When Belmont trailed by three points with six seconds remaining in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament final last season, the Bruins knew who they wanted taking the shot: Darby Maggard.
The Canterbury graduate caught the ball in front of her own bench and shot over the outstretched hands of a Tennessee Martin defender, who turned around to watch as the ball fell perfectly through the net, tying the game. Belmont went on to win 63-56 to clinch a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.
“My memory is, the second I saw it leave her hand, I knew it was in,” said Belmont coach Bart Brooks, who was standing just feet away. “I never considered that she was going to miss that shot. And she drilled it. And I don't take it for granted that a player has that kind of guts, that kind of composure, that competitiveness.”
When you make shots like that, you rack up a lot of points, and Maggard, now in her senior season with the Bruins, sure has. She became the program's leading scorer since joining NCAA Division I with a jump shot at Northern Kentucky on Nov. 21, eclipsing the record of 1,540 points held by her former teammate Sally McCabe.
Maggard finished that game with 16 points, and she has since scored 18 more in losses to Toledo and Clemson.
“The media, they kind of shoot it out there and stuff, so I was aware,” Maggard replied when asked if she knew she was closing in on the milestone. “But at the same time, my main focus and my main purpose behind the season is to make sure that we go out and we're ready to win basketball games.
“And whether I score the basketball or whether I pass, whatever needs to be done in order to be successful out there is what I'm going to do. And so it's really awesome, and I'm really thankful that that's the way it's gone.”
Brooks said he didn't realize when Maggard took over as the top scorer since Belmont became a Division I program in 1996 and was struck by how early she accomplished it.
“Usually, when you're breaking a record, it's down to the last couple of ball games,” Brooks said. “It shows a level of consistency that she's had in her career. She's obviously played a lot of minutes. She started as a freshman and played a ton of minutes.”
And this season, Maggard is under even more pressure to be a leader, not just on the score sheet.
In the 2017-18 season, the Bruins won their conference tournament, peaked into the Top 25 and put together a school-record 22-game winning streak. This season, Belmont has opened 4-3.
“We have a really young team, a lot of people who have never played college basketball before, so it's been fun to get to watch them grow each game that we play,” Maggard said.
Maggard's performance hasn't gone unnoticed: She was one of 35 players named to the watch list for the 2019 Wade Trophy, awarded to top player in women's collegiate basketball. The watch list is dominated by players from traditional powers like Connecticut, Notre Dame and Baylor, but there is 5-foot-5 Darby Maggard, who is second in Division I with 339 career 3-pointers and third with 564 assists.
“The other teams that we play, they start their scouting report with, 'How do we keep her from getting shots?'” Brooks said. “To start from there, and still have success, it really speaks to her work ethic, but it also speaks to her competitiveness and her toughness, that she's still going to show up and make plays when everyone on the other side of the ball is doing everything they can to stop her.”
Maggard said she has started to give thought to life after Belmont and would like to play professionally somewhere if the opportunity presented itself. If not, she would like to get into coaching at the college level.
But for right now, she has much of her senior season ahead of her, and a few more clutch shots to hit.