By Chris Gionta
Springfield College men’s basketball fell to Eastern Connecticut State University, 73-70 on Wednesday night at Blake Arena.
A full crowd of excited Springfield faithfuls packed into Blake Arena to see their men’s basketball team for the first time in 620 days on Wednesday night. Unfortunately for them, there was not too much to cheer on at the beginning.
Eastern Connecticut started out red-hot with an 18-9 run where they were 4-for-5 from behind the three-point line. They kept the pace for about three quarters of the way through the first half. The Warriors were up 32-13 with five minutes left to go. Springfield was not helping themselves, either, with nine turnovers in 15 minutes of play.
The Pride was able to right the ship late in the half with an 11-1 run to bring the deficit within nine and close out the half. Guards Casey Lane and Zeke Blauner led the way in this run with five and four points respectively.
Despite the 15-minute stoppage of halftime, Springfield’s momentum did not immediately stop. They continued to inch closer, and got within four points for a 43-39 score as soon as five minutes into the second half.
Soon after came a couple of controversial calls that certainly upset the Springfield bench and crowd. The first of such calls was after a Pride turnover, where an Eastern Connecticut player was sliding out of bounds with the ball, but apparently was able to call timeout before getting out of bounds, which is not how the Pride saw it. The second was a shooting foul call where no one in the arena was able to figure out when the Eastern Connecticut player was actually shooting the ball. These calls deflated the Springfield bench and crowd, and provided some much-needed momentum for the Warriors.
They went on a 16-6 run to give Eastern Connecticut a 14-point lead with about nine and a half minutes left to go in regulation. Yet, the Pride was able to answer back immediately by scoring 11 consecutive points to make the game 59-56. The final nine points on that run were all scored by Blauner.
The game remained competitive the rest of the way through, with the arena being on top of the action the entire time. Springfield took their first lead with 1:32 to go in regulation, 69-68 on a Panayiotis Kapinedes layup.
With the game in question, Eastern Connecticut went to their biggest producer, Quinton Lott, who made a contested layup with 19 seconds left for his 26th and 27th points of the night, and also for the 70-69 lead.
When Springfield came down the court, Collin Lindsay was fouled on the floor to give him two foul shots, as the Pride was in the double bonus. He made his first shot, but after a Warriors timeout, he was unable to make his second, and kept the game tied. Off the shot, Lott got his 11th rebound, and passed it to Max Lee, who dribbled it down the court and dished it to Thomas Close. Close pulled up from behind the three-point line and made what would be the game-winning shot. The Pride attempted a game-tying sideline play with 1.3 seconds left, but could not succeed in the difficult scenario.
Despite the loss coming in a devastating fashion, there were reasons to come out of the game optimistic from the Pride’s perspective. The resilience to come back from a 19-point deficit brings some encouragement to the team and fans.
“It’s a very definite step forward for us,” said Springfield head coach Charlie Brock. “We played two games prior to tonight and played about 20 minutes out of 40, and I think we played closer to 30 minutes of tonight’s game. So we’re moving forward.”
The main contributor of Springfield’s comeback was Blauner, who scored 23 points in the game’s final 25 minutes. He was efficient to an extreme, as overall, he went 8-for-12 from the field and 9-for-9 from the foul line to total for 27 points on the night.
“(Blauner) was great,” said Brock. “And I also think he did a great job of being active defensively. And I think the thing that he has learned, and is learning, is that he can be strong with the ball when he tries to score and not fade away — he got fouled a couple times on strong moves to the basket, and if he doesn’t get fouled, he’s got a pretty good chance of making it, and maybe getting an and-one.”
Springfield will head back on the road for their next game on Nov. 20 against Keene State. They will not be back at Blake Arena until they face Amherst on Dec. 7.
Photo: Joe Arruda/The Student