By KEVIN ROSSI
BALTIMORE — That’s it. The season is over just like that. But that’s fine because seasons come and go. But Frantz Massenat‘s marvelous career is over. Same with Chris Fouch‘s career. Dartaye Ruffin won’t don the Blue and Gold ever again either.
Just like that, the winningest trio that Bruiser Flint has ever coached at Drexel is gone without ever having the chance to go dancing. The 90-81 loss to Northeastern in the quarterfinals of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament was the final blow.
Unlike 2012, there is no hope for the Dragons in the hands of the NCAA tournament selection committee. The 16-14 record just won’t cut it. The committee doesn’t care how many injuries the team was forced to absorb over the course of the season; they only see the final numbers, and those numbers simply weren’t enough.
“It’s tough knowing that you don’t get another shot at it. But you’ve gotta go down with yourself as a person, knowing that you went out there and gave it your all and did what you could do to possibly win the game,” Fouch said after the game. “I think we did that for the most part. It’s tough going through that every time we come down here, but you learn things. You learn life lessons, not just basketball, and you’ve just got to take it for what it is.”
It’s tough to say good-bye. Massenat started all 128 of Drexel’s games since arriving on campus in the fall of 2010 and became only the second player in school history with 1,600 points and 500 assists in his career. Fouch battled through knee injuries, shoulder injuries, but he still managed to finish fifth in Drexel history with over 1,700 points. Ruffin quietly put together a career of over 800 points and 800 rebounds, finishing in seventh place on the school’s career rebounding list.
Northeastern was just too tough to handle. The two teams split their season series by a total of seven points, and today’s quarterfinal match-up was shaping up to be another close battle. But it was quite the opposite. After Drexel jumped out to an 11-4 lead in the opening five minutes, it was all Northeastern the rest of the way.
The Huskies have their own seniors fighting to prolong their careers, but they also have Scott Eatherton. Flint and the Dragons tried out all four of their big men on Eatherton, but nobody seemed to have the answer as Eatherton went off for 23 points and 15 rebounds, recording a double-double before the halftime buzzer had even sounded.
What Eatherton was really able to do was help the Huskies to a win on the boards. Eatherton contributed 15 rebounds to the teams total of 42. They outrebounded the Dragons 42-31. Northeastern and Eatherton also killed the Dragons from the free throw line, with the junior forward shooting 8 for 12 and the team shooting 32-44 from the charity stripe. Compared to Drexel’s 14 for 21, the free throw line played a deciding factor in the game.
“We kept fouling him. He got fouled,” Flint said of Eatherton and Northeastern. “In the first half I thought we ran at him when we weren’t supposed to. One of the things the guy did, same as the last game, the guy shot a lot of foul shots.”
Northeastern kept building their lead, capitalizing on a run where they held Drexel without a point for over seven minutes as well as a 27-6 run. Their lead ballooned to as many as 17 points early in the second half after Northeastern held a 35-21 lead at halftime.
“We dug ourselves a hole we never got out of. That’s the bottom line,” Flint said. “We played unbelievably tentative to start the game and those guys didn’t. We fought back a little bit in the second half but we just couldn’t get ourselves back.”
The Dragons kept fighting, though. They had a big deficit to chop down, and it was going to take a valiant effort. Drexel got that valiant effort from Fouch, who scored 26 of his game and Drexel CAA tournament-high 30 points in the second half. But at the same time, Massenat’s game went flat in the final half, leaving an even larger mountain to climb.
An era has come to an end, but it’s not all tears and curse words from here. No. Freshman Rodney Williams continued to show his growth and development, scoring 11 points and grabbing seven rebounds in a performance that included an electric sky-scraping one-handed throw down.
When Fouch fouled out with 44 seconds to go and 30 points to his name, he knew he had done all he could. He was overcome with emotion, his family looking on. But looking up at the scoreboard as the time struck zeroes, it read that Northeastern had won 90-81. For Drexel, the 2013-14 season had come to a close. At the same time, it was the last time Massenat and Fouch and Ruffin would ever suit up for the Dragons. And it was over just like that.
-Kevin Rossi covers Drexel basketball for Philahoops. Reach him by email at [email protected] and on Twitter @kevin_rossi. Leave your comments and references to The Wire below.