It was do or die, a loss last Saturday and a promising season would have burst into the flames, crashing before it even got started in the postseason. After two consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament, the pressure was on the Pride this past weekend as they travelled to Babson to fight for their season.
It started on Saturday with a date against WPI. It was the third meeting of the season between the teams, who played a classic game back on Jan. 31s. The rubber match was back and forth, but never really in doubt. A 51-46 win, which was led by Sean Martin and his 16 points, pushed the Pride to Sunday afternoon, where they played the top-seeded Babson Beavers.
You know, it’s funny how things work, really. This was the fourth season in a row where the Pride advanced to this game. The team was winless, 0-for-3, at this stage, and in danger of becoming NEWMAC’s version of the early-1990’s Buffalo Bills.
Babson had swept the season series, winning a close tilt in Springfield, while rolling over the Pride just a few short weeks ago at Babson. This game was a bit of a mix, with a very close first half, but a dominating second half.
The Pride stood tall in the early going, fighting with Babson stride for stride, but it just didn’t last. Babson began pulling away, led by Joe Flannery and his 30 points, to clinch a 72-62 victory and a berth in the tournament, cementing the Pride as the NEWMAC’s Bills.
The Pride, even with their split 1-1 record, had a pretty good tournament. Sean Martin, who had been the driving force all season, led the way, as he led all Pride scorers with 31 points in the tournament. On top of that, veteran Tim Swenson, known for his all-out style of play, had double-digit rebounds in both games, while also contributing points wise.
When asked about his style, Swenson said it’s just part of the game, and something he has learned these last three seasons.
“Over the last three years I’ve learned the amount of effort it takes to compete at a high level and I always try to help my team win games by working hard,”Swenson said.
That effort, that scratch and claw style, is what has made the Pride so good this season. They aren’t the most skilled team, but like they showed during NEWMAC’s, they work hard, and that hard work makes them a threat.
Even with the tough loss in the championship, the Pride earned an at-large bid for the third season in a row. They’ll play this Friday against Albertus Magnus at 5:30 PM at Dickinson College. The Pride have gone one-and-done the last two seasons in the NCAA’s, and will be looking for a difference this year.
While covering this team for TV all year, I’ve learned something: that they really wanted another shot at the NCAA tournament. Luckily for them, they’ll get that chance.