SPRINGFIELD — Springfield, which at one time led by 17 points, eventually needed an overtime stanza to defeat Hartford, 63-57, in a battle of two boys teams trying to grab one of the last Division II playoff spots.
The Hurricanes faced an uphill battle from early on and kept nipping away at the Springfield lead. When Hartford’s Shea Bean hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, the comeback was complete at 53-53.
The overtime was 57-57 with 1:33 to go when Hartford turned the ball over on consecutive trips down the court and eventually had to start fouling. And while Springfield missed five free throws, the Cosmos made six and pulled away.
Free throws would be a pivotal part of the game, as the Hurricanes missed eight foul shots between the fourth quarter and the overtime.
This was a battle of 2-12 teams, the 17th- and 18th-ranked teams in a division that takes 16 to the tournament. So a lot was at stake.
“This was a great win for us,” said Springfield coach Mike Ruppel. “The kids played real hard and I kept telling to be aware even when we had a big lead. Basketball is a game of streaks. We had ours early and they had theirs late.”
And the Springfield streak was impressive as Jacob Stapler with nine early points led the Cosmos to a 22-5 first-quarter lead. Hartford never could hold back the Cosmos as coach Steve Landon burned two early timeouts trying to get hold of the situation. The Cosmos were still in control at the half.
The situation began to change in the third quarter as the ‘Canes went on an 11-0 run fueled by 3-pointers from Aida Brooks and Dylan Morse.
Hartford was back in at 40-34 after three quarters.
The fourth quarter was chaos as Springfield at one point held a 13-point lead. Then it was Hartford with a 12-2 run to bring it to 53-50 and that was when Bean made his 3-pointer to tie the game.
The big gun for Springfield was Noah Zierfus with 21 points.