As the Babson crowd erupted and the final buzzer sounded in the Pride’s NEWMAC semifinal loss to the Beaver’s last season, the Pride walked off the court with their shoulders slumped and their egos bruised. Springfield had rode a wave of a season that included an unbelievable win over No. 1 Amherst College, a three-game losing streak to conference opponents in January, and an exciting overtime win over Wheaton in the quarterfinals.
That ride of disorienting ups and downs came to an end with the loss in the semifinals.
Of course, the loss was disappointing, but there was a certain feeling in that gym in Wellesley. The feeling that the game wouldn’t be the end of the road, and that somehow, some way, the team would find a way to repay Babson for the loss.
On Saturday, the Pride came through with their payment.
Springfield College men’s basketball defeated Babson College, 77-65, in Blake Arena on Saturday. Heath Post had 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Pride. Jake Ross pitched in a game-high 23 points. The win gives Springfield its first-ever NEWMAC regular season title and the right to host the NEWMAC tournament for the first time in program history.
“This is what we worked for all year,” said Post. “One of our goals was to host the NEWMAC tournament. We are really excited to have it here on our home court with our fans. Our fans are unbelievable. They, in my opinion, are the best fans in the world. It’s wonderful for us.”
The Pride needed a solid start to the game to get things rolling, and that is exactly what they did.
Springfield played with swag to start the game. The Pride started the first half on a 19-8 run.
Post had an excellent day across the board. On top of his efficient day scoring (18), he was dominant on the glass. He finished the first half with 11 rebounds and ended the game with a total of 14.
“Those plays are flat out effort plays,” said Springfield head coach Charlie Brock on Post’s rebounding performance. “I was very impressed with the effort he put into it and the result was him having a double-double. Those rebounds are all about effort. It was a great job by him.”
Ross pitched in a presumed 20 points in the first half. The Beavers did all they could to double him down low, but he found a way to either fight through it and score or made space on the perimeter to make 3-pointers. He finished the game with four made baskets behind the arc.
The Beavers bench was dejected during the Pride’s initial run. Eventually, Babson was able to put a few good offensive possessions together to close the gap to 28-24 around the midpoint of the first half. With things looking optimistic, the Beavers bench got on its feet, but just as it seemed like they were going to get back into it, McNulty buried a 3-pointer to keep momentum on the Pride’s side.
The end of the first half was hectic. The last couple of minutes turned into a track meet, with both teams running up and down the floor taking shots early in the shot clock. By the end of it all, Springfield went into the intermission leading, 42-36.
The Beavers were able to crawl back into the game during the hectic period at the end of the half. If Springfield wanted to keep the momentum, they needed a good start to the second half.
They may have had a great start to the first half, but the Pride’s start to the second half was the complete opposite.
Between the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half, the Beavers went on an impressive 18-1 run to close the gap, and picked up the lead for the first time since they led 2-0 to start the game.
Both teams traded the lead for the next few possessions. Then, with the help of 3-pointers from McNulty, Cam Earle, and Trey Witter, the Pride started to reign in the Beavers.
A turning point in the game came when Babson committed three fouls in one possession to put themselves in the bonus with 6:29 to go. At that point, Springfield led, 62-58. The Pride went 9-14 at the free throw line in the second half.
On top of the Beaver’s foul trouble, the team couldn’t seem to make a shot down the stretch. Babson went scoreless between the 7:37 and 3:09. The Pride, on the other hand, had no problem scoring. Springfield seized the opportunity and constructed a 9-0 run to affirmatively put themselves in the driver’s seat. By the time Babson got their stroke back, it was too late.
“Coming into the game we talked about playing lockdown defense, rebounding the basketball, and working for one another,” said Post. “Today epitomized that. Everyone was doing their job and helping their teammates.”
One of the Pride’s keys to success was running their sets effectively to get good matchups.
“The biggest thing the guys did a great job of for the most part was taking advantage of mismatches that we were able to create with certain plays we did,” said Brock. “We worked hard on it and were able to execute it.”