With 2:23 left in the first half, Springfield’s Jake Ross stole the ball from the Golden Bear’s Mikey Pettway. After gaining control of the ball, Ross put his head down, bolted down the court, and slammed the ball through the rim with one hand. As Western New England brought the ball down the court on the ensuing possession, the Pride faithful stood up and were heard en masse for the first time all game. As the Golden Bear’s EJ Day made his way into the paint, Ross stole the ball. Once again, Ross corralled the ball, flew down the court, and finished with another thunderous slam dunk; this time with two hands.
Before Ross’ two emphatic dunks, the Pride’s offense wasn’t clicking. The team was relying heavily on threes at the time, which was counterproductive because the squad only shot 5-16 from behind the arc by the end of the game.
But after Ross’ dunks, the energy changed, and Springfield started to get its feet under them. After Ross’ two dunks, there was no looking back.
Springfield picked up its first win of the season by defeating Western New England 88-70 on Friday night in Blake Arena. Ross finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds, and three assists. Pride forward Heath Post contributed a healthy 18 points and 10 rebounds to the win.
“Our movement was a little bit stagnant,” said Pride head coach Charlie Brock on the Pride’s early first half woes. “I also think we panicked a bit with the ball. We were giving the ball to guys off handoffs that were available but nothing would come of it instead of holding on a bit longer and running through our set. As time went on and the game went on we got more and more out of it. We are trying to spread the floor a bit and give Jake [Ross], Heath [Post], and [other] guys an opportunity to penetrate a little bit.”
For the second straight game, senior guard Andy McNulty started at shooting guard for the Pride. McNulty has been known as the team’s floor general from the point guard position the last few seasons.
“The big thing for Andy, that I think has helped him, is that he doesn’t have to shoulder the responsibility of bringing the ball up and initiating things,” said Brock on the change in position. “It’s the mental and physical fatigue that can be a factor there. Andy not having to do that the whole 40 minutes or whatever it may be makes a big difference in the length of the game and that will be more obvious in more competitive games.”
Pride freshman Deonte Sandifer played an unexpected 17 minutes in the win.
“He is really smart,” said Brock about the freshman guard. “We are asking him to play and learn a couple different positions offensively. He is long and athletic, he is quick enough, and he likes it. He is going to have a place with us and we are going to find ways to use him. He has done a nice job. Better and better every day.”
The Pride would have had a much easier time getting the win if it wasn’t for Mikey Pettway. Pettway finished with a game-high 24 points and led the Golden Bear’s in rebounding with six.
Springfield now looks to pull a win over Keene State on Nov. 21.
“They whooped us last year,” said Brock. “We have to extend the amount of time in which we are doing things well. Our energy level has to be there from the get go or there are going to knock us out pretty quick. They are very good. If we get knocked down early it’ll be tough to come back.”