The idea came to C.J. Harris one second too late.
Wake Forest was clinging to a 63-62 lead, one that would have been 3 points had Devin Thomas not swatted at Olivier Hanlan’s floater while it was on the way to the rim.
There were 33.1 seconds left because the 15 seconds chasing Demon Deacons trying desperately to force any type of mistake were rendered null and void because of a clock malfunction, essentially giving the Eagles a do-over.
The circumstance, said Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik, “certainly wasn’t ideal.”
Harris was playing as well as he had all year, scoring 23 points, spreading around four assists and snagging three rebounds,and his only job at that stage was to get the ball in bounds. BC wouldn’t let him.
“You just take it personally,” BC’s Joe Rahon said. “You look at your guy, you say, ‘You’re not going to catch the ball.’ ”
Harris looked for someone — anyone — to pass to, but everyone was blanketed. He turned to referee Gary Maxwell and yelled, “Timeout!” At almost the same time, BC guard Lonnie Jackson stretched out all the fingers on his hands and screamed at Maxwell, “Five!”
Not that he had been counting. “Honestly, I was just trying to tell the ref five seconds,” Jackson said. “I didn’t know what it was. I just knew it was a long time.”
For some it felt longer than others. “I thought it was like 10,” BC’s Patrick Heckmann said. “He kept looking around like, ‘Timeout! Timeout!’ I was like, ‘You can’t give him a timeout right now.”
Maxwell blew his whistle. BC got the break, and they knew it was big. They had been in enough air-tight games to know moments that swing them one way or another. “When we got the 5-second count, I knew we were going to win the game,” Jackson said.
They got another break when Codi Miller-McIntyre fouled Rahon, putting him on the line, where he hit two free throws to put the Eagles up. With seven seconds left, Harris had one chance to make it right. He was called for traveling and with that BC finally felt what it was like to be on the other of a hair-thin win, 66-63.
In most of the the Eagles’ ACC losses, the margins have been slim and agonizing. Five of their eight conference losses were decided by 5 points or fewer, and they searched for silver linings after all of them.
“After every one we just tried to learn from it and we knew we had to move on,” Rahon said. “We just kept telling ourselves that one day down the line it was going to pay off and we were going to start winning close games.”
After falling to No. 2 Duke by 1 on Sunday — the Eagles lost to No. 3 Miami by 1 point a month ago — they were at a breaking point.
“I was just telling the guys, I don’t know what I would have done if we would have lost that game,” Jackson said. “It would’ve really hurt. It just boosted morale and we’re just going to come back ready to work because we’re excited where we’re going right now.”
Rahon finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. Ryan Anderson added 12 and 5, but the best night might have come from Patrick Heckmann, (14 points) who turned in his steadiest game of the season.
Thoughts of the Duke game naturally haunted the Eagles. As happy as he was to get the 5-second call, BC coach Steve Donahue couldn’t help thinking about one he thought should have been called against the Duke. “I watched it on film,” he said, tilting his head and grimacing, “and, eh, it was a five.”
“Like I said after some of the losses, these things even themselves out. We got a little lucky, but I think we persevered, too, through so much adversity. We could have hung our heads a lot but we didn’t allow it to affect us.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.