Women’s Basketball: Terriers fall short in Patriot League Championship Game against Holy Cross in Instant Classic
By Sam Robb O’Hagan
Cover Photo Credit: Eliza Nuestro
Boston University Women’s Basketball (24-8, 17-1 PL) couldn’t complete a 16-0 fourth quarter run in the Patriot League Championship Game, running out of clock against the Holy Cross Crusaders (24-8, 13-5 PL) and falling 66-61.
With two-and-a-half minutes left in the fourth quarter, Sydney Johnson’s sudden crossover dropped Crusader senior guard Addisyn Cross to the hardwood. The 3-pointer that followed was Johnson’s third of the game and her 10th point of the quarter, bringing BU to within one point after trailing by as much as 22 with two minutes left in the third.
The home crowd almost blew through the roof of The Roof at Case Gymnasium, the pinnacle of an electric 26-6 Terrier run over 12 in-game minutes. A run that, after four-straight scoreless BU possessions to close the game, ended a couple of baskets short.
“To be down 22 and to cut the lead on a run of our own, it was tremendous,” BU Head Coach Melissa Graves said. “If we could have just started that way from the beginning.”
BU trailed by nine points at the half on the back of a 9-4 Holy Cross run over the last five minutes of the second quarter. Holy Cross junior guard Bronagh Power-Cassidy was perfect from the field in the first half (6-for-6), ending the first two quarters with 15 points.
“Bronagh is a tough matchup for us, because she’s basically a guard,” Graves said.
At 5-foot-10, Power-Cassidy was one of the tallest players on the floor, but did most of her work on the perimeter. She didn’t miss a shot, from the field or the free-throw line, until late in the third-quarter, and finished as the game’s leading scorer with 21 points.
Power-Cassidy’s contested free-throw line jumper with two minutes left in the game gave the Crusaders a three-point lead that was enough to outlast the Terriers. It came directly out of the timeout that followed Johnson’s ankle-breaking 3-pointer.
“[Power-Cassidy] has just had an amazing, amazing tournament,” Holy Cross Head Coach Maureen Magarity said. “Bronagh has just been so locked in.”
“I just have to commend the rest of my team,” Power-Cassidy said. “They’ve gotten me the ball, so the least I can do is put it in the basket.”
Holy Cross junior forward Janelle Allen had 16 points, going 4-for-5 from the field in the second half. Postmate Lindsay Berger added 11, and the two led the Crusaders’ third quarter charge with 13 combined points in the period.
“We have so many different weapons,” Magarity said. “Those were big shots [in the third quarter].”
The Crusaders led by 14 entering the fourth quarter, but only after leading by 22 two minutes earlier. A flurry of defensive action from the Terriers, sparked by Graves’ decision to move to a full-court press, produced an 8-0 run to end the third quarter.
“The press was really effective,” Graves said. “[The press] got them to turn it over, and to take not such great shots.”
A wide-open Holy Cross layup with 4:46 left in the third quarter prompted Graves to call an immediate timeout, as the Crusaders were shooting over 70 percent from the field (19-for-27). In the 15 minutes that followed, riddled with BU’s consistent full-court press, the Crusaders shot under 24% (4-for-17) and scored eight points.
“Their pressure got us a little bit off tempo,” Magarity said.
With a home crowd unwilling to quit behind them, the Terriers opened the fourth quarter on another 8-0 run. After a layup on the first possession of the quarter, Johnson stroked BU back within single-digits with a confident pull-up 3-pointer in transition at 9:01.
After picking up her third personal foul in the second quarter and sitting out the last 4:27 of the first half, Johnson played all 20 minutes of the second half and finished with 19 points.
“Getting down and finding a way to come back, that’s been our M.O., especially in the postseason,” Johnson said. “I mentioned to the team during halftime that we’ve done crazier things before, so anything is possible.”
As Johnson played the second half with three fouls, Maren Durant fouled out with 2:54 left in the third quarter. It was her replacement off the bench, sophomore wing Lauren Davenport, whose contributions energized what was the defining run of the game.
Davenport’s tough three-point play over Allen with five seconds left in the third quarter carried BU’s momentum into the fourth, where her block of Crusader Kaitlyn Flanagan led to a Maggie Pina 3-pointer that cut the lead to six with over seven minutes left.
“Lauren really stepped up and played well for us,” Graves said. “Not just defensively but she was able to score the ball and she played really hard.”
The Terriers, fighting through Johnson and Durant’s foul trouble and their largest deficit against a Patriot League opponent of the season, came within one point of climbing all the way back.
“We really fought,” Graves said. “I can’t be upset with the fight in the team.”
“When people start believing and start having an intensity about themselves that we can win this game, that’s when we started playing really well,” Johnson said. “If we would have come out with that from the jump, the score might have been different.”
Recovering from a tearful and prolonged postgame assembly with her team, Graves turned the Terriers’ attention to the NIT, for which BU qualified by virtue of their regular season conference championship.
“We still have basketball to play in the NIT, and it’s still a really good tournament,” Graves said. “We can make a run there.”
But the NIT is a consolation prize for the Terriers. With their win, Holy Cross advances to the NCAA Tournament through the Patriot League’s lone automatic ticket. Selected as a No. 15 seed in the second of two regions in Greenville, South Carolina, they’ll play second-seeded Maryland later this week.
It will be the Crusaders’ first appearance at March Madness since 2007.
“Just an incredible day for our program,” Magarity said. “I’ve cried quite a bit but I can’t say enough about this team.”
“The minute I stepped foot on campus this summer, I knew we had a special group,” Magarity said.
For Graves and the Terriers, a historic season ends in heartbreak, the countless records broken all paling in significance to the one that eventually eluded them.
“To win a Patriot League championship would just be the ultimate goal for everybody,” Graves said on Feb. 6, before their 12th of a record-breaking 17-straight conference wins. It would have been BU’s first conference title since 2003 and the first Patriot League Championship in program history.
“Obviously [the loss] is disappointing, but it doesn’t negate what we’ve done all year,” Graves said. “[We] set a tremendous legacy here, especially for our five seniors.”
“I’m proud of everything that we’ve accomplished this year as a team, and I’m excited for the team going forward,” Johnson said.