Assistant Sports Editor
Sean Martin’s 23 points weren’t enough. Neither were Josh Altman’s five three-pointers nor Tim Swenson’s 13 rebounds.
As the Springfield College men’s basketball team fell in the first round of the NCAA tournament for the third straight season, this time a 68-58 loss at the hands of Albertus Magnus, the incredible efforts by Springfield’s seniors fell by the wayside.
For the past four years, perhaps no team has been more consistent in NEWMAC play. Making it to four consecutive conference title games, falling twice to MIT, once to WPI, and once this season to Babson, the Pride have earned three at-large bids into the NCAA Tournament.
“I’ve been doing this a long time and it’s never been something that you get accustomed to, nor is there a right or wrong way to do it,” head coach Charlie Brock said about end-of-the-season speeches. “Mostly, I want them to feel good about what they’ve done here, and actually I think that’s pretty easy to do. We look back, we’ve been in the finals of the NEWMAC’s four straight years, yeah, we didn’t win any of them, but there’s something to be said about getting into the final and getting to that point.”
With a nucleus of three seniors and one grad student, this team has been battle tested, and watching them walk off the James Naismith Court without a NCAA tournament win, despite making it three out of their four years on campus, is something no one wanted.
“It’s tough, really tough,” graduate student Swenson said. “I hate losing and having your season end in the same fashion in a row isn’t easy to deal with.”
Springfield faced its fair share of tough opponents, playing seven teams that eventually made it to the NCAA tournament, not including Albertus Magnus. In 11 games against eventual tournament teams (Springfield played WPI and Babson three times each) Springfield was a respectable 5-6.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Brock said. “We ended up with nine loses, in amongst those, a profound number of teams played in the NCAA tournament. We didn’t let any games get away that we couldn’t afford to, and we won a couple. I think it’s kind of the nature of who we want to be, and these guys personified that. Sink, Sean, and Tim (Josh Altman is expected to return for his graduate season) walk off into the sunshine but they really left a mark here, a legacy that will last a long time.”
And that legacy will be felt over the next couple of seasons as their former teammates will continue to carry on the hard-nosed, defensive-minded personality they had.
“Playing with the same core group of guys for three years now has been really special,” Swenson said. “Obviously our whole team is a big family and having the opportunity to play the sport I love with those guys is truly a blessing.”
Having a season, or a career, likes the one that Swenson, Nick Sienkiwicz, and Martin had won’t soon be forgotten. Springfield will return five underclassman, as well as three juniors, all looking to take the next step.
“It’s going to be a challenge next year,” Brock said. “You always lose a couple of kids, but one of the things that helps us get back (to championship level of play) is the individual working in the offseason to get better so they’re not the same player when they come back next year as they were this year. We’ve had the guys that wanted to get better and be the best that they can be, and that’s all we ask anybody anyway.”
Losing such a talented group will be a tough blow to counter, especially considering how close this group got to victory, only to have it drift away. But Brock noted that it isn’t about the opportunities are missed, its about the opportunities claimed.
“The last three years, getting into the NCAA tournament as an at-large bid, that says something about the body of work. I guess that’s something I would say to them: make sure whenever you’re feeling like you could’ve done something else, look at the body of work. It doesn’t ever come down to one game, it doesn’t ever come down to one play, and it doesn’t come down to one free throw or whatever. It’s all the same in life and in basketball.”