By Danny Priest
Blake Arena was rocking.
Hands clapping, people screaming, feet stomping on the bleachers.
Then, as Babson’s Andrew Jaworski shot his first free throw with 11 seconds to play in overtime and it rolled around the rim and off, the arena went into a frenzy.
Springfield had an 80-78 lead, and the missed free throw helped it feel a little safer. The shrieking continued, the hands clapped, the feet stomped, the second free throw went up.
Again, it missed. Jake Ross grabbed the board, got fouled, and held two hands up in the air in celebration as the crowd inside of Blake stood and cheered.
After a hard fought regulation period, No. 15 Springfield College was able to hold off the No. 22 Babson Beavers for an 84-78 win to close out their regular season with their 10th straight win and an overall record of 22-3.
Just to get to overtime, the Pride needed a gigantic shot from Ross. With the game clock ticking down to under 10 seconds to play in regulation, Babson led 69-66 and they opted to send a double team Ross’s way.
The Pride moved the ball around the perimeter and they found Trey Witter on the wing for a decent look at a three.
Witter missed it long, but Daryl Costa was able to sneak in for an offensive rebound. Costa kicked the ball out to Ross on the left wing and he let a three fly and found nothing but net.
ROSS TIES THE GAME pic.twitter.com/G8SKGVQZPi
— Danny Priest (@dpriest3) February 22, 2020
Babson still had a chance, but Heath Post blocked Babson’s Colin Bradanese at the buzzer to keep the game tied and force the extra period.
As they’ve done all season long, Ross (35 points, 14 rebounds, three assists) and Post (20 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks) came through in the clutch when the Pride needed it most.
“Daryl just got an offensive rebound and then threw it out, got a wide-open look, probably the best look I got all night,” Ross said of the three to tie the game. “I was praying it was going in while it was in the air, but that’s what reps are for, can’t think at that point. It was a great rebound. It was a very, very good rebound”
The rebound may have appeared to be coincidental, but crashing the boards is something the Pride specifically practice. In a situation like that, it paid off.
“The offensive rebound is something we actually work very, very hard on,” Head Coach Charlie Brock said postgame. “We only get two, or five, or 10 of them a game, and that was one of them that was critical.”
During the overtime period, Trey Witter (12 points, four rebounds) made a huge three from the wing to put the Pride up 76-75 with 1:19 to go. Witter’s three gave Springfield the lead and they never gave it back.
WITTER FOR THE LEAD. 76-75 Springfield pic.twitter.com/EdF2nDX1Sb
— Danny Priest (@dpriest3) February 22, 2020
Despite getting the win, the Pride did not play a perfect game. Babson’s Jack Coolahan went 7 of 12 from three-point land on his way to a 31-point night, but in the end, Springfield did enough to win the game.
“I actually didn’t think we played all that well, but we played with just a ton of grit. That’s what happens when you play with grit, you can overcome some things that you don’t do quite as well as you are able (too),” Brock said. “There was never a time when we gave up anything, they were going to have to earn everything and we were able to cash in a couple times.”
Saturday was also special for the Pride as it was senior day and the Breast Cancer Awareness game.
Prior to the game, the Pride honored their four seniors. Jake Jacobson, Trey Witter, Heath Post, and Jake Ross have combined to lead the Pride to a mark of 68-40 over the past four years.
All four members of the team have been integral to the Pride’s success on the court this season, and they were all members of the 2017-2018 group that made it to the program’s first ever Final Four.
Ross became the programs all-time leading scorer this season and both he and Post are on track to be the first ever player’s in school history to finish their careers with both 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
For Brock, this group is one of the most talented he’s ever brought in.
“Oh my god. Just a great group. It’s a big number. Four seniors is a big number,” he said.
“I think it’s played itself, our ability to play in a game like that, with the grit, we had because we’ve got the senior leadership. J.J. (Jake Jacobson) doesn’t get time on the floor, but his presence every day in practice is just outstanding,” Brock added.
As has become the custom this season on Alden Street, more records fell on Saturday afternoon as well.
Jake Ross surpassed Michael Parker’s (’02) career rebounding total of 971 boards. Ross now sits at No. 1 in school history with 979 career boards.
Heath Post is due to break the record himself as well, he sits at 970 rebounds for his career following the win.
It’s another honor in what’s been a season of record smashing for the Pride, and it’s only fitting that Ross and Post get to jostle for record breaking stats to close out the year.
“Feels good, I love continuing to try to challenge myself,” Ross said of the achievement.
“Whether it’s continuing to try to get rebounds in a game, or get assists and get points, at the end of the day, it’s a motive to play well. I want Heath to break 1,000 rebounds and I want to do it myself, that’s going to come with winning games and staying diligent to who we are and our team,” Ross added.
Aside from the records, wins, and senior day activities, the Pride also finish the season now at the top of the NEWMAC standings with a record of 13-1 in Conference.
The Pride are locked into the No. 1 seed for NEWMAC Championship play which will occur next week. Being the No. 1 seed also ensures that the Pride will have home court for the duration of the tournament.
“You saw it in here tonight. It’s rocking. Having that energy behind you, when the team goes on a run, the whole place is behind you,” Ross said of getting to play more games inside of Blake Arena.
“You can change the momentum pretty quick and that’s something we do really well, I’m happy we get to play here and this wasn’t our last game. A lot of teams are done, a lot of seniors are done on their home court, we’re not. It’s great,” he added.
The regular season was a wildly successful and historic one for the Pride, but it’s just another stepping stone on the way to the team’s bigger goals.
They look to cross another one off the list next week in the NEWMAC Tournament play. They will host either No. 4 Emerson or No. 5 Coast Guard Friday night at 7 p.m. in Semifinal action.
Photo Courtesy of Danny Priest