Swarthmore, Pa. - March 10, 2018 - For the first time in program history, the Springfield College men's basketball team punched its ticket to the NCAA Division III Championship Final Four after besting No. 14 Swarthmore, 74-62, in the NCAA Division III Championship Elite 8 on Saturday night in Tarble Pavilion at Lamb Miller Field House.
The win boosts Springfield's record to 22-8, marking the fourth time in program history that the Pride has hit the 22-win plateau, and the first since the 2004-05 campaign. The loss ends Swarthmore's season at 25-6.
It was another incredible weekend for the Pride as it knocked off a pair of teams ranked in the top 15 nationally in No. 13 Hamilton and No. 14 Swarthmore. Springfield put together a dominant second half to prevail over Swarthmore as the Pride held the hosts to just 22 second-half points and finished the game with a 39-33 edge on the boards against a team that owned a plus-10 rebound advantage on its opponents all season. Jake Ross (Northampton, Mass.) once again played all 40 minutes and scored 23 points to go along with 12 boards, while classmate Heath Post (Cheshire, Conn.) was sensational with 18 points and 15 boards, and Cam Earle (South Hadley, Mass.) contributed 16 points, including 13 in the second half. Springfield finished the game shooting 24-for-57 (42%) and 17-for-20 from the charity stripe.
For the hosts, Cam Wiley had 13 points, Zack Yonda scored 12, and both Zac O'Dell and Nate Shafer contribued 10 points. Swathmore ended the game going 23-for-63 (37%) from the field.
Feeding off the energy of playing in front of a capacity crowd of over 1,200 fans, the Garnet jumped out to a 7-3 lead after O'Dell drilled a straightaway three, but Ross responded with five-straight points for Pride, as a baseline jumper forced the hosts into a timeout at 13:15. A inside finish by Kevin Durkin (Worcester, Mass.) allowed the Pride to gain a 14-11 edge, however the hosts would respond with 9-2 surge, highlighted by seven points from Conor Harkins. Ross pulled up for a huge three to tie the game at 22 with 7:33 on the clock, only to have Yonda answer with nine-straight points for the Garnet to put the hosts up 31-22 with under five to play in the half.
After a tough finish in transition by Andy McNulty (West Springfield, Mass.) pulled Springfield within 31-26, Swarthmore benefited from two more buckets from beyond the arc to gain their largest lead of the game, 37-26, with 2:55 on the clock. Springfield leaned on Post for six points as part of a 7-3 burst to close the half, including a putback at the buzzer as the Pride went into the half trailing, 40-33. The Garnet canned seven three-pointers in the opening half and turned eight Springfield miscues into 10 points. Post totaled 10 points and nine rebounds in the stanza, while Ross netted 11 points.
Post hammered a dunk on the baseline in traffic in the opening minutes of the second half as the visitors evened the game at 42-all. Springfield would continue to get defensive stops and two free throws from Earle allowed the Pride to gain a 47-42 advantage as part of a 14-2 run to open the half. The Garnet would begin to find their offensive rhythm again and use a 9-2 run capped off by a triple from Ryan Ingram to force the Pride into a timeout trailing 53-51.
However, over the next 5:35, Springfield poured on a 13-4 run that was fueled by eight points from Earle, including a pair of critical three-pointers, to push the Pride's record to 64-57 with 2:12 on the clock. O'Dell stemmed the momentum for the hosts with a three, but Ross answered right back with his third three of the night for the Pride as the cushion ballooned back to seven. Down the stretch, Springfield canned 7-of-8 from the charity stripe to seal the win.