Men's Sports Sports

Springfield College Men’s Basketball Out-defends Division III’s Top Defensive Team, MIT, for Win

Marshall Hastings
Staff Writer

Meghan Zimbler/The Student
Meghan Zimbler/The Student

On January 18, Justin Pedley of MIT erupted for 27 points en route to a 55-51 victory over the Springfield College Pride. On Thursday night, Nick Sienkiewicz was having none of it. Sienkiewicz tallied 10 points of his own while holding Pedley scoreless on just two shots as the Pride rolled to a 59-51 victory.

Springfield withstood the nation’s stingiest defense; MIT allows just 55.1 points per game, as well as a scoring outage from leading scorer Robbie Burke, who managed eight points on 4-of-15 shooting.

“I just wanted to get up in [Pedley’s face],” said Sienkiewicz. “Last game he got a couple looks, got hot a little bit, so I wanted to get in him early so he didn’t feel comfortable with the ball. My teammates helped me out, helping me on screens, flairs, everything.”

As a whole, the Pride allowed the Engineers to 36 percent shooting in the second half, while their offense kicked off the second frame on a 16-6 run, paced by the offense of Alex Garstka.

Coming off the bench, Garstka provided the main spark for the Pride with 17 points in just 16 minutes before leaving the game with an ankle injury.

After loosing Garstka and dealing with the lack of offense from their usual scorers, the Pride turned to Sienkiewicz and company for the offense.

Late in the second half, holding an 11-point lead, Sienkiewicz nailed an uncontested three to extend the lead and put the dagger in the heart of the Engineers.

“I was looking for that shot the whole play,” Sienkiewicz said. “No one was really on me, and when one of the guys got the rebound, they saw me right away. I knew it was going in as soon as I caught it.”

Larry Piretra added to the cause, pouring in nine points of his own while filling in for Gartska off the bench.

Sean Martin (Photo Courtesy Springfield College Athletics)
Sean Martin (Photo Courtesy Springfield College Athletics)

“The way our offense is run, we have a lot of guys who any day can flat out score,” said Piretra. “We have a lot of cuts, we have a lot movement. Today was just my day. I had some open shots and I hit it.”

On the defensive end, Tim Swenson held down Matt Redfield, who averages 14 points per game, with the assistance from the likes of Piretra.

“We really honed in on [Pedley and Redfield], especially Pedley,” Piretra said. “He killed us the first time we played them so we really honed in on him…Really, practice helped us a lot on that.”

The Pride have been inconsistent in games decided by 10 or fewer points, owning a 4-4 record entering their match-up with MIT. They looked anything but inconsistent on Wednesday, using their long second half run to put the game away.

For much of the first half, Springfield was unable to put any distance between themselves and the Engineers, trading baskets and runs before entering the half down by one. In the second half, the Pride were polar opposites.

Sean Martin kicked off the second half with a pair of steals, converting the first for a layup of his own, before Sienkiewicz capitalized on an offensive rebound to put the Pride ahead 32-29.

The Pride would extend the lead when Garstka drove from the left baseline, cutting through four defenders. After a head fake opened up a passing lane, Gartska dropped off a no-look, one-handed delivery to Burke before jogging back down the court, not watching as Burke laid in the score.

Although the Pride offense did provide the spark in the second half, it was their defense that helped secure the win.

“Their offense isn’t fast paced as in scoring, [but] there’s a lot of movement and script,” said Springfield College coach Charlie Brock. “I think we confused them to be honest. Not having Pedley as a weapon was very critical, and then we did a couple things where we juked them and I think that they got a little bit confused on what to do and go about it to score.”

The win over MIT followed a one-point loss to No. 3 WPI over the weekend. WPI suffered a loss to Emerson on Wednesday night, and the Pride’s victory put them in a tie for second place with Babson, as they are two games behind WPI for first place in the conference.

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