The Springfield Armor put together an early first quarter run and never looked back as Springfield (14-13) rolled past the Sioux Falls SkyForce (7-20) 103-96 (box score) Thursday night at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.
Midway through the first quarter, Springfield, with the game tied 6-6, used a 14-4 run to take a lead they would not relinquish. JamesOn Curry started off the run, sinking back-to-back 3-pointers. The run was capped off with an L.D. Williams steal and layup, giving Springfield its first double-digit lead at 20-10.
“I thought it was important for us mentally to come out and play well early,” said Armor head coach Bob MacKinnon. “And I think we did that, but we let up.”
The Armor used the first quarter to run to propel them to a 13-point lead going into halftime at 59-46.
But in the first two minutes of the second half, Springfield took its foot of the gas as Sioux Falls scored the half’s first six points.
“We don’t have that killer instinct yet,” said MacKinnon.
The SkyForce continued to get within single-digits, but the Armor maintained a steady lead; Sioux Falls cut the lead to five points just once.
Trey Gilder’s turnaround jumper made the lead 69-64, as Sioux Falls began to apply some pressure to the home team. But Springfield responded with 12-4 run to close out the quarter, leading 80-68.
Springfield held a consistent double-digit lead in the fourth, though Sioux Falls did cut it to single-digits on several occasions, but it wasn’t enough.
Defensively the Armor held the SkyForce to 40 percent shooting and a miserable six percent from behind the arc.
The first half should go down as one of Springfield’s best of the season. Springfield led by 13, making 50 percent of their shots and commiting only two turnovers; Springfield finished with a season-low 10 giveaways Thursday night.
However, MacKinnon was unhappy being outrebounded by 12.
“We have to do much better on the backboard than we did tonight,” said MacKinnon.
Jerry Smith continues to shine for the Armor this season as he finished with game-highs in points (27) and rebounds (11). Jeff Foote added 19 points, while L.D. Williams had 17 points, five boards, four assists, and three steals.
Gabe Pruitt struggled to score his team-high 19 points, shooting 5-for-18. Keith Benson, drafted in the second round by the Atlanta Hawks, finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
These two teams meet again Friday night. Tip-off is 7 p.m.
Armor set single-season record for wins: Thursday night gave Springfield its 14th win of the season, marking a new franchise record for wins in a single season.
“Hopefully we’re going to set the bar higher than 14 wins,” said MacKinnon. “That is not our goal.”
MacKinnon needs seven more wins in the last 23 games to pass Dee Brown for most wins in franchise history.
Casey Mitchell leaves Sioux Falls: Sioux Falls only dressed eight players for Thursday’s game. Former West Virginia-star Casey Mitchell was one of the players inactive. Before the game Mitchell bought out his contract to play overseas. He was averaging 19.6 points per game this season.