Jeff Foote, the Armor's seven-foot center, has played in the shadows of his more high-octane teammates this season, but as each has been called up, he's been called on to fill the void. Friday night, the former Cornell star scored 15 points and grabbed a team record 24 rebounds as the Armor beat the Erie BayHawks, the Knicks affiliate 107-104. It was the Armor's first win without high-scoring Darius Johnson-Odom, who was called up to a 10-day deal with the Sixers.
The game was one comeback after another for Springfield with Khalif Wyatt, the Atlantic-10 player of the year in 2013 sealing the deal with clutch shots and a free throw with four seconds left. Wyatt, a 6'3" combo guard finished with 26 points as did Willie Reed, the Armor's 6'10" power forward. Reed added 13 rebounds for another triple double. Devin Ebanks, who's been on a tear lately, finished with nine points.
The Knicks announced this week that they will be leaving Erie after this season and setting up an owned and operated D-League affiliate in White Plains. The Nets' three-year hybrid deal with the Armor reportedly ends May 1. A team insider, asked about the Knicks' move, said the Nets decision on their future D-League plans won't be affected by what the Knicks are doing. There had been rumors that the Nets were thinking of moving their D-League operations to a rehabbed Nassau Coliseum, but team officials have denied that and Nassau wouldn't be ready for another two years anyway.
Hybrid relationships, like the one the Nets have in Springfield, are inexpensive, costing as little as $300,000 a year to run. The NBA pays the players paltry salaries and provides them with a housing allowance and per diem on the road. The team pays the salaries of the coaching staff and trainer. In the past, once the D-League season ends, the Armor coach and assistant coach will join the Nets.
On Friday, after falling behind by as many as 17 in the first half last Sunday in Erie, the Armor led for all but 1:42 of the first two quarters Friday night. Springfield used a 9-2 run in the first frame to build a seven-point cushion which was maintain through the first 12 minutes as the Armor took a 30-23 lead after one period.
The BayHawks battled back, chipping away at a 10-point deficit set in by the Armor to pull within one several times before entering the locker room down just three at 58-55. Reed led all scorers with 16 points on 8-of-13 shooting at the break, while the Armor hit 50 percent of their shots from beyond the arc, two treys each from Wyatt, Larry Anderson and L.D. Williams.
Erie would continue to claw back in the third, knotting the game at 64, but the Armor responded with a major run. Springfield ended the quarter outscoring the BayHawks 27-11 over the last 9:07 as Wyatt tallied seven points through the final four minutes.
Springfield would push its lead to 18 just 30 seconds into the fourth, but a 13-0 BayHawks run midway through the final frame trimmed the Armor advantage down to just one point at 99-98 with 2:41 left in regulation.
Down the final stretch, Wyatt connected for a pair of clutch jump shots and a pressure-pack free throw with four seconds remaining to help Springfield keeps its lead. Micah Downs’ three-point attempt at the buzzer was off the mark as the Armor held on for the 107-104 victory.
Six BayHawks reached double figure scoring totals led by 22 from Downs, but the former Gonzaga Bulldog missed nine three-pointers as Erie shot a combined 25 percent (6-of-24) from beyond the arc and made just 14 trips to the charity stripe. Lewis Jackson continued his record-setting streak of 13 games with 10 or more assists, logging a double-double with 16 points and 10 dimes in the losing effort.
Springfield will finish off its four-game road swing Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. inside Sanford Pentagon against the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
- Game Info: Armor at BayHawks - D-League
Springfield Armor make it back to back wins at Erie - John Dudley - Springfield Republican