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Priest: Don’t count out men’s basketball despite early NEWMAC exit

By Danny Priest
@dpriest3

Well, that wasn’t supposed to happen. This season has been a special one to date for the Springfield College men’s basketball team.

The Birthplace Boys finished the regular season at 22-3. The 22 wins matched their mark from the teams miraculous Final Four run two years ago and was their fifth time winning 20 or more games since the turn of the century.

Jake Ross became the program’s all-time leading scorer, single game scoring record holder and the program’s all-time leading rebounder all in the span of 25 games. Even better, his teammate Heath Post also joined Ross as the all-time leading rebounder in program history and the two are now jockeying to finish on top of one another.

The team dazzled Blake Arena on multiple occasions. From a stirring 20 point comeback against Keene State in the second game of the season, to a double overtime thriller against Coast Guard when Ross broke the single game scoring record, all the way up until the final night of the regular season when they held off Babson in overtime

This group has a flair for the dramatic and they just don’t quit. So, on Friday when they were the No. 1 seed for the NEWMAC Tournament and hosted No. 5 Coast Guard in the semifinal matchup, destiny never foresaw the team losing.

It was never supposed to be the upset, or Ross’s 44 points not being enough, but it happened. Not only did Coast Guard knock off the Pride, they traveled to Worcester, Mass. and defeated WPI to win the NEWMAC Championship and book their ticket to the big dance.

Lucky for Springfield, their resume speaks for itself. They’re going dancing too.

On Monday’s NCAA Div. III selection show, the Pride were given the opportunity to host SUNY Canton (16-11) in Round One and the two teams will be squaring off on Friday.

If this season has taught us one thing about this group, it’s that they will never roll over in defeat. No one in that locker room wants the lasting memory of their season to be Coast Guard celebrating on their home court.

Not Ross, not Post, not anyone from the seniors down to the first-years. Certainly not Coach Charlie Brock. When adversity strikes, the Pride fight back.

It’s what they’ve always done. Two years ago, the journey was different. They were the final team selected for the Tournament field and they went on a Cinderella run.

This time around, it’s about getting over their blip in the road and finishing their season the way it’s meant to be.

Ross got his history and Post did too. Regardless of what happens, those two will go down together as two of the best to ever play at the Birthplace.

But they wouldn’t be here without the help of their teammates too. From guys like Trey Witter stepping into a sixth-man role with ease, to starting a walk-on in Harper Niven on opening night, to getting key contributions from a number of underclassmen.

The Pride are deep, they’re tough, they fight, battle, and every guy on their roster, top to bottom, has bought in.  

When this season started, the team was an underdog group. They weren’t ranked, it wasn’t totally clear what to expect out of them, and they went out and took care of business every night, turning heads along the way.

Now, months later, it’s time to do it again. Sleep on them if you’d like after the loss to Coast Guard, but this team is capable of great things.

It’s March now and it’s time to buckle up. The Ross-Post-Brock trio has unfinished business and there’s only one goal left in mind now. 

If nothing else, this group is never going to quit. Last time it was a Cinderella run, this time, it’s redemption.

The road to Atlanta starts on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Blake. Be there. This is a group I can assure you don’t want to miss play.

 Featured photo courtesy Jack Margaros

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