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Philadelphia runs out of gas against BC

Alex Dragicevich plays keepaway from Philadelphia’s Peter Alexis (right) during the Eagles’ victory Sunday.
Alex Dragicevich plays keepaway from Philadelphia’s Peter Alexis (right) during the Eagles’ victory Sunday.LANE TURNER/GLOBE STAFF
BC 67
Philadelphia 50

Things started going wrong for the Philadelphia University men's basketball team around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The Rams were fresh off an 85-77 win over conference rival Golden-Beacom, and the plan was to immediately get on the bus for a road trip to Chestnut Hill to face Boston College.

Herb Magee, the Hall of Fame head coach who's spent his entire 52-year basketball playing and coaching career at Philadelphia University, got the message from his assistant.

It was from the team bus driver. "He's the same guy," Magee said. "Same company, and he drives us all the time. So I really trust the guy."

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He was going to be late. The bus he had intended to drive wasn't in good enough shape to make the ride, so he had to go back to the station and get another one. "He said, 'I'll be there at 7,' " Magee said. "Shows up at 7:30."

In the meantime, snow was blanketing the Boston area, which meant a typically smooth ride was going to get nasty.

"It was brutal," Magee said.

A bus ride that normally takes six hours dragged out to more than nine. There weren't enough movies to fill the time it took the Rams to make the drive.

First, they popped in "The Departed".

"Which I saw about 300 times," Magee said.

Then they ran through "Ted".

"Which is the funniest movie I think I've seen in a long time," Magee said.

He couldn't even remember the last one.

"I kind of dozed off," he said. "You can only watch so many movies. I can't sleep on a bus. So I actually got a couple hours sleep myself."

His players didn't fare any better. The Rams didn't get to Boston until 4:30 a.m.

They got to bed around 5. They had a 10 o'clock wake-up call for breakfast, then a short film session. A noon tip-off at Conte Forum was looming. Still, before the Rams' 67-50 loss to the Eagles, Magee had no doubt his team would be ready.

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When Rams sophomore forward Derek Johnson drilled an open 3 from the top of the arc that cut the Boston College lead to 43-41 with 11:26 left in the second half, it seemed like it just might be.

They were a team, after all, with nothing to lose. As a Division 2 program, the game didn't count against their record.

"You go out and there's no pressure on us," Magee said. "It's a game for Boston College. But for us, it's an exhibition. Our guys, we try to convince them that you have to play no matter what it is."

For most of the first half, even though the game wouldn't show up on their win-loss record, the Rams played as if it would, milking the shot clock, forcing turnovers, and staying within striking distance. Philadelphia threw a zone at the Eagles, and for a while the Eagles didn't know how to deal with it.

"We were just standing around," said Eagles sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan, who finished with a team-high 14 points.

Freshman forward Will Magarity kept the Eagles' offense afloat, putting up career-high 10 points all in the first half.

Having spent two years as an assistant under Magee at Philadelphia (and having gone to the "Shot Doctor's" shooting clinic as a kid), BC coach Steve Donahue knew what to expect from a team coached by Magee.

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"With all they went through playing a game [Saturday] and traveling up here and the way Coach Magee does it — they don't usually sit guys at all and they play 40 minutes — I give them a whole lot of credit."

The fact that the Rams still had legs left to run on was its own minor miracle. The starters were used to logging heavy minutes, (all five average at least 35 minutes), but in the first half they didn't get so much as a second to breathe.

All five of them logged the full 20 minutes. In the end, only six Rams checked into the game with four starters going the 40-minute distance.

"That's a tough group," Magee said. "We don't have a lot of guys, but the guys that played are good players."

But eventually, the gas light started to blink.

And even though Donahue understood everything the Rams had to do just to get to the game, let alone stay in it, with his team trying to shake off three straight losses he didn't have time to be sympathetic.

"There is a part of me that appreciates what they did," Donahue said. "But as a competitor, I can't. I'm teaching our guys, the message for how we build our program is have incredible love for each other in this locker room for what we do and competitive hatred on the court."

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When all the Rams' signs of fatigue started to show, when the jumpers started to fall short and the loose balls started to slip out of their hands, the Eagles' vital signs started to jump.

Junior transfer Alex Dragicevich knocked down a pair of 3s, freshman Garland Owens flushed down a lob from Ryan Anderson, and the Eagles closed out the game with a 24-9 run.

"I knew it would be tough, but as I'm going back tonight, I'm proud of the way they played," Magee said. "They gave it everything they had, which doesn't surprise me."

Once it was over, Magee was assured the ride would only take the usual six hours.

His only wish: "I'd like to see somebody come up with a bus that has a television on the damn thing so we can watch football."


Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.