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Flyers dominant on Senior Night

The Dayton seniors would have drawn it up just like this. Their Senior Night script lacked the drama of the finish that marked the beginning of the 2013-14 season, but it had to be one of the most satisfying conclusions to a regular season in recent UD history.

Four months ago, a series of fortunate events — a steal, a pass and then a last-second 3-pointer by Jordan Sibert against IPFW — helped the Flyers avoid a disastrous start to the season. On Saturday, Dayton needed no miracles, ending the regular season with a dominant 60-48 victory over Richmond and clinching at least the No. 6 seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament.

The game ended with coach Archie Miller removing the seniors — Devin Oliver, Vee Sanford and Matt Kavanaugh — one by one so they could bask in the applause of 13,455 fans one more time. It ended with walk-on senior Brian Vonderhaar entering in the final minute to some of the loudest cheers of the night. It ended with Oliver pausing for a couple of minutes to sign autographs before making the walk up the ramp to the locker room one more time.

Now the Flyers (22-9, 10-6) play the waiting game. They will find out today who they play Thursday in the A-10 tournament in Brooklyn.

“I think we’re an NCAA tournament team,” Miller said. “If you take the name Dayton off the top of the sheet and stack it up with 2o or 30 programs, I don’t know how many teams have as much as we have. … When you’re in February and March, and you’ve won nine out of 10 in your conference, that’s pretty good. Our road record is great. Our non-conference was great. We delivered here big of late.”

Dayton avenged a 73-64 loss at Richmond on Jan. 18, a defeat that came in the middle of what seemed at the time to be a season-killing slump. The Flyers were flirting with last place after a 1-5 start in the A-10. Since the start of February, they’ve lost once.

Hurt by a season-ending injury to their leading scorer and by another player quitting, Richmond (18-13, 8-8) finished seventh, two games back of Dayton. If Saint Louis (25-5, 12-3) beats Massachusetts (23-6, 10-5) today, the Flyers will earn the No. 5 seed.

That’s an amazing comeback for a team that rode the roller coaster for the first three months of the season. This latest victory epitomized all the improvements Dayton has made.

The Flyers shot 40 percent from the field but committed only nine turnovers and took control  for good with a 13-0 run 12 minutes into the game.

Sanford scored 14 points, including five straight in the final minutes after the Spiders had cut the deficit to 52-44. Oliver had 16 points and 10 rebounds in his final regular-season game.

“It felt great. It’s really unexplainable,” Oliver said. “From the opening senior ceremony to walking up the tunnel one last time, everything kind of flashes at you at one time. The main goal going into tonight was to get the win and finish the season the right way. That’s what we did.”

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