As Steven Tyler of Aerosmith would say, it was the same old song and dance at Springfield College on Saturday as snow continued to fall while the women’s basketball team racked up another victory, 70-55, over MIT in front of a loud crowd at Blake arena.
The win improved the Pride’s overall record to 18-6 (13-2 in conference) and locked up the regular season NEWMAC championship for Springfield. They will play host in the conference tournament, set to tip off in a week and half.
The three Pride seniors playing in their last regular season home game were honored before the first tip. Andrea Moschetta, Riley Fake, and Jamie Bickelhaupt have experienced both the good and bad on the court during their four seasons in maroon and white.
It is hard to believe, as Springfield prepares for one final game before the NEWMAC Tournament, that it was only two winters ago that the Pride labored through a four-win season.
“Two years ago we had a losing record and now to finish it off with a winning record is just an amazing feeling and I’m really excited,” Moschetta said to the media following the win. “This turnaround is unbelievable and it just shows that all our hard work, effort, coming to practice every day and giving it our all is really worth it.”
After going from worst to first and winning the conference last season, Springfield, led by their three seniors, will know what they need to do to win the conference tournament again this year, and it will involve a lot of what they did Saturday afternoon.
The Engineers were doing their best to spoil the special day for the seniors, but with a little less than five minutes left in the first half, junior Heather Lewis corralled a rebound and took the ball end to end before getting slammed hard to the floor.
The sound of flesh and bone colliding with the hardwood was enough to hush the crowd, but when the shot glanced off the glass and tickled the twine, Lewis was helped up by her teammates and greeted with a rousing applause from the Pride faithful.
“Heather Lewis had a spurt at about the five minute mark that really set the tone and gave us some energy,” Head Coach Naomi Graves told reporters after the game.
Lewis’ effort gave the Pride a 27-26 lead, one that they would never relinquish.
Bickelhaupt, who has scored over 1,000 points while wearing a Springfield uniform, had her game going as early as just 20 seconds into the game; she connected on a long fieldgoal, and the foul shot that followed, for three of her 11 first-half points.
Her effort and intensity in the game reflected what all three seniors have brought to the team the past four years.
“The grittiness that I talk about comes from their intensity to make sure the program succeeds,” Graves said. “Leadership is always
important and senior leadership is even more important and these don’t want to be denied, they have been at the bottom and they know what that was like.”
The crowd showed their appreciation for the work these three seniors have put in, as each one was given a standing ovation as they walked off the court late in the second half.
The Pride were also paced by the solid play of Lexi Windwer and Heather King, as both players came off the bench to score 11 and 10 points, respectively.
MIT tried to manage a second half comeback, but after a pair of King field goals with just over 10 minutes to play, Springfield’s lead stretched to 55-38, and the Engineers failed to get the score much closer than that.
Lewis (16 points) and fellow classmate Emily Gins (10 points) also had strong performances for the Pride.
“In the second half I thought we played much better defense so I’m pretty pleased with our team,” Graves said.
Springfield, now 13-2 in conference play and regular season champions of the NEWMAC, will prepare for one more game, Wednesday Feb. 18 at Mount Holyoke, before getting ready for the conference tournament set to begin one week later, on Feb. 25.
The impressive win Saturday just may have made that snowy commute home a little easier, as the Pride continue to roll.