Featured Column, Men's Basketball, Column

In The Final Seconds, The Eagles Can’t Find The Clutch Shot

The basketball should have rolled smoothly off Pat Heckmann’s fingertips and fallen through the basket as time expired.

Heckmann flashing through the lane, into the path of two defenders guarding the rim, should have been the last scoring play of the game.

Instead, the ball danced on the rim for an eternity, taunting Heckmann, before falling back to where it came from and forcing the game into a second overtime.

Heck Miss Miami NEW

The play call was great—everyone expected Olivier Hanlan, who inbounded, to get the ball back from Heckmann. Except Heckmann turned, saw an open lane to the basket, and only had to go up against two defenders nearly directly under the basket.

On second thought, maybe the play call wasn’t so great, because for the third time this season, Heck had the chance to be the hero. And for the third time this season, he lived just long enough to see himself become the villain.

Against Pittsburgh in January, a similar storyline played out. In the final seconds of regulation, Hanlan dished to Heckmann in the corner, who drove the baseline and clanked a contested layup off the front of the rim. That time, the German wasn’t the only one at fault. Dennis Clifford collected the rebound and inexcusably missed a wide open put-back, firing the ball off the backboard and past the awaiting basket. Heckmann even had a chance to redeem himself in the final seconds of OT to win the game for the Eagles, but his favored finger-roll failed him once again.

HeckCLiff Miss NEWEST


Heck BRUTAL Miss Pitt

The similarities are easy to pick up on: Hanlan gives the ball to Heckmann, Heckmann attacks the hoop, and misses the fingertip layup. The game is extended, and the Eagles go on to lose. The only difference between the two games is how BC played in OT. In the first, BC came out firing, but then blew a five-point lead. In the second, Miami took over for the win. But none of that matters, as the final boxscore reads the same.

On the clutch-o-meter, the Eagles land somewhere behind a stick-shift and the small handbag. And that does not even include Mike Knoll and the kicking crew of the football season, who drop BC to an unknown and even scarier depth of anti-clutch.

If the basketball team is missing anything right now, it’s that player who I should have have the ball in his hand at the end of the game.

Nobody ever expected the Eagles to beat—let alone compete—with the likes of Virginia, Louisville, and North Carolina, but they should be coming out victorious in games against teams like Miami and Pitt, especially when they have two separate chances in each to win or tie.

Two other games act as important case studies in the complex world of clutchness that surrounds Conte Forum and the Eagles: Harvard and Georgia Tech.

In looking at the Harvard game, Aaron Brown gets the nod as the most clutch player of the game, although that is not much of prize given BC’s place on the aforementioned meter. With 19 seconds left in regulation, Brown—with a significant size advantage—posts up down low, gets the ball from Heckmann, and makes his first basket of the second half to tie the game at 47.

During the game at Georgia Tech, Hanlan led the Eagles with 25 points. The so-called clutch moment of the game for BC came with 1:00 left in the game, when he put in a signature layup to put the Eagles ahead 61-59.

In the grand scheme of things, these plays were not the type of clutch that the Eagles need, and most importantly, they did not win the game for the Eagles. For all the “un-clutchness” that BC has had, it has been the recipient of other team’s “un-clutchness” on a few occasions, forcing a second look at the quality of these BC wins.

After the baskets by Brown and Hanlan, both Georgia Tech and Harvard had more than enough time to come up with their own clutch plays, but they didn’t. Wesley Saunders missed the jumper in the last second of the half, and BC handled the Crimson in overtime for the win. Quinton Stephens similarly held the ball for the Yellow Jackets, in need of a clutch basket in the waning moments of the game. He missed a jumper, but got the ball back after an offensive rebound, only to miss another jumper. The Yellow Jackets then had to foul, and BC escaped yet another game.

Naturally, Hanlan has come under fire for not being the clutch player that the Eagles need. With the game on the line, the ball has not been in the hands of BC’s best player. On four occasions, with BC either down or the game tied late in the game season, Hanlan has given the ball up to Brown once and Heckmann three times.

Brown Miami Miss

Hanlan is expected to be Reggie Miller or Michael Jordan, able to pull off a mean crossover and nail a game-winner, like Jordan against the Cavs in ’89, or drain back-to-back unfathomable 3-pointers, like Miller against the Knicks in ’95. But with all he does to carry his team for the first 30-plus minutes of a game, Hanlan cannot possibly be expected to be perfect down the stretch as well. Hanlan has the potential, but those are lofty expectations for someone whose NBA stock has been in flux.

A Captain Clutch like Derek Jeter and Joe Montana isn’t going to arrive on the Heights anytime soon, and even someone with the capability of Hanlan is not quite capable of being Miller or Jordan. Instead, BC needs players like Heckmann and Brown to be Robert Horry and David Freese—role players who come up huge when it matters the most.

When that happens, the lasting images from games are going to be Heckmann parading down the court, not him crouched in disbelief at halfcourt or slamming the ball in frustration as the buzzer sounds.

Heck Ball Slam Pitt NEW


Featured Image by Francisco Ruela / Heights Graphic

February 19, 2015