Seniors steal the spotlight in men’s basketball victory over Springfield


Jordan Pagkalinawan

Men’s basketball seniors and grad students line up in front of the scoreboard after a win over Springfield on Senior Night.

By Jordan Pagkalinawan, Managing Editor

Following a gritty win over the Coast Guard Bears, the Emerson men’s basketball team took their home floor for the final time in the regular season Saturday, facing off against the Springfield Pride on senior day.

The Lions jumped out to an early 14-7 lead behind buckets from seniors Ben Allen and Max Davis, graduates Nate Martin and Jarred Houston, and first-year Brendan McNamara. The team kept its foot on the gas after a Martin jumper put them up 21-11 with under ten minutes remaining—crossing the double-digit deficit and never looking back. Junior guard Trevor Arico sank Emerson’s sixth three of the half with 1:30 left, followed by a layup from senior forward Bryan Lupianez as time expired, and the Lions entered the locker room with a commanding 46-23 lead at the break.

Defensively, the Lions did not let up on Springfield, tallying seven steals and four blocks in the first half. The team also thrived on offense, scoring ten points off of Springfield turnovers, and cashing in on 18 points in the paint. The Emerson bench played a pivotal role in the first half explosion, responsible for 28 of their points. Martin led all Lions scorers with 11 points and two threes.

The Lions roared first in the second half, going on an 11-0 run that included back-to-back threes from Davis and Lupianez. With 15:35 left, Martin split a pair of technical free throws to put his team up 65-30. Another Lupianez three gave him his tenth point of the afternoon with 15:10 remaining. The Pride called a timeout as the Lion lead grew to 74-40 with 9:16 to play. From then on, both teams traded buckets on nearly every possession, primarily from the three-point range. 

Martin buried a triple at the eight-minute mark, and Springfield immediately responded with a huge three to cut the lead to 30, 78-48.

Martin’s three-pointer on that possession meant a little more to him: it gave the fifth-year guard his 1,000th career point.

“It feels good,” he said. “There’s definitely a relief. I kind of knew I was going to get it, but it’s cool because it’s something I can show my kids or in the future—my name will always be on the banner.”

Emerson’s offensive clinic continued beyond Martin’s milestone moment with consecutive threes from sophomore guard Lucas Brenner, which he buried from the right corner to give the Lions a 89-54 lead with 5:30 remaining. Junior guard Declan Bretz banked in a fadeaway jumper with 4:26 left, and the Lions found themselves six points shy of the century mark: 94-58. Despite a 7-0 Springfield run, the Lions remained energized after a two-hand slam by senior Stephen Fabrizio with two minutes left. They managed to close the game out with a layup from first-year guard Jacob Armant and walked away with a comfortable 99-71 victory over the Pride.

Lupianez finished with a career-high 14 points, going 5-6 from the field, 3-3 from deep and 1-2 from the free-throw line. Martin led the Lions with 19 points, along with one rebound and three assists. Houston stuffed his stat sheet with 14 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, and five blocks.

“It made me feel like my coaches and teammates trust me,” said Lupianez, reflecting on his last regular-season game at Brown-Plofker. “That’s all you could really ask for from a good group of guys like them.”

Head Coach Bill Curley reflected on this special group of seniors and graduates and what they have meant to the program.

“Jarred and Nate came in as freshmen and started, and because of [them] and [Zach Waterhouse ‘22], we were able to get those seniors that started the game,” Curley said.

“You see how [the seniors] played tonight, to start the game and get us up there and hold their own, it shows what kind of kids we have and what kind of talent we have,” he added.

Curley also touched on his favorite memories with this group, touching on their resilience and work ethic amid the COVID-19 pandemic and shining a light on two in particular: Stephen Fabrizio and Ben Allen.

“I’ve known Stephen since he was born, basically, and he couldn’t get to half court without getting out of breath. And now, to see that he’s dunking in games, it’s pretty remarkable,” Curley said. “He’s like the little engine that could, and I really marvel at him for what he is able to do as a college basketball player. He’s backing up an All-American. He’s made our team better.”

“For Ben, he’s starting, rebounding, playing point guard, covering centers—you just can’t say enough about the versatility these guys [have] brought,” he added.

Curley also reflected on a team goal that was set at the beginning of the year: to win the NEWMAC tournament. The Lions are currently 10-3 in conference play and are looking to maintain their high status heading into the postseason, as the tournament kicks off Feb. 21.

“It’s important that we take care of business so we can keep that two-seed and get a home-court game here, and go from there,” he said. “That’s been our goal, and we’re in position. We just have to keep playing and get better every day.”

The impact of the seniors and graduates has never gone unnoticed, as illustrated by first-year guards Brendan McNamara and Peyton Lodge.

“They’ve meant so much,” McNamara said. “Everyone compliments each other so well, a great combination of leadership styles and guys who lead by example and with their voice as well.”

“The program is in a great place, and there’s no secret why,” he added. “We have a great core of seniors. They mean a whole lot to me, and I’ve got great relationships with all of them.”

“[The seniors and graduates] have made my year so much more enjoyable,” Lodge said. “We’re going to do something special this year with these guys, because we’ve got a really special group on and off the court.”

Following an 86-56 victory over MIT—spearheaded by Houston’s 37 points and 14 rebounds—the Lions close out the regular season at Wheaton on Feb. 18 at 1 p.m.

With the NEWMAC tournament around the corner, Martin said the key in the coming days is to stay focused.

“There’s no secret ingredient,” he added. “We just [have] to stay focused and carry out this momentum.”

Davis believes it comes down to buying in on both ends of the floor.

“[There were] games like Clark where we may have had good offense, but our defense struggled,” he said. “We need to make sure that we bring everything, and buy in on both ends. When we do that, there’s no one in the country, I think, that can beat us. Take care of the little things on both ends, and enjoy the ride.”