to play when senior Chris Johnson knocked down a 3-pointer for three of his team-high 19 points. Washington scored a lay-up on Canisius’ next possession to cut the Bonnies’ lead to 64-59, but St. Bonaventure pushed its cushion to six at 65-59 when Wright made one of two free-throws with 6:23 left on the clock. Washington cut that lead in half with a 3-pointer off an assist from junior Billy Baron to make the score 65-62 with 6:02 left.
The game would go back-and-forth for the next three-plus minutes before junior Chris Manhertz hit a jumper in the paint with 2:32 left on the clock to make the score 65-64 in favor of the Bonnies. Canisius took the lead with 1:31 left on a Washington lay-up, but St. Bonaventure took the lead right back 11 seconds later when senior Demitrius Conger hit two charity tosses to give the Bonnies a 67-66 advantage. Out of a 30-second St. Bonaventure timeout, Canisius came down the floor and Manhertz was up to the task again, as he tipped in an offensive rebound off a missed shot with 53 seconds remaining to make the score 68-67 in favor of the Blue and Gold. After a missed 3-point shot by the Bonnies, Sosa was fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass, and he promptly nailed two free throws with 17 seconds left to give Canisius a 70-67 lead. Johnson tipped one in for the Bonnies with six seconds left to make it 70-69 in favor of the Griffs, but with no timeouts left, St. Bonaventure was forced to foul Washington, who walked to the line and made two shots to seal the win.
St. Bonaventure led by five at the halftime break with the score reading 37-32 after the Bonnies shot 58.3 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from long range in the game’s first 20 minutes, while the Griffs shot 37 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from 3-point land. In the opening moments of the second half, the Bonnies were firing on all cylinders offensively, as the team shot 71.4 percent from the field and hit on three of four shots from behind the arc in the first 12:10 of the second stanza. But down the stretch, the Griffs’ defense tightened and St. Bonaventure went cold from the field, as the Bonnies made just one of their last 14 field goal attempts.
Baron ended the game with nine points and five assists for the Griffs, which ended the day shooting 42.6 percent from the field, 38.1 percent from 3-point range and 85.7 percent from the foul line. Manhertz added eight points to the effort, with six of those coming in the second half, and junior Jordan Heath chipped in five points and five rebounds in 22 minutes. St. Bonaventure had four players in double figures, led by Johnson, who matched a career-high with his 19 points. Conger and Eric Mosely added 14 points each for St. Bonaventure, which out rebounded the Griffs by a 31-27 count. Senior forward Marquise Simmons led all players with his game-high eight boards for the Bonnies.
Canisius will close out its three-game, season-opening homestand on Tuesday, Nov. 20, when the Griffs play host to cross-town rival Buffalo at 8 p.m., in the Koessler Athletic Center.
Game Notes: This was the 161st all-time meeting between these two long-standing rivals, but it was just the fifth time St. Bonaventure played Canisius in the Koessler Athletic Center… St. Bonaventure now leads the series by a 97-64 count… This was the 54th time the Canisius-St. Bonaventure game was decided by five points or less… Canisius snapped a 20-game losing streak when trailing at the half… The last time the Griffs were down at intermission and came back to win was Feb. 27, 2011… Including the final two games of the 2011-12 season, Washington is the first Canisius player to score 20 or more points in four straight games since former Griff Darrell Barley had 20-plus points in four consecutive games from Dec. 2-9, 1995… Head coach Jim Baron is the first Canisius head coach to win his first two games as the Griffs’ bench boss since John McCarthy won five-straight to open the 1974-75 campaign.