SPRINGFIELD — The Pride needed to beat Wheaton Wednesday night, badly, and for several reasons.
The team has been inconsistent during this year’s conference campaign — currently sitting at 5-6 in the NEWMAC. For comparison, the Pride were 9-2 in conference play at this point in the season last year.
Plus, coming off a double overtime loss, which marked the program’s second-straight NEWMAC defeat to Emerson four days prior, Wednesday night’s game turned into a must-win.
Additionally, if the Pride lost Wednesday night’s game, it would mark three straight conference losses. Then, it wouldn’t get any easier with home games against WPI and MIT in the next two weeks, plus a trip to Wellesley to take on Babson.
The pressure was on Wednesday night, and the Pride responded.
Springfield College mens basketball defeated Wheaton College Wednesday night, 94-68. Heath Post scored a career high of 25 points and picked up nine rebounds. Jake Ross scored 18 points, had 11 rebounds and dished out seven assists.
“It felt good (to get this win), but as much as anything, we just played well,” said Pride head coach Charlie Brock. “We really battled with Emerson (on Saturday) and came up short in double overtime, which is hard to take. (That) was a big game, and tonight was a big game for us, too.”
Post usurped his previous career high of 24 points midway through the second half. He went 12-17 shooting — including 1-4 from three point range.
The junior big man attributed his big night to the teams’ guard setting him up to succeed.
“I just think we did a great job of running our offense,” said Post. “Our guards were exemplary with the ball today. They were making it easy. They got me the ball when I was open. I jut think they were phenomenal today controlling the pace of the game and moving the ball around.”
The game started as a back and forth affair for the first few minutes of playing time. But around the 10 minute mark — spurred by a jump shot from Post — Springfield started to assert itself.
The Pride went between playing a man to man defense and a zone defense to try and disrupt the Lyons offensively. The strategy worked and forced Wheaton into bad shots — the Lyons finished the first half shooting 10 of 32 from the field, 31 percent.
Freshman Daryl Costa checked in for his first piece of playing time since Jan. 16.
The first-year player out of Rhode Island ran the point on a few possessions and called out a few of the Pride’s plays to get the offense moving. He finished the game with nine points during 13 minutes played.
“I think Daryl has been playing very well in practice,” said Brock. “He deserved to be rewarded. He shot well in practice and I think he is starting to get comfortable. It takes time. He is a freshman and he had no idea what he was doing for a couple of months, but he is starting to get comfortable. He shot well and did a good job.”
For the last minute of the half, Wheaton played haphazardly with the ball — causing unnecessary turnovers and trying to shoot early in the shot clock. Springfield took advantage on the other end and padded its lead going into halftime, settling at 38-26.
The Lyons did all they could to try and disrupt Springfield’s offense in the second half. The Pride had to deal with double teams past half court, man to man defense and different variations of zone defenses.
Led by the steady play making decisions of Ross, Jake Jacobson and others, the team was able to weather the storm.
“(Wheaton) did a lot of thing defensively and we didn’t miss a beat,” said Brock. “We just ran most of the stuff we run against (man to man defenses), to be honest. It worked out well.”
The Pride continued to click offensively moving further into the second half, but Wheaton’s Matt Allegrezza gave the team problems with his three point shooting and kept the lead at a manageable number.
In the final 10 minutes of play, Springfield started to heat up from beyond the arc. Cam Earle made a three pointer, in addition to getting fouled in the final phase of the game, and Collin Lindsay chipped in two three pointers in the second half to help increase the lead. Trey Witter and Daryl Costa each came through with two three pointers, too. Hunter Bowers had one three pointer. Post did his part and scored 10 points in the second half to help put the game away.
Although Post was efficient from in the paint, and even from beyond the arc to a degree. A lot of his points came from the mid range area, specifically around the three point line.
He scored on, relatively, the same shot multiple times. Whoever was bringing the ball up for the Pride would find Post has he ran from the baseline up to the free throw line. As Post was catching the ball, he was already turning and releasing a shot — sometimes off balance.
It proved to be deadly for the Lyons.
“(He works on it) every day.” said Brock about Post’s free throw-range shot.
Post added: “That is where I happen to catch the ball a lot. We work a lot on turning and facing the hoop after the catch — trying to get into that stance. It is just something we have worked on in practice and I have just gotten better at it over the years.”
Moving forward, the Pride need some people to loss and the team needs to win for a chance to get into the NEWMAC tournament.
After losing the double overtime game against Emerson on Saturday, the team could have folded for the rest of the year.
Although the season hasn’t lived up to expectations, no one is giving up any time soon.
“Absolutely not,” said Post on if he thought the loss to Emerson would affect the team going forward. “Our guys are tough. They love playing the game. They are really good at learning from the past. We took a lot from that game. It was the little things that made a difference between a win and a loss. As a team we looked at that and tried to fix stuff in practice and get ready for today’s game.”
Photo courtesy Jack Margaros