Sports, Winter, Basketball, Men's Basketball

Eagles Drop St. John’s 86–80 in the NABC Brooklyn Showcase

With 3:16 remaining in the second half of Boston College men’s basketball’s matchup against St. John’s, Chas Kelley III waited for a pass from Donald Hand Jr. well beyond the three point line. With no hesitation, Kelley rose up high over the defender and swished a deep 3-pointer.

Kelley’s basket increased BC’s lead to 76–70, and showcased the depth of the Eagles’ lineup when their typical stars are not always on or available. 

Despite foul trouble and subpar free throw shooting, BC (8–3, 0–1 Atlantic Coast) defeated St. John’s (6–3) 86–80 on Sunday at the Barclays Center in the NABC Brooklyn Showcase. The Eagles wore Red Bandana uniforms to honor Welles Crowther in the contest. BC’s stars put on a clinic in the first half, but its bench came up big in the clutch, scoring 20 of the Eagles’ 48 second-half points.

BC got out to an 11–9 lead just under six minutes into the first half with Quinten Post and Jaeden Zackery setting the tone early, scoring all 11 points. Post would finish the first half with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting and dished out three assists. 

“I thought we came out of the locker room ready to play,” BC head coach Earl Grant said. “We played with great expectancy. We looked like a team that thought they can win.”

While the Eagles’ offense appeared sound, their defense struggled to box out, allowing St. John’s, the best offensive rebounding team in the country, to grab 11 offensive rebounds and create multiple second-chance opportunities in the half. 

Despite BC’s early offensive surge, the Red Storm responded every time down the floor, led by Chris Ledlum, who tallied 12 points in the first half. With 11:48 remaining in the first half, the Red Storm’s Zuby Ejiofor threw down a two-handed dunk to give St. John’s a 19–15 advantage.

Just as it looked like BC was losing control, however, the Eagles went on a 10–2 run which set the stage for a Harris Jr. steal and a Zackery fast-break layup to put the Eagles up 25–21. 

The Eagles and Red Storm continued to trade baskets for the remainder of the half, with Post running the offense and battling St. John’s center, Joel Soriano. Soriano finished the game with 21 points and 11 rebounds, including an emphatic dunk to cut BC’s lead to 36–34.

BC entered the locker room at half with a narrow 38–36 lead, largely due to its 15 second-chance points, compared to St. John’s seven.

To start the second half, the Eagles displayed little offensive rhythm with three early turnovers less than five minutes into play. The Red Storm gained all the momentum offensively and Soriano was virtually unstoppable, grabbing rebounds and using his physicality to score in the paint. Soriano’s dominance sparked a 14–0 St. John’s run, which gave the Red Storm a 52–42 advantage. 

“Only weakness that we saw in his current record is that he likes to go over his left shoulder,” Post said about Joel Soriano. “He made it hard on me all night. Great player.”

BC continued to fight, however, and show its resilience. Zackery stopped the bleeding with a fast-break layup to cut the score to 52–44, after which, the Eagles could not miss. They forced St. John’s to turn the ball over and dominated on the fast break. Harris Jr. made a pull-up 3-pointer with 13:31 remaining in the game to cut the once double-digit lead to just two points. 

“It’s a game of runs,” Grant said on the team’s response to adversity. “We knew it would be runs. They score a lot off your turnovers and they score a lot off second chance points. So we just cleaned those two areas up.”

Just over a minute and a half later, Mason Madsen nailed a 3-pointer to give BC a 55–54 lead. A Prince Aligbe dunk with 10:22 remaining put the Eagles in full control, capping off a blistering 19–4 run which made it 61–56 in BC’s favor. 

Despite the dominance from the Eagles, Soriano remained unbothered. He continued to rack up offensive rebounds, draw fouls, and score in the paint. The most important foul he drew was with 8:24 left in the game against Zackery. The foul marked Zackery’s fourth, keeping him on the bench for over six crucial minutes of the game. 

Down 66–61 with 7:56 remaining, BC needed its offense to come from someone other than Zackery or Post. Post attempted only two shots for the entirety of the second half.

Kelley III and Harris Jr. answered the call. Both players elevated their aggression and leadership on offense, sparking a 7–0 run by themselves to regain the lead for the Eagles. 

Soriano continued to dominate BC’s defense, though, and the Eagles, ranked eighth in the country in free throw percentage, only managed to hit 67.9 percent of their free throws.

With less than four minutes remaining, the Eagles’ guards continued to show they are a force to be reckoned with. Harris Jr. converted a key layup to increase the BC lead to three, but the dagger was the deep 3-pointer from Kelley with 3:11 remaining, which extended the lead to six. Kelley would finish the game with 13 points. 

“He’s very confident,” Grant said regarding Kelley. “He’s very vocal. He was a natural leader, and obviously he was ready for the moment.”

After that point the Eagles never gave an inch, hitting their free throws in the final two minutes to come out victorious against St. John’s for the first time since 2008.

“I’m just really happy for the program,” Grant said. “A lot of BC fans here in the building. Just really happy for them.”

December 11, 2023