Women’s Basketball: One rivalry, one 25-4 run and one roof-shattering three — the moment that Case Gymnasium erupted

By Sam Robb O’Hagan

Cover Photo Credit: Eliza Nuestro

Half an hour before tip at the Patriot League Women’s Basketball Championship Game, Victoria Paspalas addresses her band.

On this day, March 12, before BU takes on Holy Cross with a trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line, the pep band appears twice as strong in numbers as usual. The crowd at what BU calls “The Roof” at Case Gymnasium is already about as full as the 714 that attended the season’s first edition of the Turnpike Trophy, and when today is over, the official attendance of 1,305 will easily be the largest of the season. 

For the first time this year, The Roof will feel full, and at times, it will feel like it’s overflowing.

Paspalas reminds her students to keep their heads, acknowledging the inevitable emotions that loom, win or loss.

It’s a good thing she did.

Senior forward Maren Durant, one half of the Terriers’ engine room in the post, fouled out with 2:54 left in the third quarter. Two made Holy Cross free-throws followed, and BU trailed by 22 with just over 12 minutes left. It’s their largest deficit against a Patriot League opponent of the season.

All it takes is a Caitlin Weimar block of star Crusader Bronagh Power-Passidy to lift an observably full gym out of mourning. Weimar finishes with a painless layup at the other end, and suddenly The Roof, charged on by the band, is back on their feet, still trailing 20 points. One Terrier jab — something, anything — sent back at Holy Cross is enough.

Lauren Davenport wills a layup, plus a foul, over Janelle Allen, who haunted BU in the first half. The roar that follows is easily The Roof’s loudest of the season. BU finishes the third on a 8-0 run. There’s a tangible feeling that this is it, that it is happening. Still trailing by 14, The Roof parties between quarters, and everyone knows what’s coming next.

“I’m so amazed at the support we got today,” BU senior guard Sydney Johnson told reporters after the game. “I definitely want to thank [the fans] for creating that atmosphere.”

“It really did help us get a run going and get back in the game.”

Johnson’s dancing feet and statement layup to open the final quarter quickly becomes The Roof’s loudest moment of the year, only to lose the crown seconds later after her ice cold pull-up three in transition to bring the game within single digits. 

By this point, the Men’s Lacrosse team, assembled in the furthest section of the students’ stand, is consumed in a constant “oooooo” whenever Holy Cross dares to possess the ball in front of them. When Maggie Pina’s three with over seven minutes to play caps a 16-0 run, they break out in vocal rendition of “Seventh Nation Army”, the universal symbol of game over in sports. The Terriers still trail by six.

“I had a lot of people telling me they were going to come, bringing their different teams,” Johnson later revealed. “The BU community coming out to support us really meant a lot.”

For the fourth time in as many minutes, the noise inside The Roof peaks. And none of it compares to what comes as many minutes later.

The Roof is punching above its weight hosting Division 1 College Basketball games. It’s a frustratingly high-school-esque venue — its lone entrance is an uninspiring line of commercial double-doors, its two stands are glorified bleachers that recede back into the wall after gameday. The competing teams access their locker rooms down a plain and unseemly staircase, a passage where protection from the public isn’t exactly belligerent, and to get there, they have to run right through the center of the lobby in which the fans reside. 

Only a fabric belt barrier, the kind you’d see at an airport security line, separates the student-athletes from the public. On its quietest days, The Roof can feel lazy and outdated at best; at worst, a saddening admission that BU is exclusively a hockey school. It doesn’t scream D1 college hoops, nor does it even attempt to.

On Sunday, with two and a half minutes to play, it couldn’t have screamed it any louder.

Johnson, one of the greatest Terriers to ever step foot inside The Roof, drives down the sideline directly in front of the BU bench. A sudden crossover stops her momentum just soon enough, and Crusader Addisyn Cross, in eager search for a charge, tosses herself to the floor looking for a whistle that will never come. Johnson now stands alone at the 3-point line, pausing as if to allow The Roof to rise and stand along with her.

Johnson’s three is so pure it leaves the bottom of the net tangled around the rim, the remnants of what is quite possibly The Roof’s loudest eruption of its lifetime. After a 25-4 run, the Terriers trail by a single point.

The Men’s Basketball team, seated in the front row of the students stand directly in front of the Terriers’ basket, is running out of room to maneuver in celebration. Ethan Brittian-Watts’ hands lay on top of his head in a combination of elation and disbelief. Otto Landrum leaps and leaps and leaps. He raises an arm in triumph and faces the rest of the section that is almost convulsing down towards the court above him.

The replay doesn’t do it justice. CBS Sports’ production, for as professional and significant as their presence makes today feel, doesn’t stand a chance at accurately capturing the noise in The Roof.

Ethan Fuller of The Boston Globe — and a former WTBU Sports reporter — will later say it’s the loudest he’s ever heard this building. One band member will claim it’s the loudest reaction they’ve ever heard to any BU team, hockey included.

Johnson’s roof-shattering three were the last points scored by the Terriers. Holy Cross squeaked out a 66-61 win, somehow, in an impossible outcome that The Roof struggles to acknowledge. There’s a tangible feeling that BU already won, two-and-a-half minutes earlier. In many ways, they did.

The Terriers had broken endless records to get here, but largely in the dark, performing in front of crowds that failed to reflect the gravity of what they were accomplishing. With that backdrop looming, BU’s 25-4 run, for many the most jaw-dropping sporting moment they’ve ever witnessed in person, was enough for the full house of fans. The atmosphere was so real, so significant. It was everything this special team deserved to experience all along.

On the final day of a record-breaking season, at last, the Case Gymnasium crowd blew through the roof.