It’s time to let the chaos ensue.
After more than three months of regular season basketball, the Springfield College men’s basketball team now stands at 17-6 with just under a week until the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference Tournament begins. Their conference record of 8-4 is good for third overall, and they will travel to host WPI in the coming days to grind it out for the NEWMAC crown.
The team has had tremendous success moving the ball around this year, a trademark of coach Charlie Brock’s offensive system. Of the 655 executed field goals this season, 384 of them were the result of an assist, good for a .586 overall percentage.
Moreover, Springfield has been playing lockdown defense, not allowing offenses to get off uncontested shots, in turn placing them second overall in the conference in opponent field goal percentage, and first overall from the field on the offensive end.
Despite success on paper, the Pride know that their season is far from over, but it is in their hands at this point to control their own destiny and make it stay that way.
“We’ve had a lot of success thus far in the regular season and our team has really transformed from last year,” said senior forward Tim Swenson, the conference leader in field goal percentage.
“In our games, we have the ability to spread the ball around and find the right looks for the specific teams we play against. We’re not just satisfied with regular season success though; we’re all hungry for a NEWMAC Championship.”
However, the underclassmen still recognize the importance of every second they have at their disposal until the final buzzer of the season rings.
“We still have a lot of room to get better,” said sophomore forward Larry Piretra. “We are looking to work on rebounding and defending as an entire unit as well as just getting more flow into our offense.”
The Pride have historically been a gritty, blue-collar team willing to work hard in the paint, and this season has been no different. However, mental focus still leaves a bit to be desired according to Brock.
“There have been games [where we] didn’t play the full 40 minutes,” he said, citing last week’s Babson game as an example.
For the most part, the Pride are geared towards ending their regular season on a high note and peaking at the right time.
“It’s the end-all when you are talking about getting into the playoffs,” said Brock. “We have got to win the championship… and that has got to be the intent.”
On the flipside, however, Brock has not stepped away from the mindset that he has employed since 1998.
“We need to win this week, right now I’m worried about Clark…we’re taking it one day at a time and we’ll worry about next week when we get there.”
And while the players share a similar thought process, the backs of their minds are in Worcester on February 26, as they look to give themselves the best possible edge for the tournament.
“Our biggest priority will be staying focused and playing a complete 40-minute basketball game. If we can do that then I am fully confident we will beat any team we play against,” said Swenson.
“After the way the last two years have ended, I know the veterans on the team aren’t content with just making it back to the championship game again. As a team everyone is focused on winning it all this year, even the new guys.”
The Pride have beaten every team at least once this year, with the exception of WPI, whom they lost to by one point earlier in the month. As a result, the Pride are looking to turn some heads in the conference tournament, and if things go according to plan they’ll continue to do so until they are hoisting the trophy in the Salem Civic Center in Virginia on March 22.
According to Piretra, that goal can certainly be attained.
“We are definitely looking forward to both the NEWMAC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament because we know we can do some real damage.”