The Eagles’ inexperience plagued them early in the season, until they began clicking from 3-point range
When learning the basics of basketball, you are taught three things: only pass to a player that’s open, don’t walk with the ball unless you are dribbling, and if you’re open, shoot.
The Boston College women’s basketball team struggled with these elementary rules throughout the season. With a young team on the court, inexperience played a major role in the Eagles’ losses. The team constantly lost composure while under pressure and unsuccessfully tried to pass the ball through defenders. Guards often got trapped and picked up the ball while their feet kept moving, turning the ball over with a traveling violation.
“Those mistakes, that consistency, that absolutely was the difference between our record, what it is and where we would want it to be,” BC head coach Erik Johnson said.
BC’s inability to make shots in crunch time paired with weak defense and turnovers, plagued the team early on in the season. Notre Dame and Florida State came into Conte Forum and handily stormed down the court on almost every play. After a BC miss, the opponent would aggressively snag a rebound. With quick and effective passing, they broke the Eagles’ press and rapidly crossed midcourt. Using the 2-on-1 advantage, the guard would fake right, dodge left, and pass to a player to complete open layup.
In order to contend in the notoriously difficult ACC, BC needed to find a solution. The answer: shoot 3-pointers—a lot of them.
Making shots from beyond the arc became a trademark for BC in its final games, and many of these triples came from sophomore Kelly Hughes. She led the ACC and was 47th in the country in 3-point shooting, sitting at a 38.8 percent clip. Hughes, along with junior Nicole Boudreau, helped the team finish 12th in the country and first in the ACC in 3-pointers made per game with an average of 8.3. The success beyond the arc gave the crowd something to cheer for.
Each completed three received a standing ovation from the fans in Conte Forum. Crowds tend to be small on game day when the women step onto the court. Besides BC Spirit and the Pep Band, few students are present, yet cries echo off the empty bleachers throughout the game. Hundreds of young girls come out with their families and teams to root for the Eagles. Every call, shot, and play receives a proud cheer from the fans.
This booming atmosphere from a supportive crowd ignited the Eagles to a 9-6 record at Conte, as opposed to a 3-10 record on the road. The young team struggled in the first half of games against top ACC competitors, yet the Eagles surged in the second to muster up a comeback to scare top teams.
“For us, those comebacks have a lot to do with the confidence that the fans and everybody gave us,” Johnson said.
The biggest comeback came at home against No. 13 Duke University. The Eagles started cold, down 9-0 out of the gate to the Blue Devils—it appeared to be just another smothering of BC by a top team. BC did not allow this to happen.
The Eagles continued to believe in themselves. They pushed hard and cleaned up their game. “You don’t have to be perfect,” Johnson said. “You don’t have to play amazingly. You just have to be solid.”
The Eagles limited turnovers and gave Duke fits on defense. BC only shot 35.5 percent from the field, but with 13 triples, the Eagles closed out a top-tier team, proving they have the potential to compete at a high level.
This momentum from that win willed the team to four more ACC wins, but for the Eagles, the season ended too early after an upset by Wake Forest in the league tournament.
“There was a hunger in the locker room after the last game—it was really exciting,” Johnson said. “Sometimes you get a feel for your team and when the last game ends, there are some years where the kids are like, ‘Ugh, it’s time to move on.’ There was a palpable feeling that we wish we were still playing.”
In the final few games, everything clicked. The team pushed offensively while limiting opponents’ access to the hoop and reducing turnovers. The team felt as though it finally had its game together on both ends of the court.
The young team rose above expectations and accomplished a lot this season. There is still a long way to go before they become a top team, but the Eagles are confident they can get there with hard work.
“We’re hungry to get back in the gym,” Johnson said with a grin.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Senior Staff