ST. BONAVENTURE -- Sophomore Miranda Drummond continued her breakout season for the St. Bonaventure University women’s basketball team Wednesday.
Drummond scored 23 points to lead Bona to a 67-55 victory over Niagara. The 6-foot-1 wing from the Binghamton area averaged just 8.5 minutes and 3.3 points as a freshman last year. This season she’s Bona’s second-leading scorer, averaging 13.1 points a game, and she has hit double figures in six of the last eight games.
Bona improved to 10-2 with its eighth straight victory.
“Miranda worked her butt off this summer to get better offensively,” said Bona coach Jim Crowley, “and she’s obviously seeing the reward she deserves.”
On one hand, Drummond’s’ emergence is no surprise. She was the New York State Class C co-player of the year in 2014 and twice led little Harpursville High School to the state Final Four.
On the other, some Bona rivals may be taken aback. Despite her prep credentials, Bona did not have a ton of competition in her recruitment. The other most prominent offer she received was from Hartford of the lesser America East Conference.
Harpursville is a town of about 5,000, and the high school has only about 250 students. For Crowley, it was an easy recruiting trip, two hours and 45 minutes down Route 86. Plus, Crowley grew up only 10 minutes away, in Windsor, just west of Binghamton.
“I think the small-school issue just scares some people,” Crowley said, referring to recruiters’ wariness over prep players’ level of competition. “I think by the time she committed to us, a lot of people had pulled off, which is surprising. I think she was second on a lot of people’s lists.”
“I liked the team, and I liked how small it was,” Drummond said of Bona. “I liked how everything was so convenient on campus. It’s easy for my family to come and watch me. It’s a straight shot.”
It’s becoming apparent Crowley scored a recruiting coup.
After dominating with her size and athleticism in high school, Drummond is hurting opponents from the perimeter.
“I definitely wanted to develop my shot a little bit better,” Drummond said. “Last year I was more of a driver, but I wanted to be a little more versatile last year.”
Drummond hit 6 of 10 three-point shots against Niagara. She’s shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 38 percent from three-point range, sixth best in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
“One thing she’s done really well quickly is recognizing the shots she’s really good at,” Crowley said. “Her teammates have done a good job of getting her those shots.”
Drummond is a true wing, not a low-post player. Her height and length give Bona a matchup edge on defense.
“She’s a really good defender,” Crowley said. “She guarded the kid from James Madison, who’s a potential All-American. The girl had 22, but she took 29 shots to get there.”
That was one of Bona’s quality wins, two weeks ago. Drummond had 25 points and 11 rebounds in the game.
A crowd of about 500 at the Reilly Center saw Niagara (1-9) play Bona even for a half. Then Bona turned up its defense and pulled away. Senior forward Katie Healy added 14 for Bona. Niagara got 14 from senior center Sam Lapszynski and 13 from guard Taylor McKay.
Niagara D: Niagara was yielding size, experience and athleticism to the Bonnies but played solid team defense.
Said coach Jada Pierce: "I’m very proud of this group. Today we showed a lot of heart, a lot of toughness on the defensive end. We are taking our growing pains, which is to be expected. Not having a long bench really does hurt us, but we don’t use it as an excuse. All seven who got in gave us everything they had. If we continue to play defense the way we’re playing it, we will cause some problems in the MAAC."
Said Crowley: "I have to give a ton of credit to Niagara. I thought they played with great effort. They came right after us, and they certainly were the team more ready to play. we did a good job of settling in. We had a really good third quarter."
Big 4 ruler: Bona has won 25 of its last 26 games against Big 4 opponents, a run that began with a win over Canisius on Dec. 16, 2006. Over that stretch the Bonnies are 9-0 vs. Niagara, 9-0 vs. Canisius and 7-1 vs. UB. The lone loss was at Alumni Arena last December, when the Bulls scored a 51-44 victory.
Streaks: Bona is 8-0 at home and improved to 25-4 at home against Niagara. Bona has not lost to Niagara at the Reilly Center since 1981.
Next up: St. Bonaventure is off until Dec. 29 when it visits Canisius at 7 p.m. Niagara visits Mount St. Mary’s in Maryland on Dec. 29.