(Video by Terrence Payne)
WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -– It took three weeks for West Springfield to break back into ESPNBoston.com's statewide poll, so it’s fitting that it took until the third quarter for the No. 19 Terriers to break out of their offensive funk.
After scoring just 15 points in the first half, West Side exploded for 23 in the third en route to scoring the 54-50 upset of No. 8 Springfield Putnam on Tuesday night.
Junior guard Paul Bessette gave West Springfield (15-2) its first lead of the game with one of the more bizarre plays you’ll see on a basketball court. Inbounding the ball from under Putnam’s (15-1) basket, Bessette played the ball off the defender’s back to himself, went up for the layup and drew the foul for a three-point play that put the Terriers up 31-30 with 3:36 to play in the third quarter.
“The last time we played Putnam I noticed that their guy that guards the ball turns his back to the inbounder,” Bessette said. “I knew yesterday I was going to do that, I was just waiting for the right time. That was the right time I guess.”
After the two teams traded baskets, Bessette once again took matters into his own hands and buried an NBA-range three pointer to put West Side up 36-32. A steal and fastbreak bucket from senior Chris Lipscomb on the next possession pushed the lead out to 38-32 with under a minute to play in the quarter and forced Putnam coach William Shepard to call a timeout and calm his team down.
Bessette (17 points) and Lispcomb combined to score 16 of West Side’s 23 points in the quarter and 36 of 54 overall. Lipscomb’s game-high 19 points came on 8-for-12 shooting from the field and included perhaps the biggest shot of the game.
Trailing by one with 43 seconds to play, West Springfield worked its offense as it had throughout the second half, passing the ball and looking for the best shot. That shot came when Bessette drove baseline and found a wide-open Lipscomb in the corner and the senior –- on senior night, no less -– made no mistakes and hit just his sixth three of the year.
“The second half we didn’t really run too many plays,” Lipscomb said. “Coach [Chris Gerber] told us to go out there and play basketball, and that’s what we all like to do. We all like to play basketball and move the ball around. My point guard, Paul Bessette, drove baseline and I slid down the court and I hit a big shot. That’s all it is.”
This game came three weeks after Putnam bested the Terriers, 59-43, back on Jan. 25 while Bessette was sidelined with an arm injury. With Bessette now back in the lineup and controlling the offense West Springfield looks like a team that could make some noise in the tournament.
“This game was a little bit of revenge, but we’ll see them again and that’s when it will count the most,” Lispcomb said. “Right now we’re going to enjoy it tonight and then move on and keep working towards the playoffs.”
Terrier Foul Trouble: When trying to pull off an upset the underdog typically needs a lot of things to go right and get a big game out of their marquee player. That wasn’t the case for the Terriers on Tuesday night as leading scorer Riyadh Asad spent long stretches on the bench while dealing with foul trouble.
Averaging 19.8 points per game coming in, Asad finished with just eight points on 3-for-9 shooting. However, six of those points came in the last four minutes of the game while playing with four fouls.
“I knew my time was gonna come, so I let my two guards [Bessette and Andy McNulty] take care of it,” Asad said. “They do a great job of playing the whole time and keeping me level headed. I got a little out of it with the fouls and thought there were some bad calls but I credit my team for keeping me in it and I knew my time was gonna come.
If four good minutes from Asad were enough to push West Side to a win on Tuesday, imagine what this team will look like if they 32 minutes from him.