Salem, Va. - March 16, 2018 - The Springfield College men's basketball team was topped by Nebraska Wesleyan, 90-78, in overtime at the NCAA Division III Championship Semifinals on Friday evening in the Salem Civic Center in front of over 1,900 fans.
Competing in the NCAA Division III Championship Final Four for the first time in program history, Springfield dropped to 22-9 with the loss. NWU won for the 12th-straight game to move to 29-3 and will battle UW-Oshkosh in the national championship game on Saturday.
"I have had 38 teams and I have never been prouder to be a part of any team as much as I've been proud of this one," said head coach Charlie Brock after the game.
The Pride set a NCAA Division III Championship game and program record for most three-pointers taken in the contest as Springfield hoisted 41 in the game while facing the Praire Wolves 3-2 zone defense. The Pride was able to can 15 of its attempte, one off both the program record and NCAA Division III Championship record for made three-pointers in a contest. Jake Ross (Northampton, Mass.) paced Springfield with 21 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, and two steals, while Andy McNulty (West Springfield, Mass.) poured in 17 points, including five three-pointers. Cam Earle (South Hadley, Mass.) scored 14 points, and Heath Post (Cheshire, Conn.) recorded 11 points and eight rebounds in the setback.
"It's been amazing. It's been a great ride. I am so thankful for this program," said McNulty. "This coaching staff. This athletic department and the alumni. They have been great this whole ride. They have supported us the whole way. I couldn't be prouder to have been part of this program for four years. It's been an honor."
The Pride managed to go to the line just seven times in the game, going 3-for-7, while NWU was 16-for-23 from the stripe and used 19 offensive rebounds to total 22 points.
Springfield struggled to find its offensive rhythm, hitting just 1-of-7 from beyond the arc as the Pride trailed 10-5 at the 14:08 media timeout. The Praire Wolves would extend its lead to 17-11, only to have the Pride answer with five-straight points, getting a tough inside finish from Ross to make it a 17-16 game. However, NWU used a 8-2 run, highlighted by a pair of triples to extend its lead to 25-18 with 5:52 remaining. Springfield would not go away though and manufactured an 18-8 run to close out the stanza and head into the break with a 36-33 advantage. McNulty stepped into a three-pointer with 1:07 on the clock to give Springfield its first lead of the game at 32-31, and Ben Diamond (New York, N.Y.) converted down low in the waning seconds to close out the first-half scoring. Ross paced the Pride with 13 points in the first half as Springfield was able to own a three-point halftime advantage despite going just 5-for-19 from deep.
It was a different second-half shooting performance from Springfield as it buried nine of its 15 three-point bids. After Earle missed his first seven three-pointers of the game, the junior buried a bomb to give Springfield a 46-41 lead with 16:22 on the clock. Six-straight points from Nebraska Wesleyan allowed them to regain the lead just under four minutes later, only to have Earle connect on two more corner three-pointers as part of an 8-3 burst to give Springfield the 54-50 edge with 10:14 to play. The Pride's maintained its lead and pushed its advantage to seven at 70-63 after a great inside bucket from Ross at the 2:59 mark before five NWU points in the the next 57 seconds made it a two-point game. However, Earle once again answered the call, drilling his fourth triple of the night to push the lead to 73-68 with just 1:39 left in regulation. The Prairie Wolves were able to take advantage of Springfield missing the front end of a pair of 1-and-1's and tied the game up with a three-point play with 35 seconds to play. Springfield was unable to get a shot off on its final possession before the shot clock spounded and NWU's bid from midcourt missed wide as game went into overtime.
The teams traded the first five points to be gridlocked at 78 just 1:12 into the extra session. After each team turned it over, Nebraska Wesleyan answered with a three, which kickstarted a 12-0 run to close the game as Springfield missed its final four field goal attempts to have its season and tournament run come to a close.