The last time Springfield College men’s basketball played a playoff game in their opponents gym, they fell to the eventual National Champion Babson Beavers in the NEWMAC semifinals. The Pride had to walk off the court with their heads hanging and the sour taste of defeat in their mouths as the Beaver faithful cheered loud and proud for their school.
Fast forward to Saturday night. The Elite 8. Springfield versus Swarthmore. At Swarthmore College.
The same situation, but a different, much sweeter tasting, outcome.
Springfield College men’s basketball defeated Swarthmore College at Swarthmore College in Philadelphia Saturday night, 74-62, to advance to the Division III National Championship Semifinals. The Pride’s Jake Ross finished the game with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Heath Post finished with 18 points and 15 huge rebounds.
“Oh boy. What a game,” said Springfield College head coach Charlie Brock. “The guys just did a great job. We didn’t do anything special by any means at halftime. Besides the guys just decided to play a little better defensively. That’s when other things fell into place.”
The Pride will be heading to the national semifinals for the first time in school history.
Going into the halftime break, Swarthmore led the Pride, 40-33.
Springfield played noticeably different on both sides of the ball to start the second half.
“We felt like they were being the dictators of the game,” said Springfield’s Jake Ross. “They pushed us around a little bit. They had the pace. We weren’t really pushing the ball. We just said, ‘We have to change that.’. He (Brock) basically said the same thing and we all got on the same page. We’ve got to believe. We’ve got to dictate the pace a little bit better. Come out and run them off the 3-point line. We did those things and everything just fell into place.”
Heath Post continues to emerge on the national stage
If you watched any Springfield men’s basketball this season, you know exactly what Post brings to the table.
Energy. Physicality. Rebounding. Scoring.
He brought all of that and more in the game. Post finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds.
Coming into the game, rebounding was a big key.
“It’s always a key. Defensive rebounding is always a key,” said Brock “They (Swarthmore) actually averaged 10 more (rebounds) than their opponents all year long. I told the guys that before the game. I think they were forewarned and we did a great job on the defensive glass.”
Going through the fire
Springfield played a brutal stretch against NESCAC teams (Trinity, Williams, Amherst, Wesleyan) and traveled to Texas to play two games over winter break against Southwestern and Trinity (Tx.). The team went 2-5 in the stretch.
The Pride ended up with more wins than loses, but the stretch made the team take action, and they responded.
“We went through a murderer’s row in the middle of December,” said Brock. “A couple of them were on the road and we didn’t do well. Then we went on a plane to Texas and did not travel well. When we came back from that there was a little bit of a break and an opportunity for them (the team) to collect themselves and decide on what they wanted to do. There was an obvious and profound change in their approach to practice (after that).”
Springfield is wading in unexplored waters. Up until Friday, the program had never been to an Elite 8. Now, the team is going to their first Final Four.
Brock has emphasized to the team that 100 percent focus is crucial at this point in the tournament.
“I really think one of the reasons we have been able to be successful in these last couple of weekends is because each game we played, we were absolutely locked in on that game,” said Brock. “I even cautioned them going into this weekend that there can absolutely never be a time where you are looking ahead. I think everyone did a great job of focusing on the one game that was ahead. That was a huge factor.”