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Junior point guard driven by past failure in clutch moment

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Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013 12:00 am

Jaterra Bonds remembers the sequence like it was yesterday.

With 5 seconds remaining in Florida’s game at Arkansas on Jan. 29, 2012, she had the opportunity to make amends for the Gators’ terrible second half.

Florida took a 60-49 lead with 4:25 remaining on a layup by Jennifer George. But the Gators squandered the 11-point advantage and trailed 62-61 when Bonds was fouled by Razorbacks forward Ashley Daniels.

“I pump faked on the sideline thinking it was their center, I shot the ball, and she fouled me,” Bonds said. “There was 5 seconds left, and I missed the first free throw. They called timeout to try and freeze me, and I made the second one.”

Bonds forced overtime by making the second free throw, but the Gators eventually lost 73-72 in double overtime.

Close losses have haunted Florida this season. The junior guard continues to be haunted by the missed free throw that could have potentially won the game.

“I could have ended the game right there with 5 seconds left, but they came up, and they beat us in overtime,” Bonds said. “I think about that all the time. In my mind, when I shoot free throws, I think about that exact situation: 5 seconds left, and I have two free throws to win the game, and I miss one of them.”

Bonds will have her first opportunity to earn revenge when the Gators face the Razorbacks tonight at 7 in the O’Connell Center.

With only two games remaining in the regular season and the two teams tied for eighth in the Southeastern Conference, the matchup is also an opportunity for Florida to boost its seeding in the SEC Tournament, which begins on Wednesday.

“Arkansas and us are right there together,” coach Amanda Butler said.

“When you’re bunched up with someone, and there is still a pretty good clump of us, you’ve got to have those wins and put those teams behind you. At the same time, it is about generating momentum.”

Momentum has been hard to come by for the Gators, who have won just three of their past 11 games.

Butler hopes last year’s heartbreak will fuel Bonds and her teammates.

“She seemed to be recalling [last year’s game] in great detail, so that gives you a really good indication of how hard it is to get over,” Butler said.

“I’m not surprised at all that Jaterra hasn’t forgotten how she felt, and I know she will be prepared, and her teammates and coaches will have complete confidence in her if she has that opportunity again.”

Contact Phillip Heilman at pheilman@alligator.org.

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