With 3:00 to play in the game and the Eagles trailing 60-48, BC seemed poised to lose to the Irish and extend their losing streak to five games. Although BC had played impressive defense in the second half, limiting the Irish to just 21 points and forcing a number of shot clock violations, the Eagles offense continued to struggle to claw back into the contest.
But, just moments later, BC’s offensive woes transformed into a flash of sudden brilliance. The Eagles scored 11 points in less than a minute off of a trio of 3-pointers and forced turnovers off four straight Irish possessions to cut the lead to one. Irish center Mikayla Vaughn hit a free throw to bring the score to 61-59, but the Eagles (5-4, 1-4 Atlantic Coast) scored five straight points to close out the game 64-61 and give themselves their first ACC win in dramatic comeback fashion.
The loss gave Notre Dame (5-5, 3-3 ACC) its third straight loss this season as well as its third straight defeat at the hands of the Eagles.
“Wow, I guess I don’t even know what to say,” said BC head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee in her postgame press conference. “I thought our players played with so much heart in that fourth quarter, to be down I think 12 [points] with about four minutes left.”
Taylor Soule led the way for the Eagles with 21 points and eight rebounds. Makayla Dickens started off slow, going 0-6 in the first half, but came alive in the second with 15 points, including seven in the final minutes of the game.
Dickens started off the Eagles’ late run with a 3-pointer off a pass from Soule with 2:35 to play, and then promptly pressured the Irish into knocking the ball out of bounds as they inbounded.
Marnelle Garraud stepped up as the next clutch hero for the Eagles, hitting a 3-pointer and then stealing the ball from Irish forward Maddy Westbeld right off the inbound. Garraud whipped around and passed the ball to a cutting Dickens who put in a layup to cut Notre Dame’s lead to four. The 8-0 BC run took just 30 seconds.
The Irish managed to break BC’s full court press on the next possession, but guard Dara Mabrey’s pass toward center Vaughn was too high, and Garraud came right back with another 3-pointer to slash the lead to just one. Mabrey’s turnover was the 22nd of the night for the Irish. Vaughn and Soule both made one out of their two free throws on each team’s next possession, and the Eagles forced another shot clock violation to give them the ball with 16 seconds to play.
Jaelyn Batts passed to Soule off the inbound, who drove into the paint and, as three Irish defenders closed down on her, dropped off a bounce pass to Cameron Swartz who put up an easy layup to give BC a 62-61 lead.
“Coach told me to get to the basket,” Soule said postgame. “Once I was inside, I had my teammates definitely spacing the floor and I just looked down and saw Cam.”
Notre Dame gave the ball to Westbeld for the last shot, but she missed her post-up attempt, and Dickens hit a pair of free throws at the death to add an exclamation point to the victory.
The dramatic victory was reminiscent of the Eagles comeback victory against the Irish last season. BC trailed by 11 at half, but the Eagles made a second half charge and Emma Guy hit a layup as time expired to give BC a 55-54 victory. Guy’s layup came in nearly the exact same spot as did Swartz’s basket that gave the Eagles the lead.
Despite their late game heroics, BC struggled to get anything going for most of the game. After taking a 12-8 near the midpoint of the first quarter, the Eagles failed to score from the floor for nearly ten minutes and went into the half down by 10.
BC shot just 30% in the first half, a poor performance that included a dreadful 2-16 mark from 3-point range, and struggled to contain the height of Notre Dame’s frontcourt. The Eagles’ difficulties with post defense were compounded by the loss of Clara Ford to injury early in the second period. Ford warmed up at times during the second half but never reentered the game.
Vaughn took advantage of the small size of the Eagles lineup and led the Irish with 12 points.
The Eagles will look to replicate their ability to bounce back from their first half struggles against the Irish as they hope to use this victory to move past their struggles early on in the ACC schedule.
“I think it’s a huge momentum swinger,” Soule said when asked about the importance of the victory in terms of the season outlook. “We worked really hard the last four games. I know the outcome isn’t what we definitely wanted, but this team worked way harder and we’re a lot deeper than what the scores might say.”
Featured Image by Tori Cooper / Heights Staff