By Danny Priest
Fans in the bleachers of Blake Arena rose to their feet and began to scream with 1:47 remaining in overtime of Tuesday night’s matchup between the Keene State Owls and the Springfield College men’s basketball team.
Jake Ross had jumped into the passing line and was streaking down the court. The crowd could sense what was coming, and Ross rose up and dunked the ball emphatically down to give his team a 96-95 lead in the overtime period.
A few plays later, Ross found sophomore Collin Lindsay in the corner with the shot clock winding down. Like he had done all night, Lindsay stepped into his shot with confidence and drilled it.
The clutch basket gave his guys a 101-98 lead with 31 seconds left and the Pride never let it go, holding on to beat Keene 106-101 to improve to 2-0 on the early season.
Blake Arena roared and gave the team a standing ovation, they had come a long way from the 1:39 mark of the first half when the Pride had trailed by 23 points and the arena was quite enough to hear a pin drop.
Behind Ross (41 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists, 6 steals), Lindsay (15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists), and Heath Post (30 points, 10 rebounds) the Pride charged back for a wild win to send their fans home happy.
“I’m not rolling over, and I don’t think they’re going to either. They don’t want to deal with me when I’m not rolling over,” Head Coach Charlie Brock said of the early deficit.
One key to Springfield’s come from behind win was the way in which they closed the first half. With 1:39 to go in the half, Springfield trailed 52-29, as mentioned the 23 points was their biggest deficit of the night.
In the final moments of the half however, the team went on a 10-0 run that was highlighted by five points from Trey Witter and a falling down, fade way three from Heath Post at the buzzer.
“We chipped away, we got it back to 13, we’re in the game at halftime, So a 13 point game I don’t worry about that at all, a 20 something at halftime and that gets hard, but we made a nice run at the end of the first half to get back somewhat in it, then just kept battling in the second,” Brock said of the run.
The 10-0 run was the turning point of the half, but the Pride were kept afloat by Lindsay. He put in eight of his 15 points before the break and helped keep his team hanging around.
“Collin had a great game, Collin came up huge tonight with that – playing 36 minutes and was seven for eight, it was just outstanding,” Brock said of the sophomores performance.
The second half continued to be an uphill battle for the Pride. They trailed by 20 with nine minutes left in the game and by the 3:39 mark, they still trailed by seven.
Down the stretch, the deadly combination of Ross and Post took over, and Keene state had no answer. Ross came up with big bucket after big bucket down the stretch, and Post had seven of the team’s 15 points in overtime.
“I started to realize when I was on the wing they would just deny me. So I figured if I was on ball, coming off a screen, they’d have to pick between me and Heath because (James) Anozie was guarding Heath,” Ross said after the game.
“It kind of became a little bit of a pick and choose for them, and if they didn’t help on the pick and roll then I could get to the hoop and if they doubled, I could throw back to Heath and Heath would shoot it or pump fake and get to the rim,” Ross added.
Of course one of the game’s biggest shots did not come from Ross or Post, but Lindsay, with the long corner two that felt like a dagger when it went down.
Ross had the trust in his teammate to send the ball his way in crunch time, and Lindsay did not disappoint.
“I actually went up to Collin before the game and I said anytime you’re open, I need you to shoot it. I took him by the head and I said look at me, you’re going to shoot it and you’re going to make it,” Ross said.
He added that instilling belief in his teammates has been a big point of emphasis for himself personally early on this season.
“Just giving guys confidence is something I try to do because I know when I was a freshman what that meant when Andy (McNulty) did that to me, and Collin came up huge tonight and he cracked out of kind of a slump from being out for a couple day’s in practice and stuff and he found his groove tonight and I saw the Collin Lindsay I know so that was nice,” Ross said.
Robert Baum, a first-year student from West Springfield also stepped up for the Pride playing 28 minutes and finding himself in the majority of the crunch time lineups.
Through two games, Springfield has now posted 90 and 106 points in their wins. In two games, Ross and Post have combined to score 56 of the teams 90 points in their first game and 71 of the 106 in game two.
Still, when it mattered most, their teammates have stepped up. As evidenced by Jake Jacobson’s clutch shoot in game one and Lindsay’s play on Tuesday.
After a pair of signature wins to open the season in Blake Arena, the Pride will now head out for their first road test in the Emmanuel Tip-Off Classic Tournament. Springfield will matchup with Endicott College on Friday and Emmanuel College on Saturday.
Both games are at 7:30 on the campus of Emmanuel College, the Pride will look to continue the same success on the road as they’ve had at home.
Photo Courtesy of Lucy Hamilton