Bonsu’s bomb bounces Howard from tourney
Chesapeake College rallies from 14-point hole in each half
WYE MILLS Kevin Bonsu made the best of a bad situation and sent the Skipjacks into the state tournament quarterfinals.
Bonsu found himself with the ball on the left wing, the clock winding down and his team on the wrong end of a 74-73 men’s basketball score against Howard Community College in Tuesday’s first-round state tournament game. With his options dwindling, Chesapeake College’s 6-foot-5, 280-pound center heaved a 3-pointer that swished through the net with 0.4 seconds remaining as the Skipjacks escaped with a wild, 76-74 victory.
"I was going to post up on the block, but Gamari (Mayfield) was over there," Bonsu said of the busted play that turned into a game-winner. "So I cut and flashed to the ball. Luckily I made it."
Bonsu’s basket was just the final piece of drama as the Skipjacks (16-9) rallied from 14-point deficits in each half to win their first home playoff game since 2008. Seventh-seeded Chesapeake advanced to a Friday night quarterfinal at Frederick Community College against second-seeded Cecil College.
Cecil reached the quarters with a 78-57 victory Tuesday night over Frederick Community College. The Seahawks (22-4) defeated Chesapeake, 93-76, last month at Cecil.
Howard, which trailed 65-56 with 6:11 remaining after blowing its double-digit leads, mounted its own comeback. The Dragons’ Leopold Rogers (team-high 18 points) capped an 18-8 run with a layup that gave Howard a 74-73 lead with 11 seconds remaining.
The Skipjacks advanced the ball to their side of the court and called timeout with 3.8 seconds remaining. Akanni Salako, inbounding for the Skipjacks, found Bonsu on the left wing and Bonsu did the rest by scoring only his second basket of the game.
"It’s a shot that he can hit. It’s a shot we practice, but I can’t take credit for diagramming that," said Chesapeake head coach Joel Dearring of Bonsu’s busted-play game-winner. "I can take credit for putting him in the game. If he’s not in the game, he can’t hit that shot."
Much of a packed house charged the floor after Bonsu’s hoop, but there were 0.4 seconds still on the clock. After the officials cleared the court, Chesapeake’s Chadwick Church tipped Dolapo Olugbile’s inbounds pass to end Howard’s last hope.
Bonsu’s basket put a successful end to a roller-coaster night for the Skipjacks, who didn’t score their first basket until nearly eight minutes into the game. Howard used the Skipjacks’ cold start to bolt to a 15-1 lead before the Skipjacks sparked by Sam Sanders’ long-range shooting cut the gap to 30-26 at the half.
"I felt like I had to spark the team off the bench and get us back in the game," said Sanders, who finished with 12 points. "Our shots weren’t falling at first, but when we got into a rhythm we started coming back."
"Sam came in with the mindset that he was going to make some plays and we kept feeding him," said Dearring. "Sam can definitely, with his talent, help carry a team. The wonderful thing with our team is there’s not one person we lean on it’s the entire team. Every night it’s someone who comes in and makes a play."
The Dragons stretched their lead back to 14 points (44-30) with a 12-0 run capped by Ben Vester’s three-point play with 16:08 remaining, leading Dearring to replace the entire unit that started the second half. That decision paid immediate dividends as Salako (team-high 18 points) hit a trio of 3-pointers and Quentin Duncan (12 points) turned a layup into a three-point play as the Skipjacks matched Howard’s 12-point run to pull within 44-42.
"Either you’re ready to play or you’re not," said Dearring of his decision to substitute a fresh five, who sparked a 22-6 run that gave the Skipjacks their first lead at 52-50 on two Duncan free throws.
The Skipjacks then seemingly took control with a 13-2 run that gave Chesapeake a 65-56 lead. Rocky Harris started and ended the run with a pair of free throws, scoring six points during the streak, while Delfawn Worrells contributed two baskets and Duncan knocked down a 3-pointer during the scoring spree.
Howard answered with its final run, but the Skipjacks had what proved to be the winning answer with Bonsu’s 3-pointer.
James Peters (17 points), Aaron Bellamy (16 points) and Vester (11 points) joined Rogers in double figures for the Dragons (12-13). Harris (four rebounds, five assists) and Mayfield each scored 10 points as five Skipjacks finished in double figures.
The Skipjacks can now look ahead to Friday’s 7 p.m. encounter with Cecil. The Seahawks’ only conference loss was to regular-season champion Hagerstown Community College, but Dearring said his players are looking forward to the Cecil rematch.
"Right now, I think they’re trying to find out how good they can be together," said Dearring. "I’m glad to see Cecil now. This is going to be a barometer of where we are. We’re going to go out there and give it everything we’ve got."
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