CHAPEL HILL — Alison Bales put together the best half a Duke women’s basketball player has enjoyed all season Thursday night.
After finishing the first 20 minutes of play with two points off of four shots, the sophomore caught fire in the second half, shooting 6-for-8 and scoring 14 points. For a three-minute stretch, Bales carried the Blue Devil offense, scoring all seven of Duke’s points.
“I almost felt like she came of age today,” head coach Gail Goestenkors said. “She’s been playing great defense for us all year long, and we’ve been trying to get her to be more aggressive and demand the ball on the offensive end of the floor, but it’s tough to do. Down the stretch she wanted the basketball, she was calling for it, she was scoring inside for us, key buckets.”
Bales’ amazing stretch began when she checked into the game with eight minutes left to play in the half and Boston College trailing by six. After a three-pointer by Eagle sophomore Kindyll Dorsey cut the deficit in half, Bales answered back with a field goal right in front of the Boston College basket.
The Eagles immediately converted on the other end with a two-pointer of their own. On the Blue Devils’ next possession, Bales received the ball on the right side of the court, just inside the three-point line.
Uncharacteristically, Bales drove strong to the basket. Although her shot attempt did not fall, she drew a foul on her defender, Boston College center Lisa Macchia. She would convert 1-of-2 free throws.
“It’s been a focus all year for me to be more aggressive offensively,” Bales said. “I think [this game] proves I can do it.”
Even when the Eagles forced Bales to the perimeter, the sophomore continued to drain buckets. She nailed an 11-foot baseline jump shot, and on the next trip down the floor, she converted a turnaround jumper in the lane right in the face of the 6-foot-4 Macchia.
“She stepped up right when we needed her,” junior Mistie Williams said of Bales. “I wasn’t hitting the shots when I needed to and Ali hit a couple of jumpers and was really aggressive with the ball down low. That’s probably what changed it so that we could win.”
Bales’ second jump shot extended the Duke lead from one to three, and Boston College would never come any closer to challenging the Blue Devils.
“I think tonight she showed that she could hit the outside shot,” Boston College head coach Cathy Inglese said. “We knew we couldn’t take away everything from her. We tried to get her to face up a little more from the perimeter—she hit one or two good shots from there, which I think is going to make her a tougher player to go against.”
After contributing seven straight points to the Duke offense, Bales ended her incredible three-minute stretch with a signature defensive play. Macchia—who at this point had been victimized by the sophomore on four consecutive occasions—went up strong to the basket from the right side. Bales was right there waiting for her—she would record six blocks Tuesday evening.
In the resulting struggle for the loose ball, Bales picked up her fourth foul. She returned to the bench with a standing ovation from the crowd, her teammates and her coach.
“I just high-fived her and told her if I could chest-bump her I would have chest-bumped her on that one because I was so proud of her,” Goestenkors said. “I’m hoping this is something she can build on.”
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