Man…It Really Is Over

By Barak Swarttz // March 22, 2018 //

Just like that. Four years. Four LONG years of college basketball. I do not even know where to begin to compress the past four years into a few paragraphs.

The most recent memory I have is my senior day from this past season. A lot of people came to the game, for both teams. It was a high-energy game, which made it that much better for me because I feed off of energy and always have since I picked up a basketball. Dead basketball gyms are the worst environments to play in. Period.

The gym was loud, the fans were involved and the game was chippy. It’s funny actually…my entire life I have never gotten a technical foul. Ever. Not in travel leagues, camps, clinics, when I played in Israel, AAU, high school or college. Never. I always wondered if I was ever going to get one and my last college basketball game would have been an ironic time to.

During the first half, I forced the player I was guarding to travel and the crowd started going nuts. I proceeded to look at him and scream in his face because I was amped up – that’s just how I am; a very, very emotional player.

Right after, the referee sprinted up to me, got close to my face and said, “Don’t do that again, none of that. That’s where things get messy.”

I walked away with a huge grin on my face and thought to myself, “Man…that would have been the perfect time,” but I did want to preserve my clean record at the same time. After that, I was convinced that I was going to go the rest of my life without ever receiving a technical foul…but two weeks later, guess what?

In just my second men’s league game, I got T’d up for saying, “Man I think that was a terrible call,” under my breath; what a warm welcome to the league. Life is funny, man.

Continue reading “Man…It Really Is Over”

Women’s Hoops Grab Win on Senior Night

BY JOHN CATALONI // Feb. 18, 2018 //

The Curry College women’s basketball team capped off their senior night with a 48-39 win over Eastern Nazarene in a low-scoring affair as both teams were jockeying for seeding position.

Curry took control of the game early when they received a huge lift from sophomore guard Samantha Bamford who came off the bench four minutes into the game. She had an instant impact by forcing turnovers and turning up the defensive pressure, adding four rebounds, four assists, and two steals in 29 minutes.

In addition to Bamford, junior guard Emily Irwin scored eight of her team-high 14 points in the first quarter to give the Colonels the 16-11 advantage at the end of the first.

The offense struggled in the second quarter as the team shot 4-of-14 from the field only managing 10 points but luckily their defense tightened up to hold the Lions to just four points, going up 11 at the half.

Adversity struck the Colonels late in the third when junior forward Molly Plunkett went down with an ankle injury that sidelines her for the fourth quarter, forcing reserves to step up.

Eastern Nazarene started the fourth on an 11-0 run, cutting the Colonels’ to just one.  Irwin derailed the run with a three of her own and the Lions wouldn’t score a point for the rest of the game.

For Curry it was a huge moment for both seniors Nicole Rice and Stephanie Rizzo who played their last home game for Curry on Saturday.

“It was a good way to finish my four years here,” said Rizzo who is usually a bench player but drew the start on her senior night.

Bamford, the usual starter, was happy to step into that bench role for her team on Saturday.

“There is no other way I’d want them to go out,” said Bamford. “They work really hard.”

Prior to the game the Colonels held a one game lead over both Eastern Nazarene and Gordon so it was crucial for Curry to secure the win and remain the sixth-seed in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) playoffs.

The Colonels will travel to third-seeded Endicott College on Tuesday for the first round of the tournament.  Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

  • Curry’s defense forced 25 turnovers while scoring 15 points off them en route to their win.
  • Eastern Nazarene’s Shelby Holmes scored a game high 17 points while earning a double-double.
  • The win officially secured the CCC scoring title for Irwin who led the conference with 18.2 points-per-game.

 

Emily Irwin Joins the Rafters as Ninth Woman to Score 1,000 Points

BY STEVEN SOUSA // Feb. 16, 2018 //

Since coming on campus as a freshman, Emily Irwin has been re-writing the Curry College Women’s Basketball record book and has since etched her name in one more spot.

On Jan. 20, 2018, the Billerica native achieved something that only a few other student-athletes have been able to accomplish at Curry, score 1,000 points as a junior.

Almost as impressive as achieving this feat as a junior, this is also the second time Irwin has scored 1,000 points in her illustrious amateur career, surpassing the millennium mark over her four years at Shawsheen Technical High School from 2011-2015.

At this point, it’s hard to believe but Irwin was once deemed just not good enough.

She was cut from her travel team in fifth grade and then was only good enough to make the ‘B’ team in following two years.  It wasn’t until eighth grade when Irwin finally broke through with the best.

How did she fight from being cut to being one of the best in a matter of four years? How did she score 1,000 points in both high school and college?  The answer is the same.

“Constant practice,” Irwin stated simply. “If I ever gave it up for a year or two I wouldn’t be the same.”

In the three years that Colonels’ head coach Fran Elms has coached her, that drive has been what stuck out to him.

“There’s a motor that she has that others don’t have,” said Elms.  “She’s driven to go as hard as she can, as long as she can.”

Elms recalled the first time he saw Irwin play, back in her AAU days.  She sent him an email talking about her interest in the nursing program at Curry, but also in playing basketball. Elms figured he would give her a look but she was playing hurt at the time.

“She looks like a tough kid so maybe we’ll keep an eye on her,” Elms thought post-game.

That statement turned out to only be scratching the surface of her durability as she went on to break her nose and wrist on top of suffering horrible blood blisters on her feet. However, after three years, the only game she has missed was because of a nursing conflict, not due to injury.

What sold the coaching staff on Irwin was when assistant coach, Stacey Cotter, watched her play one of the best AAU squads in the state.  Irwin’s team was outmatched but she put on a show.

There was a particular sequence in transition where Irwin was handling the ball and made a one-handed pass from half court to the baseline that displayed her ability and vision which convinced Cotter that the Colonels needed her.

Ever since then, Irwin and the coaching staff have developed a relationship that seems to bring out the best in each other.

“I drive them nuts, they drive me nuts, but we kind of have an understanding,” Irwin noted. “And they definitely push me as well.”

From day one, Irwin has been in the backcourt for Curry and despite seeing a seven-point increase in points-per-game from her freshman to junior year, Elms said that her role on the team hasn’t changed much.

“She matured with the game, she’s learned more of when to shoot, when not to shoot, not to the best of her ability yet but she’s matured that way,” said Cotter.

Elms echoed her statement, saying that it went from him calling all the plays her freshman year to Irwin calling about 50% of the plays in her junior year.

Irwin has also grown as a leader during her tenure at Curry, achieving captain status in her third year.

“She’s not one to miss, not one to skip, not one to take a play off,” Elms said.  “She might not be as vocal but I think she leads by example and speaks up when she’s supposed to.”

The 5’6” guard has a relentlessness and a fearlessness to her.  In fact, she leads the Commonwealth Coast Conference with 9.5 free-throw attempts per game, almost four full attempts over the next closest.

“She wants to get to the rack and sometimes she doesn’t see the five people in front of her,” Elms said.

“Usually I do after I go to the bench,” responded Irwin.

In addition to her tenacity, she also has a lot of selflessness to her.  She didn’t even know she was approaching the 1,000-point milestone until Elms informed her a few days before the game, and even then she just wanted it to be over.

“I’m kind of happy it’s over in a sense because now I don’t have to worry about it or hear about it,” said Irwin.

However, for a while in that game against the Gordon Fighting Scots, the milestone was in great doubt. After the first half, Irwin recorded 0 points, missing on all seven shots taken.

Things turned around in the third frame as she finished 5-6 from the field, moving to within nine points of the benchmark. With time bleeding out in the final quarter, Irwin inched closer and closer but still hadn’t scored that 1,000 point with under a minute remaining.

She took the ball on the wing and drove to the basket to lay one in with 38 seconds showing although the Colonels still trailed 54-47. Irwin finished with a single-game record of 37 shot attempts and only needed to make 10 of them to enshrine her forever.

“Emily’s not an individual or statistic person, she’s all about the team,” Elms explained. “If its two points or 32 points, it doesn’t matter to her.  All that matters is that she wins that game.”

She now sits at number 18 overall on the all-time scoring list at Curry College and the fifth-highest woman scorer, just 333 points behind Kylie Beltz, who finished her career with 1,465.

With a year of eligibility remaining, surpassing Beltz is certainly within her reach but she’s not concerned with it in the slightest bit.  Her goal for next year is simple.

“Go to the championship and win it, win it all,” said Irwin emphatically.  “I want it.”

Before then, the Colonels end the 2017-2018 regular season tomorrow afternoon when they host Eastern Nazarene for a 1 p.m. tip-off.

Curry currently holds the #6 seed in the playoffs with a 7-10 CCC record while the Lions cling on to the final seed with a 6-11 record in the conference.

Men’s Basketball Falls to Endicott, 72-62

BY JASON POMBO // Jan. 28, 2018 //

The Curry College men’s basketball team fell to the Endicott College on Saturday, 72-62, in a hard-fought battle where free throws proved to be the difference.

The Gulls came out flocking as they raced out to an early 11-2 run. Such an adversity perhaps would have caused previous Colonel teams to give up, this year’s bunch battled back in the first half, entering halftime only down by seven.

As the second half began, both teams went back-and- forth. The Colonels were able to tie the game at 45, with 9:30 remaining in the game. However, Endicott did not go away as they pulled away late to beat Curry with a final score of 72-62.

The game should have been a bit closer with the two teams shooting nearly identically from the field with the Colonels actually shooting 11% better from the arc, and with the Gulls being out-rebounded, 42-41.

But the game was decided at the free throw line.  The Gulls were sent to the line for 31 shots and converted 18 of those.  The Colonels were only able to muster 10 shots from the line and made eight of them.  The 10 point discrepancy in the free throws just so happened to be the amount the Colonels lost by.

Despite the result, Colonels coach Matt LeVangie was pleased with the team’s overall
performance.

“I think we played really… we could have packed it in, but our guys held their own,” said
LeVangie.  “I take a lot of positives away from this game, I think we’re taking giant steps.”

Sophomore guard Jared Thorpe-Johnson led the Colonels with 15 points on 23 minutes.

But despite the Colonels’ defensive efforts, they couldn’t contain sophomore guard Keith Brown, who led the game in scoring with 21 points in 35 minutes while also contributing nine rebounds for the Gulls.

The loss marks their 17th consecutive loss and drops the Colonels to 1-18 on the year.  Next up is a trip to Nichols on Tuesday, Jan. 30.  Curry will have a lot of work to do as they take on the top-ranked Bison who enter Tuesday’s game with a 16-3 record.

Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. in Dudley, Mass.

Men’s Hoops Gearing Up For New Season

BY BRANDON WILFORE // Nov. 16, 2017 //

Curry College men’s basketball is back and looking to build some continuity along with a culture for the 2017-2018 season.

Coming off of a 1-24 campaign in the previous season, the Colonels averaged just under 64 points a game. Which is fine as long as you hold down the fort on the other end of the court.

That wasn’t the case as they allowed 90+ points six times last season, averaging 84.8 points allowed on the season.

Head coach Matt LeVangie took over the team in 2015 and they have been 1-49 since, losing by an average of 41.5 points a game.

The Colonels have also struggled to keep a team in tact.  They have only had a combined six seniors in the past two years and only have two for the 2017-2018 campaign.   In addition, only seven players from last year’s squad will return this season.

But the team hopes that this year they will be able to find some continuity.

Barak Swarttz is a senior from Newton, MA who transferred last season from Elmira College in New York but he was injured and couldn’t play the entire last season.

“I think being in the leadership position as a captain, my leadership has been able to set the tone for the team academically and on the court, which has been lacking in the past in this program.” Swarttz said.

The Colonels are led by Swarttz, co-captain Louis Stein and center John Coleman as their three upperclassmen.

Another year, another young team.

Curry will again try to attack teams with an inexperienced bunch for the second year in a row as five freshman and six sophomores made the roster. All are going to be tasked with playing very important minutes down the stretch.

That sophomore class was dwindled down to six from 10 last season when they were freshman.

“With such a big sophomore class, those guys need to understand the impact they are going to have.” Swarttz mentioned when asked about how important the youth will play if they want to string some wins together this season.

The lack of on-court experience makes it an uphill battle for the Colonels in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC).

But on top of that, they get some added salt poured on the wound with a lack of size.

The Colonels will roll out a fourteen-man roster with only four players 6’4” or above.

Conference rival and perineal powerhouse Nichols will come prepared with eight guys above 6’3”.

Without enough size, Curry will be forced to shoot more from three point range, something sophomore Jared Thorpe-Johnson excelled at last season by shooting 98 times from behind the arc and burying 42% of those shots.

Curry has some good pieces to hopefully improve upon the past two abysmal seasons.

The starting five is looking like it’s going to be Stein at the point, Swarttz at the shooting guard position, Johnson at small forward, Kieran Carroll at power forward and Coleman rounding it out at the center position.

Their first game comes this Saturday Nov. 17, at the UMass Dartmouth Tournament.

Their first opponent will be Castleton University who beat the Colonels by 14 points last season, but will be without their three top contributors from a season ago.