By Danny Priest
On Saturday afternoon, the Springfield College Pride hosted the MIT Beavers in a NEWMAC Conference matchup. The Pride came into the game riding a seven game winning streak, their longest of the season since they started things off at 7-0.
Behind a strong outing from Heath Post (25 points, 18 rebounds, four assists), the Pride were able to push their winning streak to eight games with a 66-62 victory over MIT.
The win was a big win for a few reasons. The first being that it kept Springfield on top of the NEWMAC Conference standings. The Pride are now 11-1 on the season in the NEWMAC and continue to maintain a slim one game advantage over WPI.
The other reason the win was significant was because it was the 20th of the season for Springfield.
In the 109 seasons the program has played, only 13 teams in program history have ever reached the 20-win mark in single-season.
The 2019-2020 Pride are the first to do it since the 2017-2018 team who went 22-9 and would end up reaching the Final Four.
The Pride are the fourth team to accomplish the feat since the turn of the century in 2000.
““It’s a benchmark,” Head Coach Charlie Brock said of the achievement. “I kind of go in reverse order with goals. I want to get a winning season, .500 or better, then the next kind of benchmark is 20 wins, and then we start talking about specific accomplishments with regards to the league.”
Against MIT, the Pride were able to win the game on the strength of their defense. They held the Beavers to just 35.9 percent shooting (23-64) and 21.4 percent from three (6-28) for the entire game.
Springfield needed their defense as they themselves struggled. They shot only 35.5 percent for the game (22-62) and were only able to knock down seven three-pointers.
“Yeah I thought we played with a lot of energy and we had some cross-ups. Some of them are my responsibility, I think we went into the game and tried to pick a part a couple of things,” Brock said of the team defense.
“They do a lot of things. I might have put a little more than I should have on the guy’s to pick up on certain things and do something different than we might normally. I’m glad we survived it, it won’t happen again,” he added.
Early on, the Pride looked like they might be able to run away with the game. They lead by as much as 19 in the first half thanks in large part to some hot shooting out of the gates.
However as the game went on, MIT tightened things up and made things much more difficult for the Pride on the offensive end.
In the second half, the Pride were the beneficiaries of some big shots. Senior guard Trey Witter got hot in the second half. He hit three, three-pointers down the stretch, including a four-point play to help hold MIT off and keep Springfield in control.
Witter three, and he’s fouled. He’s been huge down the stretch. He finished the four point play and the Pride lead by 13.
— Danny Priest (@dpriest3) February 15, 2020
The hot shooting from Witter was a nice bounce back after he went just 1-6 from the field in the first half.
“I had a slow start,” Witter said after the game.
“I was trying to catch my rhythm and my teammates did a great job of continuing to look for me even though I missed some shots in the first half. They continued to trust me and they found me in the second half. I was able to knock down those shots so it’s a credit to my teammates.”
By the end, the Pride got enough from Post, Witter, and the rest of their group to come out on top in a hard-fought game by the Beavers.
Getting a win over MIT sets the Pride up for a huge final two games to close out their regular season schedule.
On Wednesday, the Pride will travel to Worcester to face the aforementioned WPI Engineers who are currently 18-4 on the season and a game behind the Pride in the NEWMAC standings.
Back in January the Pride beat the Engineers on their home court by a score of 84-66. That win was convincing, but anything can happen on the road and the Pride would do themselves a huge favor if they could secure a second win over the Beavers.
Following that game, the Pride will return to Blake Arena on Saturday to host Babson in their season finale. Babson is notoriously one of the best teams in the country and they too have a record of 18-4.
Babson is currently the No. 19 ranked team in the country and the Pride are a spot behind them at No. 20. Babson holds an 8-3 record in NEWMAC play.
The first matchup between the two teams this season came down to the wire. Springfield was able to pick up an 84-81 victory that was close the whole way.
The Pride have put in a lot of work to get to the point where they’re at now, but next week could prove to be the defining point of their season.
Springfield will control their own destiny and being prepared will be their number one biggest concern ahead of the matchups.
“Monday’s practice,” Witter said of where his focus will be on. “We’re just looking to have the best practice we can on Monday and start preparing for WPI.”
Coach Brock shared a similar sentiment for how he’s looking to approach next week.
“Same thing. Just try to stay in the moment, we’ll do some things that we think we need to do for WPI on Monday and Tuesday, try to keep them locked in and stay in the moment so we don’t look ahead at all. We’ve got to stay day-to-day,” Brock said.
One step at a time. It’s gotten the Pride this far, and they hope that approach will carry them even further.
Photo Courtesy of Joe Arruda