ALLEGANY — Courtney Stockard wasn’t going out like that.
Not in his final game at the Reilly Center.
Not against Saint Louis, his hometown team.
Not with fourth place in the Atlantic 10 regular season standings and a double bye in next week’s conference tournament on the line. Stockard scored a team-high 20 points, including eight consecutive late in the second half, as Saint Bonaventure overcame another slow start and rallied to a 66-57 victory against the Billikens on Saturday in the regular season finale for both teams. The senior forward added five rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block.
“In all honesty, I think I owe it to the rest of my teammates,” Stockard said. “I’m proud of the way that the guys played all year. I think we showed a lot of toughness, a lot of perseverance and a lot of resilience. … When we started out 4-10, it would have been easy for us to just lay down. But we stuck with it, believed in ourselves, blocked out the noise and we got it done.”
Kyle Lofton scored 14 points, LaDarien Griffin added 10 — all in the second half — to go with three blocks, and Osun Osunniyi and Dominick Welch each scored nine. Osunniyi also contributed a team-high six rebounds and three blocks, despite getting into foul trouble and being limited to 21 minutes.
Tramaine Isabell had 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead Saint Louis.
St. Bonaventure (16-15, 12-6 A-10) will play an opponent to be determined in a conference quarterfinal at 2:30 p.m. Friday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Had the Bonnies lost to the Billikens (19-12, 12-8), they’d have been forced to begin the tournament on Thursday.
“Another day’s rest is crucial,” Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said, “and then only having to win three games. Winning four games, five games, it’s like anything, the more games you play, the tougher it is.”
The situation wasn’t promising early, as Bona struggled to get going once again, sputtering to just 22 points on 36.4 percent (8 of 22) shooting in the first half. They trailed 27-22 at intermission and were outrebounded 26-12 in an effort reminiscent of a blowout loss at Davidson on Wednesday.
The Bonnies managed just 17 points on 7 of 22 shooting in the first half of that 64-46 defeat, which snapped a season-long six-game winning streak. Bona had shot just 32 percent from the field in what was their lowest scoring game of the season.
But the Bonnies fared far better in the second half against Saint Louis, finishing plus-6 on the boards and shooting 54.5 percent (12 of 22) to double their scoring output from the first 20 minutes.
“I think they knew that in the first half, Saint Louis got the best of us physically,” Schmidt said. “And if you’re a young man, if you’re a man, you don’t want to be bullied like that. And we got bullied in the first half, and I thought we responded. And that’s what good players and character guys do. And that’s what we did.”
Welch opened the second half with a quick 3, and the Bonnies continued to limit their deficit to a single possession until Griffin hit a jumper to give Bona a 36-35 advantage with just over 12 minutes to play.
The teams traded the lead twice more before Hasahn French’s layup tied the score at 42-42 with 7 minutes to go.
Lofton hit a pair of free throws to give the Bonnies a 44-42 advantage, then hit a 3 for a 47-42 lead with 6:14 to play. Bona never trailed again.
After a timeout, Javon Bess hit a 3 to pull the Billikens within 47-45.
That’s when Stockard took over, scoring eight consecutive points to help secure the victory.
Stockard hit one of two free throws for a 48-45 lead, then hit a 3 for a 51-45 advantage with less than five minutes remaining. He added a layup, pushing Bona’s lead to 53-45 with 4:15 to play, then two more free throws for a 55-47 advantage.
Welch drilled another 3 for a 58-49 lead with 3:19 remaining, and Griffin's dunk gave the Bonnies a 60-49 lead, their largest of the game, with 1:33 to play.
“I just wanted to come out and just be aggressive and try to get easy baskets,” Griffin said, after shooting 0 for 4 in the first half. “The guys were encouraging me to keep going at it, and seeing that first one fall, I felt like I could start knocking more shots down. … Once we got it close, we had a feeling we could win this game.”