March 14, 2013

College Connections: Coulombe adjusts to playing with the big girls of the ACC

By Steve Craig scraig@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Alexa Coulombe said it didn't take long for her to figure out that basketball in the Atlantic Coast Conference was a whole new ballgame.

"As soon as I subbed into games it was obvious. These girls are so much different," the 6-foot-2 Coulombe said Wednesday, a few days after the completion of her freshman season at Boston College. "They have better skill sets, they're bigger. Some of the guards are as tall as I am and the post players usually outweigh me by 60, 70 pounds."

The Falmouth resident had been the dominant player on the dominant team in Maine, leading Catherine McAuley to back-to-back Class A state titles.

First-year BC Coach Erik Johnson said Coulombe quickly realized she needed to improve her strength and immediately went to work.

"We lift two times a week during the season," Johnson said. "She kept getting at least one, if not two, extra lifts a week. She wanted to get stronger so she could play more. ... She had the maturity to say, 'I want to get this done and I don't want to wait until my junior year.'"

At McAuley, Coulombe averaged 11.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists as a senior. She was twice named the Western Class A tournament MVP.

In her first five collegiate games, Coulombe did not score from the floor.

"The whole speed of the game, it was just so much different than where I was coming from," Coulombe said.

A non-conference game against Vermont, in which she scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting, helped Coulombe gain confidence.

"That kind of proved to me that I was capable of playing at this level and with this group of girls," she said. "Having that happen more toward the beginning of season kind of helped me build going forward."

Against ACC teams, Coulombe developed into a consistent off-the-bench contributor, both as a backup center and as a power forward. Her minutes, shooting percentage (25 of 45, .555), and rebounding totals rose. In six conference games she played 20 or more minutes,

Overall, Coulombe played in all 31 games for the Eagles (12-19 overall, 5-13 ACC). She averaged 2.5 points, 1.6 rebounds and contributed a team-high 25 blocks.

"When Alexa came off the bench early in the season I was only using her to sub for (center) Katie Zenevitch," Johnson said. "She was lacking some of the physical strength to catch and finish but as her game and confidence came along, I started playing her with Katie quite a bit."

BC, with one senior on its roster, pulled an upset in the first round of the ACC tournament. Entering as the 11th seed, BC beat No. 6 Virginia, 66-57. Coulombe had four points and four boards in the first half.

BC's season ended the next night with a quarterfinal loss to No. 15 North Carolina, 62-57. Coulombe called her freshman season "a great experience."

"I learned a lot and I definitely realized I have a lot more to learn so I'm definitely excited," she said.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

At Vermont, sophomore forward Niki Taylor of York was second on the team in scoring (8.7 ppg) and rebounding (5.3 rpg). Taylor led the Catamounts (10-21) with 88 offensive rebounds and made 78.6 percent of her free throws. Kayla Burchill of Portland (Deering), also a sophomore forward, contributed 3.5 points and 1.7 rebounds, appearing in 25 games.

(Continued on page 2)

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