The Springfield Armor (5-2) wanted to begin its brutal two-week road trip on a good note with second consecutive win over the Erie BayHawks (3-6) Thursday night.
However Erie returned the favor after last night’s loss, handing the Armor a 123-117 overtime loss, snapping Springfield’s four-game win streak.
Both teams spent an awful lot of time at the line. Erie’s 41 free throw attempts were one short of Springfield’s 42 attempts –- a season-high for the team.
It was only fitting that the end of regulation came down to the charity stripe.
With 22 seconds remaining and the Armor leading 110-108, Erie point guard B.J. Jenkins drove to the basket and a foul was called on Armor’s rookie forward David Akinyooye. Jenkins calmly sank two.
Springfield got the ball back with the chance to win the game. Lance Hurdle hit L.D. Williams with a pass, and the 6’4″, 210-lb. guard immediately drove to the lane, drawing a foul from Kyle Spain.
Williams, who at the time had game-high 30 points (finishing with 33), came up short on both.
“He got to the line,” said head coach Bob MacKinnon. “And I give him credit; he wanted the ball to make the play at the end. I’ll live and die with that every day.”
Jenkins, Erie’s hero in the fourth, returned for an encore in the overtime.
With the score tied at 112 and only 1:46 remaining in the extra quarter, Jenkins knocked down a three to give the BayHawks a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“I just thought it was two teams battling, I thought it was a great game,” said MacKinnon. “They did some good things and we did some good things.
“It came to overtime and Jenkins, a veteran guy, makes a three. That happens. Now you deal with it and move on.”
The game was close throughout. Springfield shined on offense when attacking the rim. Early in the first quarter Springfield scored six consecutive points going to the basket, giving them an 11-7 lead, forcing Erie to burn a timeout.
However after the timeout, Springfield began to shy away from the hoop and settle for jumpers as Erie went on a 10-0 run, while Springfield, which started by converting five of its first six shots, didn’t record a field goal for three and a half minutes.
In the second quarter, a pair of consecutive Armor turnovers led to BayHawks fast-break points, forcing MacKinnon to burn a timeout as his team trailed by its largest deficit of the game at 10 points.
After the timeout, it was Springfield’s turn to go on a run, 12-2 to tie the game at 42. But in the last six and a half minutes, Erie would wrestle the lead back and go into the locker room with a 58-52 lead.
In the third quarter, the Armor had its largest lead of the game at five, before handing it right back. The teams swapped leads five times during the third, ending with Armor forward Jonathan Thomas tipping in a Hurdle miss to give Springfield an 83-82 lead going into the fourth.
Springfield, along with other D-League affiliates, are missing starting players who are attending NBA training camps, and MacKinnon understands that this is a young team at the moment. “You’re looking at some guys, who are not used to playing at this level,” said MacKinnon. “We want to play fast, but we don’t want to rush and right now I think our young guys are caught up in the rush phase.”
Besides Williams’ 33 points and 10 rebounds, Springfield had six other players in double-figures. Travis Cohn had 19 points and 8 boards off the bench and Hurdle chipped in 16 points and had 8 assists.
Erie was led by 27 points from Tirrell Baines and 22 points and 8 assists from reserve guard Mike Gerrity.
Now it’s time for Springfield to hit the road, not returning to the MassMutual Center until Jan. 5.
“The only game I know we play right now is Saturday in Tulsa,” said MacKinnon.
Notes: The reports from Nets camp is that the coaching staff is pleased with all three Springfield Armor players: Dennis Horner, JamesOn Curry, and Jerry Smith. According to an Armor team source, all three may see some action in the upcoming preseason games.