Last week we used a horse racing metaphor to describe the way Boston College faded down the stretch in their games against NC State and Georgia Tech. Tonight, against Notre Dame, we think it’s fair to use another one. Against the Irish, the Eagles looked like a horse that fell to the back of the pack, threw its rider, and then somehow managed to win the race. In a spectacular comeback that saw BC trail by twelve points with just over three minutes to play, Taylor Soule, Marnelle Garraud, Makayla Dickens and Cam Swartz stepped up in crunch time to earn their first ACC win of the season, 64-61.
After losing a blowout to NC State over the weekend, the Eagles looked like they were going to try to get the ball to Taylor Soule early and often. The Irish, however, did not let that happen. Notre Dame’s zone was stifling and forced the Eagles into multiple contested threes. For the first few minutes, neither team could score. Then Notre Dame’s Dara Mabrey hit a three and Mikayla Vaughn scored on the inside. The Eagles managed two threes of their own from Garraud and Swartz, but it was Soule scoring two buckets in transition that kept them close. Whatever BC did right, though, was soon undone by a series of bad fouls and unforced turnovers. Dickens let a pass sail through her fingers before turning around to commit an unnecessary foul and Kayla Ivey dribbled the ball off her foot in the defensive end to give possession back to Notre Dame. After one period, Niele Ivey’s Irish led 21-14, and it did not look good for the Eagles.
The second quarter was more of the same, and Coach Joanna Bernabei McNamee looked increasingly frustrated with her team’s play. Notre Dame went on an 11-2 run to go up by fourteen. Then Marnelle Garraud, the Eagles top perimeter defender, picked up her third foul. The Eagles seemingly had no answers. Taylor Soule carried the team on her back with 15 first-half points, but even she couldn’t keep up with Notre Dame. BC went into the locker room down 10 after trailing by twelve or more for most of the second quarter.
The Eagles continued their shooting slump after the break too. In fact, they showed no signs of life for the first three minutes of the second half. Jaelyn Batts rejected Destinee Walker’s layup and Makayla Dickens scored five quick points, but the Coach McNamee’s offense still looked out of sorts. Luckily for the Eagles, Notre Dame went ice cold in the third quarter too. Both teams managed just eleven points in the period. Notre Dame went up thirteen with less than a minute to play off another Mabrey jumper, but then Taylor Soule rumbled down the court for a big and-one bucket. She made the free throw and the quarter ended just as it had begun, with BC down ten.
Now, after managing just 42 points through three quarters, one might ask how the Eagles came out on top. With Clara Ford out and Ally VanTimmeren making freshman mistakes, Coach McNamee started the quarter with a lineup of Soule, Dickens, Swartz, freshman Kaylah Ivey and sophomore Jaelyn Batts. The five guard lineup surrendered a lot of size to Notre Dame, but they completely locked down the Irish offense. The Eagles forced nine turnovers in the quarter. With four minutes to play, though, they were still down twelve. So, just like in the NC State game, McNamee ordered up a 1-2-1-1 full court press. This time it worked. With 3:29 to play, Taylor Soule hit a free throw to cut it to ten. After a pair of free throws from Dara Mabrey, Makayla Dickens hit a three to make it 60-51. Cam Swartz then intercepted an errant pass and assisted Marnelle Garraud on a three pointer, 60-54. Moments later, Marnelle Garraud stole the ball from Destinee Walker and heaved a pass to Dickens for a layup, 60-56. After a Notre Dame timeout, Garraud hit another three, and the lead was just one point. After trading free throws, the score was 61-60, in favor of Notre Dame. With sixteen seconds to play, Taylor Soule caught the ball at the elbow and was immediately double teamed. After several pivots, she found Swartz cutting to the basket for the go-ahead layup. Dickens went on to ice the game with two more at the line, and BC pulled off the shocker, 64-61.
After four consecutive losses and a lackluster performance against NC state, it was unlikely BC would have walked away with a win tonight. After an extraordinarily sluggish start, it seemed unlikely they would make a comeback. Still, even without their top two centers, the Eagles staged one of the greatest comebacks in program history. Coach McNamee’s squad now sits at 5-4 overall and 1-4 in conference play heading into their game against No. 2 Louisville next week.