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VAN PAASSEN LIFTS BONNIES

Like many other husbands, he kissed his wife before he headed off to work.

But Peter Van Paassen wasn't standing in the doorway when he smooched his wife. He was standing on the wolf logo at midcourt of the Reilly Center, about to turn in another of the lunchpail efforts he has become known for at St. Bonaventure.

Van Paassen willed his way through his final game at home as Bona beat George Washington, 78-73, on Senior Night in front of 5,772 fans who gave their outgoing hero three standing ovations.

Fellow senior Kevin Houston recorded game highs with 24 points and seven rebounds, and also tied an Atlantic 10 conference mark by making all 14 of his free-throw attempts. Juniors Vidal Messiah and J.R. Bremer added 19 and 18 points, respectively.

It wouldn't appear Van Paassen had all that great of a night by looking at the box score: Seven points, six rebounds and four turnovers in 21 minutes.

Van Paassen provided so much more.

"That kid's got a lot of courage," George Washington coach Tom Penders said. "Without him on the floor tonight they couldn't have won."

Van Paassen again strode heel to toe like a racewalker because of chronic tendinitis in his ankles. It was almost painful to watch.

He also left the game with 14:24 remaining after getting poked in the eye by Chris Monroe. Van Paassen, his eye half shut from swelling, returned three minutes later.

Despite the emotional night, he claimed to not have cried until Monroe made him.

"There was no way I was going to miss this," said Van Paassen, who was honored along with Houston, James Hayden and Bob Dziengeleski before tipoff.

Van Paassen, one of the most popular players in Bona history, received the longest ovation.

"I was touched," he said while signing scores of autographs for children outside the locker room. "Everybody, ever since I've been here, has been kind and generous toward me. Tonight was special. It's definitely something I'm going to remember for the rest of my life."

Even in obvious pain, Van Paassen's presence was a boost.

"It's like Willis Reed when he played for the Knicks," Bonnies coach Jim Baron said. "I get pumped up. I get psyched up. The players know they can play off of him, play through him. That opens up a lot for us (when Van Paassen is on the court)."

The game had serious postseason implications, particularly the NIT. Bona is 17-10 overall and 8-7 in the conference.

"For an NIT bid they had to beat us," Penders said. "If they can finish above .500 in the league with 18, 19 wins, I think they should be at least an NIT team."

Bona remains tied with Dayton for fifth in the conference with one regular-season game left apiece. Dayton beat Fordham, 83-70, Wednesday.

Bona will clinch a first-round bye in the conference tournament with a victory Saturday at Massachusetts or a Dayton loss Sunday at home against Xavier.

The Bonnies hold the tiebreaker over the Flyers, having beaten them, 66-51, Jan. 25 in Olean.

"Let me pinch myself, thinking about a postseason tournament," Baron said. "From all the adversity we've come from, it's a tremendous victory for us."

A three by Houston keyed an 11-2 run to close out the game.

GW, which lost leading assist man Bernard Barrow in the first half, was led by SirValiant Brown's 16 points. Monroe had 15 points and seven rebounds.

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