WORCESTER, Mass. — Last year the NEWMAC basketball conference tournament was held at MIT, where The Engineers defeated Springfield College in the conference championship. That win propelled MIT to the NCAA Division III tournament, and eventually the Final Four. Saturday afternoon’s matchup looked all too familiar for both teams, except this time they were playing at WPI’s Harrington Auditorium and the stakes were a trip to the NEWMAC final.
Springfield point guard Sean Martin had a game-high 21 points, including four free throws in the last 32 seconds of regulation that buried the hatchet on the Pride’s 68-60 win over MIT. The win earned the Pride a trip to their second consecutive NEWMAC conference championship.
“They [MIT] beat us up on the boards in the first half,” Martin said. “And coming out of the locker room we were determined to make them beat us a different way. They are big and physical; so we decided if they are going to beat us, it’s going to have to be another way.”
Springfield didn’t take their first lead of the entire game until there were just three minutes left in regulation. A layup by Martin gave them a 58-57 lead and Springfield held onto it with clutch free throw shooting down the stretch.
Springfield’s star guard, Alex Berthiaume also poured in 21 points, tying Martin for the game high, including six of the last 12 points Springfield scored to close the game. Even though Berthiaume didn’t have a great shooting night — he shot just 6-22 from the field — his performance was enough to guarantee his Springfield team at least one more game.
“I knew MIT would be keying on me coming into today’s game,” said Berthiaume. “But regardless of a poor shooting night, I knew I had to score in order for us to win.”
Springfield started slow as MIT jumped on The Pride early with a ten point lead, 14-4. MIT’s senior center, Will Tashman, set the tone early. His 6-foot-8, 230 pound frame posed a problem for Springfield’s big men from the beginning. Grabbing offensive rebounds and finishing deep inside the paint.
Tashman’s presence was known within the opening minutes of the game, scoring six of the Engineer’s first eight points. Tashman posted a double-double in the game scoring 19 points and pulling down 11 rebounds, but his efforts simply weren’t enough.
MIT struggled to take care of the ball, turning it over 14 times againt just six turovers for the Pride. The difference was 11 more field goal attempts for the Pride than MIT. MIT’s Matt Redfield also posted a double-double in the game, scoring 14 points and snatching 11 rebounds, but MIT head coach, Larry Anderson knew his team’s effort wasn’t good enough.
“All the credit goes to Springfield today,” said Coach Anderson. “They made great plays, timely plays. They did a great job of getting into the paint, and making our big guys help, which created opportunity for them. They were clearly the better team today.”
Springfield will now take on tournament host, WPI tomorrow afternoon at 1pm in the NEWMAC conference championship. Although, The Pride’s win over MIT was an emotional one; Springfield head coach Charlie Brock knows that him and his team need to put the win behind them as quickly as possible.
“Have to put this one behind us real quick,” Brock proclaimed. “It’s important we stay together tonight, and refocus for WPI tomorrow.”