Sports, Basketball

Positive Test Forces Eagles Back Into Pause

After having its previous three games postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test within the program, BC women’s basketball finally returned to action on Thursday night. Although the top-ranked Louisville Cardinals trounced the Eagles by nearly 30 points, it was a welcome sight to simply see the Eagles on the court after such a long delay.

BC shot 9-of-18 from 3-point range—the Eagles’ most efficient shooting performance from long distance this season—and freshman Allie Palmieri added one of the triples in her debut on the Heights. Palmieri, a 5-foot-10 guard from Trumbull, Conn., graduated early from high school last semester and joined the Eagles this spring.

The Eagles’ return to play was short lived, however, as BC announced on Saturday that there has been another positive COVID-19 result within the program. BC had been scheduled to face Clemson Sunday and to play North Carolina on Thursday. Both games have now been postponed. The earliest the Eagles could return to the court is on Feb. 14 against Virginia Tech.

The women’s basketball program is far from the only BC team experiencing COVID-19 issues of late, as BC men’s basketball finally returned to play on Saturday after a stretch of five postponements. The program had its first positive test on Jan. 20, and the quarantine process forced BC to cancel its next four games: Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Clemson, and Louisville. 

Just as the men’s basketball prepared to take on No. 19 Florida State on Feb. 2, BC’s hopes of returning to the court were foiled once more. According to a statement from BC Athletics on Monday evening, a positive test, subsequent quarantining, and contact tracing within the Seminoles’ program halted the playing of the game.

Even if the Eagles had been able to proceed with their scheduled game, the team would have looked vastly different than it had for the rest of the season. Because of COVID-19 protocols, only four scholarship players would have been available, according to BC head coach Jim Christian. 

Steffon Mitchell, Jay Heath, CJ Felder, and Kamari Williams were set to take their starting spots. The remainder of the lineup would have included four walk-ons, a group with a combined total of 15 minutes on the court this season at that point. Andrew Kenny, Sam Holtze, Will Jackowitz, and Quinn Pemberton, who all normally play scout team during practice, were set to take center stage.

Why the administration determined that the game was essential even without a full roster is unclear. The ACC doesn’t specify precisely how many players are necessary to field a team, but Christian said that the BC administration had said he just needed eight. 

Even so, many fans and college basketball experts expressed their discontent with the decision to play the game despite an obviously short bench.

The women’s basketball program faced its own share of short-sided struggles. Because of COVID-19 protocols, the Eagles did not even have enough players to scrimmage five-on-five during practice in the week leading up to the Louisville game and only had eight players available for the game, according to head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee. Kaylah Ivey, a usual mainstay of the Eagles’ rotation, and JoJo Lacey did not see the floor.

“We were down a couple kids, so it was foul trouble and things like that,” Bernabei-McNamee said in her postgame press conference after the loss to the Cardinals. “It kind of messed up a little bit of what we could do on the court.”

These personnel issues have compounded what have already been very frustrating seasons for both the men’s and women’s basketball programs. The men’s team currently sits last in the ACC with a dreadful 1-7 conference record, leading to more uncertainty about head coach Jim Christian’s future on the Heights after the COVID-19 pandemic saved his job last year
The women’s team has been no better, compiling just a 1-8 record in ACC play and showing a marked falloff from the team that made the semifinals of the ACC tournament last season.

Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics

February 7, 2021