With 4.3 seconds left in the game, Springfield’s star-guard Alex Berthiaume was inbounding the ball in front of his own bench. With the game tied 55-55, the suspense had everyone on their feet in Blake Arena. As Berthiaume inbounded the ball to sophomore forward Nick Sienkiewicz, he followed the pass straight to Sienkiewicz for a hand-off, getting the ball right back.
Berthiaume proceeded to take a hard left-handed dribble to the left wing of the three-point line. With a small hesitation and a quick look at the basket, the Clark guard jumped in the air anticipating a jump shot from the perimeter with time dwindling down.
The defender’s leap of faith gave Berthiaume the space to penetrate closer to the rim with a push-dribble through the gap. After the push-dribble put the two defenders he split behind him, he leapt off his left foot, putting the basketball in the air with his trademark running floater. The slow orbiting motion of the ball touched softly off the glass and fell straight through the rim with no time left to give Springfield the 57-55 win over Clark.
The buzzer beater cleared the Springfield bench, as the whole team stormed Berthiaume like a pack of piranhas.
“Initially Coach just told me to take what they give me,” explained Berthiaume. “I saw there was a larger defender on me that I could go by. After I made my move, I knew I couldn’t get to the rim because of the time, so I took off for the floater, which is a large part of my game.”
Berthiaume finished with just 15 points in the game, but nothing was coming easy for the Pride throughout the contest.
Clark set the tone early, holding Springfield to just 12 points with 8:46 left in the first half. With an 18-12 lead over the Pride, Clark’s leading scorer Brian Vayda was scoring well and distributing well out of the double team. Vayda had a very good all-around game ,scoring 13 points, pulling down 10 rebounds, and dishing out five assists.
Along with fellow big man D.J. Bailey, the Clark front court was giving Springfield problems as Bailey finished with a team-high 15 points and also snatched 11 rebounds. The first half looked promising for Clark until Springfield made a run of their own to take a 28-26 lead into halftime.
Clark conquered the offensive glass with 19 offensive boards. Although Clark was cleaning the glass with dominating fashion, their poor jump shooting is what allowed Springfield back in the game. Clark’s lead was as high as eight at the 15 minute mark of the second half.
Clark shot just 30.5 percent from the field, leaving Clark coach Paul Phillips desperate for anything to drop so his ball club could come away with the road win.
“Truth is, I know we aren’t a great shooting team,” said Phillips. “So we are always ready to grind it out and get to the free throw line. If we simply would have made a couple more shots we may have [got] one. Simple as that.”
The win elevates Springfield’s record to 8-3 in NEWMAC play, which makes coach Charlie Brock pleased with his team as they make a national tournament push.
“I believe we have quality wins on our schedule that says we can do damage in the tournament,” said Brock. “With teams around us winning and losing, it makes for a competitive situation to get to the national tournament.”
The Pride travel to Wheaton College on Saturday for their last NEWMAC game before the conference tournament begins on Wednesday, Feb. 20.