Men’s basketball win close match against Plymouth State University

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Photo: Sydney Ciardi

Senior guard Nate Martin who scored 12 points against Babson on Jan. 30 was out in the NEWMAC Semifinal.

By Tyler Foy, Sports Editor

With less than one minute left on the clock, senior guard Nate Martin made four of six free throws to solidify the men’s basketball team’s 77-74 lead over Plymouth State University. 

Heading into Tuesday’s game with Plymouth State, the Lions were 3-2 in the young season, which tipped off on Nov. 11. The Panthers entered the game 4-2 coming off a loss against New England College.

The Lions were led to a 75-72 win over Tufts University in their previous match led by a stunning performance from senior center Jarred Houston who had caught fire in non-conference play. 

The early season momentum was put on a brief hold through the Thanksgiving break but Houston showed no signs of rust, securing a double-double with 24 points and 13 rebounds––against Plymouth in the Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym. Head coach Bill Curley said Houston’s reliability calms the team.

“It’s huge because it allows guys to get out and really pressure knowing that if they do get by that, they’re going to go into that big redwood tree there and Jarred has done a great job really rebounding and cleaning up the paint,” Curley said after the game.

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The Lions scored the first points of the game on a jump shot from senior guard Zach Waterhouse. The game would stay close throughout as both teams exchanged buckets.

Plymouth started finding a rhythm midway through the half and held a 10-point lead three times, but the Lions were able to remain competitive—ripping off a 7-0 run of the half to end 33-30 heading into the second. Waterhouse said the message at half-time was to bring more energy on the floor.

“We came out really flat,” Waterhouse said after the game. “We didn’t have any fight or anything going into the first half of the game, but I think we realized that. Coach gave us some things that got us mad and got us riled up, but it was mostly with us. And we knew what we had to do. We wanted to pound it into Houston at the start of the second half.” 

And that they did. Houston led off the second half with two layups and a dunk to put the Lions back on top. The Panthers would quickly recapture the lead on a layup of their own and the team’s would trade possession of the lead throughout the second half. Each time one team would put themselves out front the opposition would answer back with a bucket of their own. 

With the score knotted up at 48, Plymouth took a one-point lead on a free throw by senior guard, Cody Graham. Following a foul by Waterhouse, The Panthers took a six-point lead. Waterhouse quickly put a dent in the lead with a layup and then a quick three to bring the Lions back within one. 

Emerson called a timeout with 6:43 left in the game and when they resumed play they regained the lead off a jump shot by senior guard Vince Conn. Two free throws from Houston put the team up by three and rounded out his night offensively at 24 points. Although he wouldn’t add any more points to his total, his impact on the court wouldn’t end there. Waterhouse said Houston allows the team to do more on offense.

“It feels really good because we feel we can press up a little higher because we know we have someone back there who is the best big in the league,” Waterhouse said. “We think he is probably the best in this side of the country so we are very confident in him.”

The Panthers continued to put up a fight and after a Houston block denied them a tied game. A Plymouth free-throw deadlocked the game at 68 with 2:43 left in the half.

The Lions took another timeout and in less than 20 seconds Martin scored a layup to make the score 70-68. Waterhouse would put one in from beyond the arc for his 17th point following a forced turnover and Conn steal. 

Waterhouse said finding success from the three-point line was a relief after a string of poor shooting performances

“Coach always tells us hard work pays off,” he said in a post-game interview. “We’d be shooting after practice, do extra shots, get whatever we can with our busy schedule during finals and all this and all this stuff. It was bound to fall at some point. I’m a good enough shooter where I get that shot every time but it was good to see.”

Each team had their turn at the free-point line with Emerson only scoring one, the Panthers found a layup to make the score 74-72 with just 30 seconds left. Following their efforts to close the gap, Plymouth called a timeout of their own and substituted three players. The teams exchanged fouls in an effort to regain possession and stop the clock, but the Lions stood their ground and won the game 77-74 after Martin’s clutch free throws. 

The ability for the Lions to fight through their faults is the motto for Emerson.

“[Martin] has been working hard and he didn’t let the missed shots or the foul trouble get on him, he kept continuing to play hard,” Curley said. “That’s what our message to these guys has been like, you’re gonna have rough times when the ball doesn’t go in. But if you just assess them and let them define you then you’re not going to be very good for our team and we’re not going to win a lot.”

The Lions’ next match will be away at Bridgewater State University on Thursday at 7:00 p.m.

Charleston Fallon contributed to reporting