An offensive explosion from the Pride had been missing, but with the quality looks their offense had been getting all night, a hot streak was bound to happen.
With 12 minutes to go, the Springfield College men’s basketball team held a two-point lead.
After a block by Josh Hartley, Tre Hodges caught the rebound and passed it to Andrew Rocci in transition.
Rocci got the ball from the top of the key, dribbled it past a Coast Guard defender, and rose up for a two-point attempt.
Rocci’s jump shot went through the net, giving the Pride a four-point lead ﹣ at the time their largest of the game.
That shot was a sign of what was to come, as the Pride never looked back, defeating Coast Guard 85-73.
And although the Pride’s offense was apparent in the second half, the first half told a different story.
From the onset, Coast Guard forward Abe Countryman was a force in the paint – blocking shots and backing down defenders and scoring with ease. The problem for the Pride was they had no answer.
“We told our defenders to stay down,” said Springfield head coach Michael McClendon. “He was getting them a lot on the pump fakes.”
It wasn’t just Countryman in the first half though, as Declan Rooney and Jerrod Jackson combined for 15.
Down 38-32 at the half, and with the game still in reach, the Pride’s defense had to improve.
“Our guys were just a little too overzealous in the first half,” McClendon said. “[Coast Guard’s] offense is great… but I felt if we stayed sound and played together, we could start to play some solid defense.”
The second half started slow for both teams, as they went back and forth, trading baskets and at times, playing solid defense on both sides.
But something had to eventually give.
The Pride had gotten good looks all night, but had not reaped the benefits thus far.
After a back-two-back threes by John Paulino and Josiah Evely, the Pride started to gain confidence.
“We just started trusting our offense and trusting each other,” Rocci said. “We just made the extra passes and shot the open ones.”
Rocci, who scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half, had a huge impact down the stretch, making key bucket after key bucket.
“I mean I’m always gonna shoot,” Rocci said. “Seeing the first one fall always feels good.. and that gave me the confidence to keep going.”
Daryl Costa, Paulino, and Rocci led the Pride in scoring with 23, 15, and 15 points respectively, with each of them having most of their success in the second half.
The defense rose to the occasion in the second half, locking down the Bears, helping the Pride go on a much needed run.
“In the first half we would try to change our defense and mix up our looks…and we weren’t good at it [tonight],” McClendon said. “Today was just about staying sound, playing your man, playing your gaps and good things will happen…and that’s what happened in the second half.”
With the win, the Pride have improved to 5-11 on the season and 2-3 in the NEWMAC.
And for the first time all season, they’ve won back to back games, something McClendon hopes will be a driving force the rest of the way:
“Right now we put ourselves in this hole, and we gotta climb out. We’re gonna climb out of it by taking one game at a time.”
Photo: Luke Whitehouse/The Student