Springfield, Mass. – Springfield College scored 19 points in the five minute overtime session and the host Pride came away with a crucial, 86-81 win over Clark University in New England Women's And Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) men's basketball action on Wednesday evening at Blake Arena.
The win for Springfield not only sends their record to 13-11 overall but by virtue of their 7-6 league ledger they have now clinched one of the five spots in the upcoming league tournament.
Clark (13-11), meanwhile, is now locked in a battle with Wheaton College (10-14) for the fifth and final spot. Both teams have 5-8 conference records and the Lyons hold the head-to-head tiebreaker after their two wins against the Cougars during the regular season.
The Scarlet and White visit WPI on Saturday at 3:00 p.m., while Wheaton faces off with Emerson College on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Clark will need to win and then have Emerson defeat Wheaton in order to secure the final berth.
In the game tonight, freshman Jake Ross (Northampton, Mass.) put together a tremendous performance for the hosts, delivering 31 points, 12 boards, four assists, and three steals, while classmate Heath Post (Cheshire, Conn.) added a double-double of his own with 13 points and 12 rebounds to go along with three blocks. Andy McNulty (West Springfield, Mass.) registered 15 points and Keegan McDonough (Bath, Maine) hauled in six of the Pride's 17 offensive rebounds as the hosts held a 42-30 edge on the glass.
David Mercier (Milford, Mass.) scored a team-best 20 points for Clark, while Lamar Berk (Saint Augustine, Fla.) chipped in 16 points and four steals. John Pisacreta (Andover, Mass.) totaled 11 points and Joe Atkinson (Milford, Mass.) added ten points, nine rebounds and four assists. The Cougars also got a huge boost off the bench from Matt Woods (Arlington, Mass.), who scored a career-high 14 in 23 minutes of action.
Ross scored Springfield's first seven points of the game, and a McNulty bucket in transition forced the visitors into a timeout trailing 9-2 just under four minutes into the contest.
The Cougars would respond with a 9-2 burst of their own, evening the game at 11 following a triple from Woods, only to have a the hosts answer right back 13-2 surge capped off by a putback from Anthony Reynolds (Springfield, Mass.) at the 8:34 mark.
Despite Springfield leading by as many as 12, Clark clawed their way back into the contest, making it a 33-28 game following a three-point play by Mercier with 1:55 left. The Pride closed out the stanza with buckets from Kevin Durkin (Worcester, Mass.) and Post to head into the break holding a 37-28 edge.
Clark benefited from a hot start by Berk, as the senior forward netted eight quick points to help the visitors pull within 42-41 just over five minutes into the second half.
An inside score by Ross allowed the Pride to earn a 46-41 cushion, however, Clark responded with a 6-0 burst to take their first lead of the game following an Evan Lerner (Hopedale, Mass.) score at the 11:40 mark. Trey Witter (Unionville, Conn.) got free for a corner three with 9:55 on the clock to put the Pride back on top, 52-49, but the Cougars put together a 12-2 run, as another three from Woods gave Clark its largest lead at 61-54. Out of a timeout, Springfield strung together seven-straight points, with Brandon Eckles (East Greenwich, R.I.) converting down low to tie the game at 61 with 5:45 remaining.
Out of a Pride timeout with 1:30 on the clock, Post came out and finished at the rim and was fouled, converting the three-point play to give the hosts a 67-64 lead. Atkinson then converted a pair from the line, and Clark had the chance to take the lead with 24.9 seconds left, but Mercier made just one of two from the stripe. Springfield called for a timeout with 16.5 seconds remaining, however was unable to get off a shot as the game headed into extra time.
Springfield did not trail in the overtime period, as Ross came out on the first possession and drilled a three-pointer from the right wing. Another jumper from Ross made it a 75-71 game with 3:24 on the clock, and after Mercier answered with a three pointer for Clark, the hosts benefited from a jumper and two freebies by McNulty to earn a five-point advantage. Clark would get no closer than three and Springfield hit 7-of-8 from the line to seal the important conference win.