By Danny Priest
For the better part of the last three seasons, Jake Ross and Heath Post have dazzled Blake Arena with dominant performances for Springfield College men’s basketball.
On Friday night, Blake Arena was packed as crosstown rival Western New England came into for the season opener. Ross (34 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) and Post (24 points, 11 rebounds) did their normal things, but it was clutch shot making down the stretch from other guys that helped carry the Pride to a 90-80 win to open the season.
Senior guard Jake Jacobson, or J.J. as his coach and teammates refer to him, poured in nine second half points that were crucial in the Springfield win. Late in the second half of the game, Springfield was holding on to a 75-71 lead.
With the shot clock winding down, Jacobson dribbled to the elbow, spun, and put in a one-legged fade away jumper to extended the Pride lead to six at 77-71.
After the Golden Bears answered with a three, Jacobson came down and hit a three pointer of his own to extend his teams lead to six points.
On a night where Ross and Post carried the offense, somebody else needed to step up, and Jacobson proved to be the man.
“J.J’s nine points in the second half were critical to win the game, flat out. Under some stressful circumstances. I’m happy for him,” Head Coach Charlie Brock said after the win. “He is a senior and that’s great, but it was a critical point in the game that we had some scoring coming from somebody else, so he did a great job.”
Following the game Jacobson insisted that he’s just doing whatever his team needs him to do to win games. He knew someone needed to step up and he answered the call.
“Yeah, so, I definitely knew that and I’m just trying to help out whichever way I can,” he said. “Whether that be making a basket or getting a rebound or playing defense, whatever I can do to help the team.”
Ross was crucial all game for Springfield, but one of the game’s biggest shots, the turnaround by Jacobson actually came while Ross was on the bench.
“J.J. made a huge bucket down the stretch and I don’t think J.J. would have taken that shot a year ago, so it just shows we have more than 1 or 2 guys down the stretch who can make a shot,” Ross said. “It’s great to see other guys step up and hit big shots because it just makes my job and everyone’s jobs easier.”
Ross certainly did his part on the night. He opened up cold missing his first five shots in the game, but still managed to turn it around to finish with 34 in the win.
He chipped in three, three-pointers and made all 13 of his free throws in the game. One of Ross’s highlight plays game with just under seven minutes to go in the game when a broken play led to him getting an and-one underneath the basket that brought Blake Arena to its feet.
“Just slowing down, taking better shots. I think early on I was just anxious, first home game, figured everyone was a little riled up,” Ross said of his slow start. “So just settling in and then Heath picked us up and made some big shots, JJ picked us up, so once you see the guy’s make a couple hoops, it makes it easy on yourself for sure.”
Post, like Ross, dominated for much of the game. He scored inside and out, knocking down four three pointers (five attempts) and threw down one mean poster dunk in the second half. His efficiency (8-11) overall and activity (five offensive rebounds) kept the Pride afloat all game.
Springfield finished the game shooting 51.9 percent overall and making 12-25 threes (48 percent) and 22-26 free throws (84.6 percent). The teams new revamped, five-out offense paid dividends in the second half as they shot a blistering 66.7 percent from the field, including 6-10 on threes.
“We got better shots. I think we were less stressed, we were playing with some pressure and I think we put it on ourselves in the first half. I thought we loosened up a little bit second half and got a little more movement, just a little more patience,” Brock said of the big second half.
“There were times in the first half I thought we jacked the first look we could get, the second half I thought we wound the clock down, not by design, but being patient it happened and we got much better shots,” he added.
Daryl Costa (five points), Colin Lindsay (four points) and Noah Cummings (one point, three assists) all played well as part of an eleven man rotation for the Pride on the night.
Springfield will return to action on Tuesday night, back in Blake Arena, when they host Keene State at 7:30 p.m. The Pride will look to get off to a 2-0 start with a win in the game before heading out for their first road games of the season.