|Heath Post (left) was one of the first-year players who stepped up big for Springfield on Wednesday night.|
Springfield built a 10-point lead late in the second half and then hung on to beat top-ranked Amherst 71-70 at home on Wednesday night.
Springfield used a 9-0 run midway through the first half to seize a 20-14 lead and the Pride pushed the advantage to a dozen twice before the break. Johnny McCarthy's three at the halftime buzzer pulled Amherst within nine at 37-28.
In the second half the Pride again pushed the lead to 12 early in the second half on a Jake Ross jumper. Amherst pulled within two before the Pride pushed the advantage back to double-digits, holding a 71-61 lead with 2:30 to play. Amherst responded by scoring the next nine points, but also missed four free throws in a 30-second span.
With 13 seconds left and Amherst down three, Jayde Dawson pulled up for three and had his shot blocked by Ross. Eric Conklin recovered the offensive rebound for Amherst and scored the layup to cut the deficit to 71-70 with eight seconds left. Amherst fouled Springfield and the Pride missed both free throws, setting up a potential game-winning shot for Amherst. But Ross again blocked the three-point shot, this time from McCarthy, sealing the Pride's victory.
Ross finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks while fellow first-year Heath Post scored 12 points for Springfield (4-5). McCarthy led all scorers with 25 points, including seven 3-pointers, in 38 minutes for Amherst (8-1).
The win is Springfield's first over a top-ranked team since the program joined Division III. The Pride had dropped four of five entering Wednesday night's game.
Amherst's loss creates the possibility for a new No. 1 team when the next Top 25 poll is released on Monday, December 19. Amherst received 22 of the 25 first place votes in this week's poll, with the remaining top votes going to Babson, which lost to Amherst in a double-overtime thriller last week.