March 14, 2023
How Holy Cross stunned Boston University for the Patriot League championship
The Crusaders capture their first Patriot League trophy since 2007
Holy Cross defeated Boston University, 66-61, in the Patriot League championship game to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Bronagh Power-Cassidy led all scorers with 21 points, five rebounds and five assists, including a key jumper in the paint to give the second-seeded Crusaders a 64-61 lead with just over two minutes remaining to help her team hold on.
Top-seed Boston University nearly completed an astonishing comeback, roaring back from a 22-point deficit late in the third quarter to cut the lead to one point on a Sydney Johnson three-pointer with 2:30 left in the game. The late-push was stopped by Power-Cassidy’s clutch shot and title-clinching free throws with two seconds left.
The Crusaders claimed their first title since 2007 to give the program its league-leading 12th conference crown. They had to play a near-perfect game to win and they did—shooting 60.6 percent from the floor through the first three quarters.
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Let’s examine the top takeaways from the championship and how a visiting Holy Cross team walked into a rowdy Case Gymnasium and walked out with the hardware:
Top takeaways from the Holy Cross championship win
Bronagh Power-Cassidy delivered under pressure. Let’s break down the big play that won it:
Pressure moments aren’t for everybody.
When you’re on the road and you’ve surrendered all but one point of a 22-point lead in the second half of the championship final in front of a raucous crowd, you need to find a way to get the ball to your best player.
The moment arrived for Holy Cross after a time-out with 2:13 left in the fourth quarter when the crowd grew so loud that the officials’ whistles could hardly be heard. The Terriers had just capped a 25-4 run that spanned the end of the third quarter to under three minutes in the fourth. A Terrier comeback story was unfolding for an epic finish. Holy Cross clung to a 62-61 lead and had only scored four points in the quarter.
Enter Bronagh Power-Cassidy.
Breaking the huddle of the time-out, the Crusaders settled on a familiar 1-4 high set and ran an Iverson cut for Addisyn Cross over the top of the forwards at the elbows while Power-Cassidy cut low from the opposite wing and set a diagonal backscreen for forward Janelle Allen at the weakside elbow. Allen used the screen to gain position down low. Flanagan, out top with the ball, dished it to Cross on the wing and Holy Cross was headed to its bread-and-butter action: feeding the post.
It was a fantastic screen—and that’s where this play, and the game, was won. It set up a series of actions whose timing would be one step ahead of the defense as a result. The screen on Terrier forward Caitlin Weimar freed up Allen down low for a split second.
Cross gave the low-post a good look but pulled back from making the entry pass as Boston’s Maggie Pina, who was guarding Power-Cassidy, sat down low in the post to help on Allen until Weimar could recover.
The pieces continued to fall into place.
While Cross looked off option one, Power-Cassidy cut to a spot above the top of the key off a downscreen from Berger and received the ball from Cross as option two unfolded. Pina scrambled to recover around Berger and out to her player.
Terrier forward Lauren Davenport, recognizing Pina was slightly late and out of position, slid a step off Berger to protect against a potential dribble attack just before the ball screen action was initiated.
The ball screen forced a switch that Power-Cassidy could see coming. She could also recognize that Davenport was going to be one step too far to contest her shot on the switch.
She didn’t hesitate in taking a one-dribble pull-up jumper off the ball screen. Swish.
Holy Cross never surrendered the lead and Power-Cassidy added two game-clinching clutch free throws with two seconds left to seal the victory. The disciplined execution of the play under pressure by the entire lineup put the moment right into the hands of the team’s best player—and she didn’t miss.
Power-Cassidy was named Patriot League Women’s Basketball Championship MVP.
The Crusader posts made their case as the top tandem in the league
Holy Cross dominated the paint and battle between forwards behind Janelle Allen and Lindsay Berger. The Crusaders outrebounded Boston University 35-19 and were consistently more physical on box outs and screens at all five positions.
Terrier forwards Maren Durant and Caitlin Weimar distinguished themselves as the best one-two punch in the paint during the regular season but they couldn’t solve the scheme of the Crusader defense or win their one-on-one battles consistently down low in the final.
The Boston duo was held to a combined 16 points and four rebounds—with Weimar failing to corral a rebound and Durant fouling out in the third quarter. It’s in stark contrast to the semifinal versus Army in which they produced 39 points and 24 rebounds and won the interior, posting a 42-14 margin in points in the paint as a team.
Holy Cross penetrated the lane off the dribble and was successful in making attacking passes into the post. As a result, they won the key battle in the lane, edging the Terriers 28-26 in paint points. Allen and Berger combined for 27 points and 12 rebounds to lead that effort.
The evolution of the Crusader posts this season is at the heart of the team’s championship run. Their individual skill development and chemistry as a duo has grown all year and the tandem gave a physical and efficient effort in the final.
The 6’2 Berger has made an incredible leap in her sophomore season. She’s started 26 games and is scoring 10.0 points and pulling down 6.6 rebounds per game. She’s shooting 52.6 percent from the field. Last year, she appeared in 17 games, playing 6.8 minutes and scoring just 0.9 per contest.
Allen has started 23 games and, despite missing some time due to illness this year, has been an anchor inside for the last two seasons. The Third-Team All-Patriot League selection scored 16 points and pulled down five rebounds while committing just two turnovers in the final.
In a remarkable performance on both ends of the floor, the two forwards combined to shoot 10-for-16 from the field and 7-for-7 from the line.
Simone Foreman had a tourney run to remember
The box score can be deceptive when it comes to understanding a player’s impact on a game and Simone Foreman’s stat line for the championship game is no exception. Foreman brings an energy and aggressiveness to the floor and finds ways to have an immediate impact that go beyond scoring points—something she’s also capable of doing in bunches.
She had a breakout game in early January on the road against Loyola in which she hit 7-for-10 from the field and scored 17 points and rescued the Crusaders from the brink of defeat. Foreman’s growing confidence and ability to contribute valuable minutes in the backcourt as a freshman have been crucial to the squad’s rotation.
In the title game, Foreman poured that dynamism into the defensive end and on the boards. She logged 19 minutes and hauled in 7 rebounds, tied for the game high with teammate Janelle Allen. She was a key piece to a defensive effort from the Crusaders that made every possession difficult for the Terriers and fueled her team’s 35-19 edge in rebounding.
In three games at the Patriot League tournament, Foreman logged 17.6 minutes per contest and scored 7.6 points and grabbed 4.3 rebounds per game. She combined to shoot 9-for-15 from the floor and a perfect 5-for-5 from the line.
Foreman is a difference-maker for the Crusaders.
Like father, like daughter
Just over two years ago, Holy Cross head coach Maureen Magarity earned her first Patriot League win against her father, Dave, then the head coach of the Army Black Knights.
The father-daughter matchup is believed to be the first of its kind in the history of Division I. Maureen led her squad to an 80-46 win in the first of back-to-back victories over her dad on consecutive days in a unique weekend plan born of COVID scheduling.
Dave Magarity led Army for 15 seasons and claimed two Patriot League titles in 2014 and 2016.
Now retired from coaching, the elder Magarity was in attendance for his daughter’s first league championship game in Boston and there may have been a bit of destiny in the air. The Holy Cross victory came seven years to the day of his Army team’s last championship, a 69-51 win over Loyola in 2016.
The Terriers didn’t stand much chance against kismet or a family legacy of Patriot League championships.
What’s next for Holy Cross?
The Crusaders earned the 15-seed for the NCAA tournament in the Greenville regional and will face 2-seed Maryland in the opening round. The game will be played at 2:30 PM EST on March 17 in College Park, Md.
The two teams met previously in the NCAA tournament in 1991. The higher-seed Terps were unable to host the game in Maryland due to NCAA men’s basketball holding its East Regional in Cole Field House. The game was played at the Hart Center in Worcester.
Holy Cross defeated Maryland, 81-74 behind a 26-point and nine-rebound effort from Mary Helen Walker. It remains the only win by a Patriot League team in the NCAA tournament.
Written by Todd Goclowski
Todd Goclowski currently covers the Patriot League for The Next. Goclowski brings 25 years of coaching experience to his role as an analyst and writer, including 19 years of coaching women's basketball in the NCAA at the D1 and D3 levels.