By Danny Priest
On Tuesday night, Blake Arena filled up for what promised to be a closely contested matchup between the two leading teams in the NEWMAC Conference, the Springfield College Pride and the WPI Engineers.
Both teams entered the night at 14-3 on the season and with 5-1 marks in conference play. What happened on Tuesday night was a statement win for the Pride as they won the game going away by a score of 84 to 66.
For the better part of the season, the Pride have been carried by the efforts of seniors Jake Ross and Heath Post. Against WPI, it was the rest of the team who showed out.
In the first half, the team piled up 17 bench points and had eight assists on their 12 made field goals, six of which were from three-point range.
Daryl Costa, the Pride’s starting two guard, was outstanding and he nearly doubled his season points per game average of six in the first half alone when he racked up 11 points and knocked down two three-pointers.
In addition to Costa, Trey Witter provided a spark off the bench chipping in eight points and first-year guard Robert Baum had seven points of his own. Each time the Pride needed too, they knocked down big shots and played with energy and a sense of urgency.
“Yeah, Trey’s been doing a great job coming off the bench. He’s really assumed a sixth-man role and then Deonte and Rob had a great game tonight,” Coach Charlie Brock said after the win. “I just thought defensively we did a nice job of disrupting them and causing them to shoot at a lower percentage than they’re used to,” Brock added.
Anytime the Pride play a first half where Ross and Post combine for just 13 points and the team still scores 45 points and builds an eight-point lead, it’s a great sight for the group. Costa’s efforts were a big part in the team’s success.
“I mean, like coach always emphasizes, just moving the ball and just being unselfish and it’s just going to come to you,” Costa said of the first half success. “I thought I was being very unselfish in the first half and when I got my opportunities I took them,” he added.
In the second half, the Pride continued to roll. The frame opened with Costa cutting to the hoop and feeding Collin Lindsay with a slick pass that lead to a three pointer from the wing.
Ross did his thing and got going as well. The senior racked up 13 second half points to finish the game off with 20 points. Baum continued his steady play, scoring eight more points in the second half to finish the game with 15 points, second only to Ross.
The win was a big one for the Pride as it launched them to the top of the NEWMAC standings and gave them some cushion over the Engineers.
For Brock, the approach didn’t change despite the importance of the game. “Not for me,” he said. “We’ve just got to keep playing, we’ve got to win games. Basically, we got to play well which will help us to win games. That was what I was striving for.”
Brock was pleased with the fact that his team had 18 assists on 27 made baskets, and their ball movement and activity opened up the court and allowed them to shoot a red-hot 59.1 percent (13-22) from three on the night.
“I think the biggest thing with that is the selection of the threes. They were really well orchestrated, came off paint touches and patience offensively that ultimately ended up with a good look for the three rather than just pulling them. We did a nice job of setting them up,” Brock said.
For Costa, who finished the game with 13 points, four rebounds, and four assists, this game meant a little bit extra in light of the recent sudden and tragic passing of NBA Legend Kobe Bryant.
Costa wore a pair of the Kobe High-Tops with “Kobe Mentality” written on the outside of his left shoe with Kobe’s No. 8 on the back. On his right shoe, he wrote “Gigi” with a heart next to it and that shoe featured Kobe’s No. 24 on the back of it.
“I’m a big Celtics fan, so I wasn’t really much of the biggest Kobe fan, but there was always that respect there for him and it kind of hit me more and more, day by day, and I just feel like we all have to respect a player like him and what he did for the game of basketball,” Costa said.
Picking up a home win over WPI is big for the Pride and the win, their third in a row, can help them to continue to build momentum as the play through the conference part of their schedule.
Springfield will return to action this Saturday at 1 p.m. when they pay a visit to Clark University for another NEWMAC conference battle.
Photos Courtesy of Jack Margaros