ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands - St. Joseph's basketball coach Phil Martelli had a lot to celebrate on the opening day of the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Not only was it his 33d wedding anniversary, his Hawks had just knocked off Atlantic Coast Conference power Boston College for the fourth consecutive time, 84-80.
"Today's my 33d wedding anniversary, and the last time we played on it we lost by, like, 100 points to Duke," Martelli said last night. "I'm happy for the players that they're going to experience the winners' bracket."
Martelli knew coming in that the matchup would be a battle from beginning to end, and it was. There were eight lead changes in the game, seven in the second half.
The final lead change of the night came with just 38 seconds to go when Garrett Williamson hit a breakaway layup, was fouled, and made the free throw to put St. Joseph's up, 79-76.
Williamson then hit 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch to help the Hawks improve to 3-0. They will face Purdue, a 74-63 winner over South Dakota State, tomorrow at 8:30 p.m.
Williamson scored a team-high 18 points and shot 10 of 13 from the free-throw line. Darrin Govens and Carl Jones added 16 points apiece for the Hawks.
Boston College's Joe Trapani scored a game-high 20 points, 14 in the first half. The Eagles' Reggie Jackson had the game's lone double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds to go with a game-high four assists.
"The biggest thing that I talked to these guys about coming in is my respect for [Boston College coach] Al Skinner and his type of play," Martelli said. "I told these guys, 'When you play Boston College, you have to fistfight and play tough.' "
The Hawks came out of the gate firing in the first half, scoring nine straight points to start the game. Boston College's Corey Raji finally broke the run with a jumper 21/2 minutes into the game.
The teams then exchanged baskets, with the Hawks holding the lead until the Eagles got hot with a run of their own. With 8 minutes, 35 seconds to play, Trapani hit a three-pointer to close the Hawks' lead to three, then Jackson followed with one of his own to square it at 24 apiece.
The Eagles ran off six more points while holding the Hawks scoreless for four minutes and built a 30-24 lead. St. Joseph's battled back with a couple of threes from Jones and Chris Prescott and at the half were down by just a point, 40-39.
At the beginning of the second half, Trapani hit a pair of free throws to extend the Eagles' lead to three, but St. Joe's answered point for point - starting with Govens' trey to tie the game a minute in.
After Govens hit another three, to answer a trey by BC's Biko Paris, the Hawks finally got the lead back on a Carl Baptiste jumper to make it 49-47.
The lead went back and forth four times over the next four minutes until the Hawks went on a 10-2 run and stayed ahead for nearly seven minutes. Then, with time winding down, the Eagles regained the lead on an Evan Ravenel dunk to make it 74-73 with 4:44 left.
St. Joseph's tied it twice before taking the lead.
After Willamson's third free throw in the final 30 seconds put his team up, 82-80, the Eagles gave it one last shot. Jackson took an inbounds pass with nine seconds left, sprinted down the court, and leaped toward the basket, putting up a near-miss finger-roll layup.