Springfield College defeated Hamilton College in overtime in the third round of the Division III NCAA men’s basketball national tournament, 92-90, Friday night. The Pride will take on Swarthmore College (25-5) in the Elite 8 on Friday at 7 p.m.
Hamilton College’s Spencer Kendall stood at the free throw line with three seconds left in regulation. His team was up three points and had a chance to send the Continentals to the Elite 8.
The freshman’s first shot went up.
He took his time on the second shot.
Springfield’s Heath Post secured the rebound and sent a laser of a pass to senior Andy McNulty. He had three seconds left to extend his collegiate basketball career.
McNulty sprinted past half court and into Continental territory. As the buzzer sounded, and with two Hamilton defenders draped on top of him, he released a desperation three-pointer from well beyond the top of the key.
Four years of collegiate basketball, and whether or not he and the Pride would play another game was, literally, up in the air.
“It’s kind of a shot you dream of in the driveway when you are younger,” said McNulty. “I just wanted to get arc on it and get it to the rim, and it went in. It was an amazing feeling.”
McNulty finished the game with 14 points and five assists.
“I just love these guys. I love this team,” said McNulty. “We have a great thing going. I just don’t want it to end. Anything I can do help out I will. I’m happy we are still dancing.”
Jake Ross continues to dominate
Ross finished the game with 36 points, nine assists, and six rebounds.
“The more they (opponents) try to take him out of the game, the better he gets at finding other people to do things,” said Springfield head coach Charlie Brock. “We have got guys that can do it. They have confidence in each other and they believe in each other. That is exactly how it worked out with the balance you see in the scoring. That is coming from the attention Jake gets.”
Not including Ross, the Pride had three players finish the game in double figures scoring (McNulty , Heath Post , Brandon Eckles ).
Down late in the game
The Pride trailed by 10 points with 6:32 left in the game and the Continentals were rolling. Hamilton’s Kena Gilmour finished with a game-high 40 points and was dominant during the stretch, but the Pride didn’t give up.
“We just use the word ‘believe’,” said Ross. “Just play basketball. We have been doing this since we were five years old. Just play basketball. Enjoy each others presence and work together. I’m really happy we are still standing.”
Fouling late in the game
Springfield had to foul on several straight possessions late in regulation to get into the bonus and stop the clock.
“We had to be careful on who was getting the fouls. Jake was getting high and Andy as well,” said Brock. “Trey (Witter) and Ben (Diamond) went in and picked up a couple. We had to be sure it wasn’t going to be somebody we were going to need if we got down to it, which we didn’t. I wasn’t anticipating overtime. That worked out. Looking at the stats, there was two teams that shot over 50 percent and two teams with 11 turnovers. In a game like that, that’s pretty good basketball. Great game.”
Springfield has less than 24 hours to prepare for their next game in the tournament. NEWMAC teams don’t play games on back to back nights. So, the Pride’s experience playing back-to-backs is limited. However, the team was able to come through on a back-to-back last weekend by defeating Albright and Cabrini.
“Any time you get into this back to back scenario, anything you do normally for preparation is a part of it,” said Brock. “We have to be totally locked in and focused on everything we do and make adjustments during the game. I’m sure the team we play tomorrow night will be thinking the same thing.”