By Chris Gionta
The Springfield College men’s basketball team has taken upon a new identity for the 2021-22 season. They have seen new faces emerge, taking the place of the ones that were etched in Alden Street immortality.
Some of the new faces emerged immediately in the Pride’s opening matchup against Western New England on Nov. 5. Sophomores Zeke Blauner and Cameron Garber were the team’s leading scorers as they gathered 12 points each.
Blauner continued making great first impressions, as he scored 17 points in their next game against Roger Williams. The Blake Arena crowd got a fantastic first look at the sophomore guard in his home debut. He scored 27 points against Eastern Connecticut State, including 23 in the game’s final 25 minutes. He was also extremely efficient, as he went 8-for-12 from the field and 9-for-9 from the free-throw line. Springfield head coach Charlie Brock was particularly impressed with Blauner’s performance that night.
“(Blauner) was great,” said Brock after the game. “And I also think he did a great job of being active defensively. And I think the thing that he has learned, and is learning, is that he can be strong with the ball when he tries to score and not fade away — he got fouled a couple of times on strong moves to the basket, and if he doesn’t get fouled, he’s got a pretty good chance of making it, and maybe getting an and-one.”
Blauner is the team’s leading scorer through the team’s first eight games of the season with his 14.4 points per game average. It is best not to put him on the foul line from an opponent’s perspective, as he has an 85.7% free throw percentage so far this year. His defense has also been top tier with 1.8 steals per game.
Along with impact performances from someone in their first year of collegiate basketball, there have been some good seasons being put together from upperclassmen. This is most notable with senior guard Collin Lindsay, who is averaging 12.6 points per game along with 5.4 rebounds per game. He has also been an incredibly accurate shooter with a 64.9% field goal percentage.
Everything came together for the Pride this past weekend at the Ed Hockenbury Classic. They defeated the University of Maine at Fort Kent by the score of 68-54. This was a coming-out party for first-year forward Jacob Morales, who led the team with 14 points. The game was more about Springfield’s defense, as they held their opponent to a 33.3% field goal percentage.
Their second and final game of the tournament saw the Pride defeat Norwich, 78-55. This featured 19 points from Lindsay, 17 points from Blauner, and 13 points from Panayiotis Kapanides, who was 4-for-5 from behind the three-point line on Sunday. Once again, Springfield’s defense held their opponent to a 33.3% field goal percentage.
“It was definitely a boost for our morale, we needed one,” Brock said on the team’s first win of the season over Maine – Fort Kent on Friday. “I think as much as anything, they learned and they enjoyed working hard and having it work out. It was getting harder and harder to work hard because it wasn’t working. It was definitely a boost for us to go back to the drawing board every day and work harder.”
Their most recent game was a loss to No. 21 ranked Amherst by a score of 75-61, and they look to bounce back in their final game during the fall semester against Williams on Saturday at 4 p.m.
Photo: Lucy Hamilton/The Student