Championships in Western New York college basketball history are few and far between. So the one that came in 1977 is worth remembering, even if it was a "minor" title.
St. Bonaventure just missed qualifying for the NCAA tournament that year, in spite of a solid starting five that included a pair of elite forwards in Essie Hollins and Greg Sanders. A loss against Syracuse in the ECAC playoffs ended their hopes for the Big Dance.
The consolation prize was a trip to the National Invitation Tournament. The Bonnies had a nice run in that event, beating Rutgers, Oregon and Villanova to reach the final in New York.
The more than 12,000 in attendance that night saw quite a shootout. Otis Birdsong was the leader for Houston. Birdsong was a fine professional player as a shooting guard, so you can imagine how good he was in college. But Sanders on this night was even better.
Sanders had 40 points to Birdsong's 38, while Hollis added 24 and guard Glenn Hagen had 14. The result was a 94-91 win to capture the NIT championship.
Tim Waterman and future Bona coach Jim Baron were the other starters on that championship team. The 1978 edition of the Bonnies reached the NCAA tournament.
-- Budd Bailey
Sports Ink blog at buffalonews.com/blogs