Just a season ago, Boston College men’s basketball delivered a fatal blow to Wake Forest’s NCAA Tournament hopes with a stunning overtime upset in the ACC Tournament.
And in their last road game of the 2022–23 season on Tuesday night, the Eagles (15–15, 9–10 Atlantic Coast) dealt with the Demon Deacons (18–12, 10–9) again in a thrilling 71–69 victory, supplying a similar blow to Wake Forest’s tournament hopes this year.
“This kind of feels like last year, only better,” Quinten Post said. “Last year, we kind of gained some momentum into the tournament, and then we performed pretty well, I think. And this year, we’re just hoping to exceed what we did last year.”
With three seconds left in the game, graduate guard Makai Ashton-Langford converted on a go-ahead, underhand shot to propel BC past Wake Forest on a night when an illness forced leading scorer Post to come off the bench and sidelined DeMarr Langford Jr. entirely.
“We’ve just gotten better,” BC head coach Earl Grant said. “We’re playing the game the way we thought we wanted to play it going into the season. And so we’re starting to find a way to get our rhythm.”
In the opening minutes, though, BC’s offensive rhythm was nowhere to be found. The Eagles couldn’t find the net until the 17:13 mark, while Wake Forest charged out to an early 12–2 lead less than five minutes into the game.
Without Langford Jr.—and with Post missing the opening minutes—BC’s offense looked stagnant.
“We hadn’t played in seven days … we had to kind of get back into game rhythm,” Grant said. “So our timing was off.”
Jaeden Zackery, however, stepped up for the Eagles and filled in for BC’s illness-riddled team. The Eagles fired back with an 8–1 run, with four of those points coming from the sophomore guard. Zackery tallied 13 points in the first half alone and finished with 18.
“That boy was cooking tonight,” Ashton-Langford said of Zackery.
BC took its first lead of the game at the 6:36 mark with a Mason Madsen 3-pointer to make it 22–20.
Despite entering the locker room at half time down 32–26, BC’s defense clamped down, holding the ACC’s second-best 3-point shooting team to 4-of-14 shooting from deep in the half. The Eagles also limited the conference’s top scorer Tyree Appleby to five points on 2-of-6 shooting from the field.
Offensively, though, the Eagles missed easy looks, and Zackery was their only starter to score a point in the first half, allowing Wake Forest to enter the final 20 minutes with momentum on its side.
“I personally started to have, kind of, forcing some stuff,” Post said. “So it was kind of on me and Coach to talk about slowing down and get the motion offense, get guys involved.”
Down 40–31 at the 16:53 mark, Ashton-Langford—who went scoreless in the first half—scored six points via two and-1 plays en route to a 13–0 BC run to catapult the Eagles back into the game.
Ashton-Langford then handed the scoring baton over to Post, who logged five straight points amid a 27–3 BC run. Post finished the game with 19 points.
“I know we had 27 points, but it’s more important to know that they had three,” Grant said. “So I think we stopped them. Our defense was good.”
Over BC’s run, Wake Forest failed to register a field goal for seven minutes and 35 seconds. But Appleby ended the drought, putting up eight straight points to cut BC’s lead to seven.
Wake Forest’s crowd erupted at the 2:42 mark when Bobi Klintman finished a thunderous alley-oop to bring BC’s lead down to two points. Daivien Williamson then banked in an off-balance, corner 3-pointer to cut the lead to one with one minute remaining.
“They have really good, really good scorers, so we had to figure out a way to slow them down,” Ashton-Langford said.
In need of a bucket, Grant turned to his most experienced player—Ashton-Langford.
“We just put it in [his] hand, you know, fifth-year senior, and, you know, ran a play to give him some momentum going to his right hand,” Grant said. “And we just told him ‘Hey, make a smart play.’”
With the ball in his hands for the entire possession, Ashton-Langford faked a shot, shook his defender, and kissed an underhand layup off the glass to put BC ahead 71–69.
“I had a pump fake, got him up in the air, and just stepped through,” Ashton-Langford said. “And I got pretty good touch around the rim, so I kind of lobbed it up there, hit the glass just right, and it dropped in.”
Though Wake Forest had one final possession, Zackery picked off the Demon Deacons’ inbound pass to clinch the victory. The win gave the Eagles a chance to finish the regular season above .500 with a win over Georgia Tech on Saturday and kept BC’s chances of a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament alive.
“Last few games, I think we’ve been playing really good basketball, basketball we try to stand for—BC basketball,” Post said. “A win like this is just so good for us, so gritty. So yeah, I think it’s just a momentum-builder.”