The long-held tradition of Senior Day in college sports is perhaps even more meaningful this year. The class of 2021 has had two seasons affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes honoring this year’s seniors that much more important. Boston College men’s basketball showed just how much its seniors mean to the team against Notre Dame on Saturday.
Saturday’s 94-90 win over Notre Dame was a high in a season full of lows for the Eagles. BC has suffered cancellation after cancellation, felt the weight of the firing of a seven-year head coach, and prior to Saturday’s win, had won just one ACC contest all season long.
“It was a tremendous win for all the guys, especially the seniors,” said interim head coach Scott Spinelli in his postgame press conference. “It really is gratifying to watch their locker room celebration and how they responded after the win.”
BC (4-13, 2-9 Atlantic Coast), currently sitting in the cellar of the ACC, notched its second conference win of the season with two games remaining in the regular season.
The last few weeks have been a roller coaster ride for BC, including the firing of head coach Jim Christian and guards Wynston Tabbs and Rich Kelly electing to enter the transfer portal.
The loss of Kelly further thinned an already undermanned BC roster, but it gave the chance for the “martians,” the nickname given to BC’s five walk-ons, to see time on the court.
Seniors Sam Holtze and Will Jackowitz made their first-ever collegiate starts, while James Karnik and Frederick Scott also saw playing time.
Holtze, who walked onto the team as a freshman, made the most of his minutes by opening up the game with a 3-pointer, getting a steal, and then drawing a charge all in the first two minutes of play.
The game also marked a special celebration of Steffon Mitchell’s storied career. The senior was named to the 2019-20 All-ACC and All-Defensive teams, becoming the first BC player to earn the latter honor. Coming into Saturday’s game, Mitchell was fifth on the team in scoring but led the Eagles in rebounding with 116.
On Saturday, Mitchell recorded nine points, eight rebounds, and two steals.
“For all the times he’s dove on the floor and played to win games where maybe we came up short, it’s nice to send him off like that,” Spinelli said about Mitchell.
The last time BC and Notre Dame met, the Eagles fell to the Irish 70-80. This time around, BC focused on getting to the basket, and the Eagles were more careful with the ball, turning it over just five times compared to the nine times they turned it over in January’s matchup.
Redshirt junior guard Makai Ashton-Langford shined for the Eagles, scoring 16 points, including 4-of-6 from three, and dishing out six assists.
“My mindset was to be more aggressive,” Ashton-Langford said. “My teammates keep pushing me to get to the basket and knock down the open shots when they come.”
Ashton-Langford’s younger brother, DeMarr Langford Jr., also played well for the Eagles, scoring 17 points and hitting four crucial free throws in the closing seconds of the game.
Scott, a graduate transfer from Rider, made a huge impact in his first game back from injury, scoring 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Jay Heath continued his stellar play, leading BC with 19 points.
Junior guard Prentiss Hubb carried the scoring load for the Irish, finishing with 28 points on 12-of-19 shooting.
Though the win came in Spinelli’s debut, the coach was quick to reiterate that the win was about the guys, not him.
“The record isn’t what any of us wanted it to be,” Spinelli said. “But every time these kids got knocked down, they got back up. It speaks to their character and who they are as people.”
Spinelli and his players were also quick to give credit to Christian.
“Shout out to Jim Christian. He set all of this up for us,” Ashton-Langford said. “They bring two different types of energy to the game. [Spinelli] is more of a jumpy guy, and that’s what it took for us to win today.”
Michael Dwyer / AP Photo