There was no question that this would be an uphill battle for Fontbonne as the visiting 4-6 Bonnies warmed up on the court before the St. Jean Baptiste game at The Post BK in Greenpoint. After losing 42-29 to St. Jean Baptiste three weeks ago, the Bonnies were now missing four players going into a game against an undefeated 10-0 team with a full roster. Reiterating his pre-game mantra, Fontbonne Coach Steve Oliver told his players, “Play hard and good things will happen,” as the team broke their huddle to take the court for the looming “David and Goliath” match-up.
Despite the apparent disadvantage, co-captain Aaniya Telford (10 points, 8 rebounds, 7 steals and 7 assists) set the tone for the Bonnies from the outset as she captured the tip-off for the first score of the game. Following Telford’s opening score, freshman Noelle Polanco (24 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and 4 assists) teamed up with her senior sister to star again as the varsity’s top-scoring tandem to score 34 of their team’s 46 points. Energized by Telford’s three baskets in a row at the end of the second quarter, the Bonnies kept pace with the Jeanites to trail by just one point, 21-20, by the end of the half.
Fontbonne then went on a 14-9 scoring run in the third quarter that saw Kristen Russo (9 rebounds and 4 points) and Stephanie Morris (2 rebounds and 4 points) out-rebound the Jeanites for second-chance scoring opportunities. Co-captain Eleni Sipp also contributed on defense with 6 rebounds. On offense, Sipp sank a critical 3-point basket to conclude the third quarter for a much-needed 35-31 Fontbonne lead.
Watching his team play hard for three quarters to overtake an unbeaten team, Coach Oliver urged his players to “keep your focus and keep the pressure on” as his team returned to the court for the fourth quarter. In addition to her critical 3-point basket, Sipp continuously moved the ball around the perimeter during the last quarter to find the open shooter for Fontbonne’s 11-5 run for the eventual 46-36 win.
“After being beaten by 13 points at home a few weeks ago, we really wanted this game,” Telford said. “With four players out, we all knew that we had to really step up to win this game.”
“After Aaniya scored three baskets in a row, that’s when we knew that we could win this game,” Sipp said. “The team’s energy level really picked up and we fed off that for the rest of the game.”
“Whether we win or lose, it’s important to fight hard,” Oliver said. “For this team, I’ve been searching and trying to develop toughness and a will to fight hard for an entire game all season. This game was finally an example of that. I stress to them that all the time it’s too easy to give up and not work hard, not only for your team but for yourself.”