Heartbreak at the Hart Center: BU Women’s Basketball falls to Holy Cross in the Patriot League Championship for the second straight season

By Henry Dinh-Price

WORCESTER, Mass. – Head coach Melissa Graves and star junior guard Alex Giannaros walked into the postgame press conference with tears smeared. For the second straight season, the Holy Cross Crusaders denied their dream of winning the Patriot League Championship and earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament. 

After losing at Case Gym in last season’s championship game, the third-seeded Terriers had their chance at revenge. A chance to dethrone first-seeded Holy Cross in front of its home crowd at the Hart Center. 

But BU (20-12, 10-8 PL) never led in Sunday’s Championship Game as Holy Cross (20-12, 11-7 PL) prevailed in a 61-55 victory.

“Disappointed with the outcome but not disappointed in the effort of the team,” said Graves. “I thought we fought until the whistle went off.”

BU star senior forward Caitlin Weimar, the Patriot League Player of the Year, was held to her lowest point total in conference play — just 7 points on 2-of-7 shooting. 

“They were doubling on the catch, so I didn’t really get as many looks as I wanted to,” Weimar said.

Holy Cross sent constant double and triple teams at Weimar, forcing the ball out of her hands. Weimar committed five turnovers and did not attempt a shot for the first 13 minutes.

“It’s not so much, you know, stopping her, it’s just limiting her touches,” Holy Cross head coach Maureen Magarity said. “I thought we did a fabulous job today of really pushing her off the block.”

For Magarity and Holy Cross, the task was simple: force anyone not named Caitlin Weimar to beat them. BU never looked comfortable offensively.

“We just clogged the paint. We stayed off the shooters. Our doubles were fantastic,” Magarity said. 

Still, BU made 42.9 percent (21-for-49) of its shots, compared to Holy Cross’ 34.6 percent rate (18-of-52). The difference came at the line, where the Crusaders made 17-of-25 free throws. BU only got to the stripe seven times, sinking five. 

“They got to the free throw line a lot which hurt us,” said Graves.

Holy Cross raced to an early 8-2 lead as BU turned the ball over four times in its first six possessions. On the fourth giveaway, Graves kicked the ball in frustration as it rolled to her feet. It was a sign of things to come, as the Terriers coughed it up 17 times.

“I think we shot ourselves in the foot,” Graves said. 

Holy Cross built up an eight-point lead, but BU freshman guard Aoibhe Gormley drilled a 3 on the right wing as the first-quarter buzzer sounded. It cut Holy Cross’ lead to five, as BU trailed 15-10 entering the second quarter. 

“I thought Aoibhe was tremendous,” Graves said.

Midway through the second quarter, BU went on a 6-0 run, cutting its deficit to 20-19. Gormley pulled up for a free-throw-line jumper, Weimar scored her first basket, and sophomore forward Anastasiia Semenova grabbed an offensive rebound and finished a reverse layup. 

After a pair of Crusader free throws, another Weimar layup cut it to one again. 

But behind the offensive boost from first-team All-Patriot League senior guard Bronagh Power-Cassidy, Holy Cross surged on a 12-2 run over the final 4:05 to enter the break ahead 34-23. 

Power-Cassidy had 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the opening 20 minutes. 

Four minutes into the third quarter, a trail 3 by Power-Cassidy capped off an 8-0 Holy Cross run — and a 20-4 stretch over eight minutes — giving the Crusaders their largest lead of the night, 42-25. 

Chants of “MVP! MVP! MVP!” rained down from the Crusader student section as Graves called timeout. 

“The environment was absolutely electric,” Magarity said. “It honestly took my breath away a few times just looking around and I couldn’t even believe that this was the Hart Center.”

BU responded, quieting the Crusader crowd. A 3 off the glass followed by a coast-to-coast layup by Gormley cut the Terrier deficit to eight, 43-35. She finished with 17 points on 7-for-13 shooting. 

“She is a gamer,” said Graves. “She wants to win and compete. And so I think that took over a little bit today.”

A free throw from Weimar a minute later cut it to seven with just eight seconds left in the quarter. An 11-1 run had swung all of the momentum back in BU’s favor. 

Third-team All-Patriot League senior guard Cara McCormack had an answer: a buzzer-beating 3 over Weimar’s outstretched arm. It put the Crusaders ahead 46-36 heading into the fourth quarter. 

Giannaros opened the fourth with a layup and a midrange jumper. It cut the deficit to six, the smallest margin of the second half. She led BU in scoring with 21 points, 18 of which came in the second half as she fought to keep the Terriers in it.

“We’ve been fighting all year,” Giannaros said. “You just gotta keep playing. Gotta keep doing what you do.”

McCormack answered again. She buried a right corner 3 and then got Giannaros to bite on a pump-fake before driving to the rim for an easy layup. Her five quick points gave Holy Cross a 51-40 lead with under seven minutes remaining. 

“I feel like my teammates always believed in me and my coaches always believed in me,” McCormack said. “It’s really easy to be confident when everyone believes in you so I have to thank them for that.”

The final minutes were agonizing as BU tried to mount a late comeback. The Terriers held Holy Cross scoreless for over four-and-a-half minutes but failed to take advantage. They missed multiple wide-open layups, including a stunner from Weimar after finally getting a clean look at the rim. 

It cost the Terriers a chance in the waning moments, as they never got within six. 

When the final buzzer sounded, Holy Cross was preparing to cut down the nets for a second straight season. 

“I’m going to be thinking about it for weeks. What adjustments I could have made or what we could have done differently,” said Graves. “But at the end of the day, I thought we fought and we gave everything we had.” 

BU lost all but five players from last season’s roster. It dealt with inexperience. It dealt with three season-ending injuries. And yet, the Terriers still found themselves in the title game. 

“I think what we’re building here is really special, and to be in this game two years in a row is a special thing,” Graves said. “You want to come out with the win, but the expectation now is to always be in this opportunity to win this. And that’s what we’re going to focus on moving forward.”