CHESTNUT HILL, Massachusetts – “Not sure how it all happened, but I just appreciate these guys and their perseverance for such a young group.”
Those were the words of Steve Donahue after his team pulled off a dramatic upset of Virginia.
After defeat in two games in North Carolina, the Boston College Eagles returned home to take on the best defense in the conference, who only allow 54 points by them per game.
Virginia showed off their D in the opening minutes. It took just under five for the Eagles to get their first basket – a Joe Rahon three. In addition, the Eagles only made 2 of their opening 8 attempts.
UVa’s top scorer, Joe Harris, drained from behind the arc twice before the clock struck 12. One of which gave his side a commanding 11-3 advantage.
Patrick Heckmann fouled the junior guard, who completed the 4 point play at the line to top off an 8-0 burst.
However, the Eagles countered with a run of their own. A Ryan Anderson layup got it started with 10:12 left in the period and Olivier Hanlan topped it off with a three.
Dennis Clifford started a move forward to pull BC within one. After a steal, he found Joe Rahon down the floor, who passed it to Heckmann for the triple.
Olivier Hanlan continued BC’s stride forward and finished the run from behind the arc. After the assist from Lonnie Jackson, the Canadian’s three gave BC a 17-15 lead with 7:15 remaining in the first period of play.
BC extended their lead to 5 via a Rahon three, but UVa used three-balls from Evan Nolte and Paul Jesperson to go into the locker room with a one point, 25-24, lead.
The Cavs started the second with a 9-0 run. Jesperson’s second three of the night and a bucket from Akil Mitchell, who led all scorers with 16 points, gave UVA a 28-36 edge.
Oliver Hanlan stopped the bleeding with a two from distance, but Jesperson did it again from range putting Virginia up by 10.
Another Eagles run, which culminated in a three from the German cut UVa’s lead to 4, 43-39.
Joe Harris ended his team’s drought with two from the line and Mitchell returned the game to order through a layup.
As BC looked to come back, Ryan Anderson’s jumper missed everything, bringing his coach to his knees. Donahue ran his hand down his face, as if to think, ‘Here we go again.’
“We had reason to pack up our tents,” Donahue said post-game
But, Coach Donahue’s boys were not done. They continued to fight.
Patrick Heckmann had his 9th point of the night, which trimmed Virginia’s lead to three. In their subsequent possession, UVa got sloppy and conceded the ball to Boston College with 2:57 to go.
Heckmann’s confidence was beaming after his 3rd three of the game, and it showed, as he looked to tie the game with one from behind the arc, that would never find its way through the hole.
Virginia got the board and shot down the floor, where they took a 5 point lead through a thunderous dunk from Mitchell.
While BC looked shaken, on they fought.
Ryan Anderson found Eddie Odio under the hoop for two. Odio, who went the distance, then swatted a UVa shot away. The ball trickled out to Olivier Hanlan who went coast to coast for the lay-in.
With the score at 51-50 at the 1:10 mark, BC were brimming with the big ‘MO’ on their side.
The Eagles’ defense was stellar, as they looked to give themselves one last shot at a tie or win. While they got the stop, there was a loose ball. On the sidelines the BC bench had its thumbs up, but the officials gave them a thumbs down, signaling a clutch timeout for the visitors. To make matters worse, the Eagles had the arrow out of their favor.
Heckmann fouled Joe Harris soon after the ball was inbounded. While the guard hit his first from the line, he missed the second. The Eagles drove down the floor and with 20.7 seconds remaining Steve Donahue called a timeout.
The shot clock went blank and the pressure was on.
Joe Rahon is a freshman. However, if you were to watch a BC game and don’t know anything about him, you would think him to be a junior or on some nights a senior who has seen it all. This was one of those games where it was the latter of those two.
One could see his teammates sense it as well, not to mention his coach.
“He’s one of those kids that nothing rattles him,” Steve Donahue said, “Even in that last play, I just wanted him to be the guy initially coming off the pick-and-roll, just a good feel, never gets too high, never gets too low.”
Known for his passing, Joe is the equivalent to FC Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez. Whenever with the ball, he can find the open man. The kid makes plays – it’s that simple.
This time, he came good with his shot.
Patrick Heckmann drove and the Virginia defense swarmed the German.
“I had confidence in him,” said Rahon, “He first went and they collapsed on him and we talk about that. We call it an alley-drive-skip pass. We work on it everyday in practice. He went, came to a great jump stop, picked his head up and he found me.”
His silk-like technique shined. As his shot formed a rainbow, Rahon was fouled, but he would welcome the pain, because that ball had found its way into a pot of victory under the netting.
Only 8 seconds remained and Conte Forum was loving it. The noise must have reached the Quad while disrupting the calm of the reservoir.
But Rahon missed from the line.
Jontel Evans drove to the basket to get UVa the win.
This looked a dangerous time. All night, Evans had gone to the rack at will.
However, this time things would be different.
As the clock wound down, Heckmann served as a wall. Standing straight up, the German forced Evans to dribble the ball out of bounds, as he tried to go baseline.
Less than .4 seconds were left and the win was in the bag.
Though the night took a final twist – a final turn. Rahon’s inbound pass was intercepted by Mitchell.
The UVa man put up a three from half. His shot perfect, but too late. The buzzer had sounded and Conte Forum erupted once again.
Mayhem ensued. The scoreboard – BC 53-52 Virginia.
Coach Donahue hinted their final shot was a culmination of the progress his team had made.
“When Patrick did drive that ball. I think last year, I would have called timeout… I would’ve said, ‘I just don’t trust him,’ but I sensed like Joe did, ‘You know what, I think he knows what he’s doing here.'”
A young squad has seen a lot over the year and close games like this have no been hard to come by.
In addition, Donahue complemented his team on their determination and work ethic.
“Great perseverance, from a group of guys that are trying their best and it’s not always great, but I never question their effort.”
Tonight’s win was even more special, because it came on the day that Dick Kelley, the team’s Media Relations Director, received the United States Basketball Writers’ Association Award for Courage.
The team gathered with Kelley on the floor pre-game for a ceremony, which was met with applause that lasted for minutes – a mere token of appreciation for a man that has done so much for Boston College throughout his life.
We will have a special story on Dick Kelley by morning.
With the season winding down, the Eagles will head to Clemson before returning home for their final game of the season against Georgia Tech. It will be senior day come Saturday, but there is not one true senior on the team – only a graduate student in Andrew Van Nest.
In fact, senior day in 2014 will only be for two students, with Danny Rubin and Alex Dragicevich, men who do not pick up as much court time, leaving campus.
Thus, this Boston College team is here to stay and will without doubt, produce something special.
Only time will tell.