Basketball, Sports

Papale, Dieudonne record Senior Day victory over Holy Cross

John Papale enjoyed a dream Senior Day, and will have another game on his home court. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/DFP FILE PHOTO
John Papale enjoyed a dream Senior Day, and will have another game on his home court. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/DFP FILE PHOTO

John Papale couldn’t have scripted a more fitting ending for his Senior Day.

After playing a team-high 38 minutes, the senior guard for the BU men’s basketball team nailed a 3-pointer to put his side up by 15. Then, BU head coach Joe Jones subbed out his senior stalwart to a standing ovation, and Papale proceeded to hug each of his teammates and coaches.

Papale had 16 points, three rebounds and three assists in Saturday’s 83-68 win over the College of the Holy Cross and walked off the court as the Terriers’ (18-13, 9-5 Patriot League) career leader in minutes played.

It was all about Papale and classmate forward Nathan Dieudonne at Case Gym in the last regular-season home contest of their collegiate careers. The two seniors were honored with a pre-game ceremony and through the inspired play of their teammates, who helped the Terriers capture the Patriot League Tournament’s third seed and secure a quarterfinal contest at Case Gym.

Papale had trouble putting the emotions of the afternoon into words.

“It was a really nice moment,” he said. “I love this program, I love this school. I’ve tried to do whatever I can just to help us win and to be recognized like that is an unreal feeling.”

Papale has been a steadying force for the program throughout his time in the scarlet and white. When BU was without a true point guard last season, Papale did his best to fill the void. This year, each of the 14 different starting lineups the Terriers have rolled out have featured the Wallingford, Connecticut native.

“You talk about guys like Derek Jeter, they’re professionals,” Jones said. “That’s what John Papale is. He’s like a professional the way he carries himself. He’s always early, he’s always the hardest worker, he’s always doing the right things, he’s always trying to help his teammates … He’s Mr. BU Basketball.”

Papale was equally effusive in his praise for Jones.

“My four years here, I’ve just tried to do whatever he asks of me and the team, and I think when you do that … you end up kind of resembling what you want in his players,” Papale said. “It means the world to me. I’d do anything for him on the court and to have him praise me is a good feeling.”

Although he missed his fifth-straight game with an ankle injury, Dieudonne’s presence reverberated throughout Case Gym. Jones noted that the Terriers would not have captured third place in the Patriot League without Dieudonne’s infusion of heart and enthusiasm kicking off a seven-game winning streak.

“Nate has had such a positive effect on us,” Jones said. “Just in terms of toughness, we’re not where we are without Nate Dieudonne. He was the one that started this whole run we had because of how hard he played after the first four or five league games. He just took off as a player. These guys have followed him.”

Jones said Dieudonne’s status for the upcoming Patriot League Tournament is unknown, as BU’s leading rebounder has yet to practice. Still, even when on the bench, Dieudonne has helped guide younger players.

“Over the course of the last year or so, he’s spent more time with the guys so they feel a connection with him, so he’s been able to lead,” Jones said. “Whether he’s gotten on a guy harshly or just a pat on the back or just some encouragement, he’s been able to do that because he’s spent time with these guys and they trust him.”

When junior forward Dylan Haines slammed home a dunk in the second half, it was Dieudonne who partook in a celebration that rivaled anything the Monmouth University “bench mob” has put together.

Papale and Dieudonne’s combination of leadership styles have buoyed their teammates through a season of injury and adversity. With that in mind, junior guard Eric Fanning, who led BU with 25 points and 16 rebounds, made a point to give his seniors an afternoon to remember.

“We just wanted to go out and play, not just for the seeding, but for John and Nate,” Fanning said. “This is their Senior Night. We want to lay it all out on the line for them, and we didn’t want someone to ruin their day. This is their day. They’ve earned it.”

Fanning and the Terriers ended up giving Papale and Dieudonne the greatest gift of all: one more home game.

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Jackie is a sports reporter for The Daily Free Press and has previously served as Managing Editor and Associate Sports Editor of the FreeP. At this moment, she's probably watching Shark Tank and thinking of ways to work, "and for that reason, I'm out," into casual conversations. Please send all inquiries in the form of a box combo from Cane's with no coleslaw and extra fries or follow her on Twitter at @jackie_bam

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