By Danny Priest
SPRINGFIELD – When Hobart College’s Dan Masino sunk a layup with two seconds to play in regulation to put the Statesmen up one, there was still the slightest bit of hope left in Blake Arena.
Heath Post searched and searched for somewhere to deliver the ball the length of the court, but his pass was batted down and the final buzzer sounded.
The moment was a proverbial gut punch to Blake Arena, and it felt as though all the air came out of the building at once.
For the second night in a row, Hobart had slayed a favorite in the NCAA DIII Tournament. The Statesmen stunned Springfield 62-61 to punch their ticket to the Sweet 16.
Masino received an inbounds pass with 7.1 seconds left to play in the game and was able to drive the length of the court and making a contested layup falling to his right to win the game for his side.
“First off, Coach (Stefan) Thompson drew up a great play. One that we practice every day in practice. At the end of practice, we do this thing called situational and we practice being down one point and we execute it,” Masino said following the win.
“Credit to all my teammates, I got a great pass off the baseline, led me perfectly, got some great seals down low. Honestly, I did the easy job, I got the bucket, but I just had to make a layup. All my teammates made it easy on me,” Masino added.
The bucket broke the hearts of the Pride, and the capacity crowd in attendance. The play was the final chapter in the era of Jake Ross, Heath Post, and Charlie Brock.
A trio that will go down as perhaps the greatest in Springfield College history.
Ross finished the game with 29 points and nine rebounds, Post had 11 points and nine boards himself. For a moment, it looked like the Pride run was going to continue when Post made a contested mid-range jumper to put the Pride ahead 61-60 with seven seconds left.
It wasn’t meant to be however. Daryl Costa made a three-pointer with 14:27 to go in the game to give Springfield their largest lead of 13 points.
From there on, Hobart went on an extended 27-13 run to close out the game and the Pride’s season.
“Great atmosphere. Great game, two really good teams battling it out and it was a great game,” Springfield College Coach Charlie Brock said after the game.
“It’s a testament to the NCAA Tournament and the selections they make and how things work. We were the home team, we had a great crowd and a great atmosphere, but when it comes down to it, it’s two great teams going at it and they came out on top,” he added.
Perhaps in a fitting final act, Ross made history one last time. During the first half, he became the first player ever in the history of Division III College basketball to score 2,500 career points and also grab 1,000 rebounds.
It was another amazing accomplishment in what’s been a career of greatness for Ross. He and Post will go down as arguably the best 1-2 duo in the history of the program.
“Just unwavering commitment to improving and the unity of purpose. Doing the right thing, both on the floor, and off the floor, in school and in their classes and in the communities,” Brock said of his two seniors.
“They’ve been outstanding in every way I could have ever asked. They set a standard, I think, for the program that is going to be a good standard to live up to for teams in the future,” he added.
As for the team itself, they went out behind the support of an amazing crowd in Blake Arena.
“It was incredible. The fans were great. They were loud, they were cheering, our families were there,” Post said after the game. “It was just really incredible to have the experience to be at the Birthplace of Basketball and to have so much support by our fellow students and everyone else who came to support us.”
There was never going to be an easy way to go out other than to win a National Title, but for Ross, he wouldn’t change a thing about the ride.
“It’s been a great run. Definitely a tough way to go out, but overall, I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Ross said. “I got great teammates and the first thing I said is I’m proud of them and happy to play for Coach Brock. We had a chance, I mean, he (Masino) made a great shot at the end of the game and credit to him.”
While the Pride fell short of their ultimate goal, they had an amazing season, and one that should not be forgotten anytime soon.
“That’s an environment we worked for and we finally got it…I was just thankful for the opportunity and to know that people came out and supported us, the least that I can do is respect that they came out and cheered us on for two great games this weekend,” Ross said.
Springfield will not come out on top in the NCAA Tournament, but they have no reason to hang their heads after playing the way they did all season long.
Photos Courtesy of Joe Arruda