Sports, Winter, Basketball, Women's Basketball

Soule, Gakdeng Shine as BC Demolishes Sacred Heart

In Boston College women’s basketball’s final game before Winter Break, both head coaches donned Christmas sweaters, and holiday apparel was sprinkled throughout the crowd. The lightheartedness of the Christmas spirit didn’t translate onto the scoreboard, though, as the Eagles were all business on the court, starting their matchup with Sacred Heart with 11 unanswered points. 

After coming out hot and leaving the first quarter with a 27–12 lead, the Eagles refused to  give up their lead for the rest of the game. BC (8–3, 0–1 Atlantic Coast) took down the Pioneers (3–4, 0–0 Northeast) 97–68 in its second-largest margin of victory this season. 

The Eagles’ first-quarter run propelled BC to a 19–2 lead just four minutes into the game and included 12 points from forward and leading scorer Taylor Soule. The stretch proved to be too much for Sacred Heart to come back from, and the Pioneers would never come back within single digits. 

The first quarter also emphasized the difference between the playing styles of the two teams. The Eagles used their size advantage, employing players such as Soule and Maria Gakdeng, to dominate in the paint. Prioritizing play in the paint, BC made no threes on only one attempt and outscored Sacred Heart 60–26 in the lane. 

“If we don’t have something easy in transition … let’s make sure the ball gets a touch inside, whether that be from [Maria Gakdeng] or one of our guards,” BC head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said in her postgame press conference.

Conversely, the Pioneers scored half of their first-quarter points from behind the arc, in part because of the Eagles’ dominant play at the rim. Gakdeng and BC’s other bigs blocked shots and contested the ball any time a Pioneer ventured into the paint.

The Eagles’ lead hung in the 20-point range for the next three quarters, as they continued to dominate all phases of the game. Still, they scored the majority of their points in the paint, shying away from the 3-point line. BC’s lead never dropped below 13 after its initial 11-point lead to start the game. 

Though Bernabei-McNamee put some rotational players into the game later into the second half, Soule and Gakdeng dominated the game and the stat sheet. Gakdeng had her best game of the season, putting up a career-high 17 points after going 7-for-7 from the field. She recorded six rebounds and four assists. Soule continued the play she’s shown all season, shooting 8-of-9 from the field for 22 points. Neither player attempted a 3-pointer, continuing with the Eagles’ game plan of attacking inside.

“Because … that first group played the way they did, it allowed me to start that rotation and start people playing and getting our entire team in the mix,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “Because, at the end of the day, this team works really hard, and even those players that don’t get a lot of minutes, they still put the time in and they really work to be great.”

BC’s bench scored 34 points, led by Clara Ford and Ally VanTimmeren. Ford scored a season-high 10 points in her 10 minutes on the court, and VanTimmeren went 4-for-6 totaling eight points and a season-high seven rebounds. 

This dominant performance culminated in the highest point total this year thus far for the Eagles, coming up just three points shy of triple digits. After losing by three to North Carolina Sunday night, the Eagles will have a break before entering the bulk of ACC play with a matchup against Louisville on Dec. 30. 

“Going into break with a win is a good feeling, and you never want to go into the break with a loss,” Soule said after the game. 

Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Senior Staff

December 21, 2021