Springfield, Mass. - The Springfield College men's basketball team rallied from an eight-point deficit with 1:24 left in regulation and battled to an 85-82 overtime victory over Wheaton College in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Championship Quarterfinals on Wednesday evening in Blake Arena.
Wheaton's season comes to a close with a 10-16 record, while Springfield improved to 14-12. The Pride advance to take on the nation's top-ranked team, Babson College, and will play the Beavers on their home court on Saturday at 3:00 pm.
Jake Ross put together an incredible performance in the Pride's home finale as he poured in 30 points to go along with a career-high 17 rebounds. Andy McNulty netted 23 points and Brandon Eckles chipped in 18 points and five rebounds.
Springfield only shot 32% from the floor (22-for-69), but connected on 32-of-39 from the line and scored 16 second-chance points on 15 offensive boards.
For the Lyons, four players scored in double figures, led by Quinton Dale's 19-point, 13-rebound performance. Ryan Fogarty delivered 17 points, Alex DuBrow registered 15 points and five assists off the bench, and Duaka Ekwensi recorded 14 points and nine caroms.
Wheaton finished the game shooting 38% (24-for-63) but cost itself the game from the free throw line, as the visitors went just 29-for-46 in the setback.
The Pride jumped out to an 11-0 lead just under four minutes into the game as McNulty, Ross, and Eckles each canned triples in the opening possessions for the hosts. Wheaton chipped away at the hosts lead, getting within 16-9 on a pair of from the charity stripe by Liam Bruno with 8:19 on the clock. A deep three by Eckles coming out of a media timeout pushed the hosts advantage back to double digits. The visitors answered with a 16-6 burst, to tie the game at 25-all following a conventional three-point play by Fogarty with under two to play. Heath Post drilled a fadeaway jumper as the at the end of the shot clock in the final seconds to send Springfield into the half with a 29-27 edge.
Wheaton took control of the second half from the opening whistle, putting together a 13-4 run to earn a 40-33 cushion when Fogarty canned a corner triple with 16:14 on the clock. The Lyons lead would grow to 46-37, but Ross would put Springfield on his back, scoring seven-straight points to bring the Pride within 46-44 with 11:23 to play. Wheaton's lead would grow back to eight, when Ekwensi connected on a jumper at 59-51 with just under six to play. After Springfield responded with six-straight points, the Lyons used an 8-2 push and appeared poised to earn the win as it extended its lead to 67-59 with 1:24 left.
However, Springfield benefited from the Lyons going just 5-for-12 from the charity stripe down the stretch and McNulty scored 11-straight points for the Pride to set up the last-second heroics. Holding a 72-70 lead, Ekwensi missed the second free throw, and Ross snagged the board and went coast-to-coast, finishing at the lane with 0.6 seconds left to force the game into overtime.
After the teams traded baskets to start overtime, Trey Witter cashed in on a corner three to give Springfield a lead it would not relinquish. Wheaton would climb within one on three occassions, but Ross went 1-of-2 from the stripe with 14 ticks left to give the hosts a four-point lead. DuBrow answered with a layup, and after Witter made 1-of-2 from the line, Wheaton nearly sent the game to double overtime when Timothy Berry got a great look following an offensive rebound in the final second, only to Ross close out and deliver a game-sealing block to complete the comeback.