With 49 seconds to play in the second quarter, Clemson forward Kobi Thornton faced up with Jaelyn Batts at the top of the key and tried to push past Batts with a quick crossover to her left hand. Batts stayed strong, flashing a hand into the path of the ball. Rattled by Batts’ quickness, Thornton desperately tried to dribble back out, only to kick the ball off her own leg.
Cameron Swartz was first to the loose ball, diving to the floor and tipping it to Batts, who took a pair of dribbles before finding Makayla Dickens for an easy layup. The impressive team play gave the Eagles a 44-33 lead and capped off a second quarter in which the Eagles outscored Clemson 29-22.
The Tigers (8-23, 3-15 Atlantic Coast) stormed back in the third quarter, but BC (19-11, 11-7) came back in the fourth to earn a comfortable 85-73 win and advance to the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament.
Taylor Ortlepp opened the game with a 3-pointer on the Eagles’ first possession, continuing the impressive 3-point shooting that she displayed last game against Syracuse. The lead swung back and forth in the first quarter with neither team able to gain a significant advantage, and the Eagles finished the period with a narrow 15-12 lead.
The game stayed even for the first half of the second quarter, but the Eagles began to open the game up as halftime neared. With BC up 25-23 at the 4:57 mark and the Eagles inbounding, Marnelle Garraud dodged two Clemson defenders and made a beautiful cut toward the basket. Ortlepp rocketed a pass to Garraud in the lane for an easy finish. The impressive combo was the start of a 9-0 run, capped off by a triple from Garraud, and the Eagles entered halftime with a much more substantial 44-34 lead.
Garraud was firing all night for the Eagles, scoring 21 points and nabbing three steals.
Eagles head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee commended Garraud’s ability to run BC’s offense after the game.
“I loved our composure as the game went on, both knocking down our free throws and just handling the press and handling the traps,” she said. “Marnelle was a big reason we were able to handle that, only having one turnover with all that heat.”
Clemson stormed back on the Eagles after halftime. The Tigers hit a trio of 3-pointers in the opening minutes of the third quarter and tied the game at 49 just after the midway point of the period. Clemson took its first lead since the 5:50 mark of the first quarter after a pair of free throws by Tylar Bennett gave the Tigers a 57-55 advantage.
Despite Clemson’s post-halftime momentum, the fourth quarter was all Eagles. Swartz hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to give BC a 70-59 lead early in the period. The Tigers cut the lead back down to five, but they couldn’t contain BC’s offensive onslaught, and the Eagles won comfortably.
In the quarterfinals, BC will face Duke, who earned a first-round bye after finishing the regular season with the third-best record in the conference. The Eagles fell 85-73 to the Blue Devils in the only contest the two teams have played against each other this season.
Bernabei-McNamee discussed how facing the Tigers is good preparation for playing Duke.
“I think we have to handle their zone, so probably not a better game for us to prepare for Duke’s zone than going up against Clemson’s zone, we’ll see their matchup zone quite a bit,” she said.
She also stressed the importance of locking down Blue Devils leading scorer Haley Gorecki, who leads Duke in scoring with 18.2 points per game. The Eagles are aware of Gorecki’s scoring prowess, as she scored 27 points against BC in the teams’ earlier meeting.
The Eagles continue to get major contributions from their top players. After Ortlepp scored 18 points in BC’s final regular season contest against Syracuse, fellow Aussie Georgia Pineau stepped up against Clemson, putting up 14 points on 7-of-13 shooting.
Swartz also turned in an impressive performance. Just one game removed from hitting a pair of 3-pointers against the Orange, she one-upped herself with a trio of triples against Clemson. Her ability to regain the long-range shooting stroke that has evaded her for much of the season bodes well for the Eagles as they push deeper into the ACC Tournament.
The Eagles’ offensive performance is even more impressive considering that Emma Guy—a usual star for BC—was a relative non-factor in the contest, tallying just six points and four rebounds. She was in foul trouble all night, forcing Bernabei-McNamee to limit her minutes, and she ultimately fouled out with 1:27 left in the game.
The Eagles’ second highest scorer on the season, Guy has struggled in recent contests, scoring just seven points against Syracuse and 10 against Louisville.
Featured Image by Leo Wang / Heights Staff