Basketball caps season with 51-point laugher
By Harold A. Stern
The crowd tensed as the clock ticked off the final minute of play. A Stan Wojnowski '91 jump-shot appeared to end it, but Emerson College came right back with a basket. With just a few seconds left, Emerson added another score to apparently put it out of reach. But Brian Lawrence '91 pulled up and nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to seal the 50-point margin of victory for MIT, as they annhilated the Lions, 112-61.
The game, obviously, wasn't much of a competition, and when it became apparent by halftime that MIT would pass the century mark for the game (they had 69 at the half), the only remaining contest was whether MIT's bench could outperform Emerson's and extend the lead to 50 (it was 43 points at the break). The Engineers, both taller and faster than the Lions, dominated every aspect of the game over their opponents from downtown Boston.
After Dave DellaGrotte '90 opened up the scoring with a follow-up jumper, the Engineers turned on a full-court press which would frustrate Emerson for most of the half. When T. J. Mahar broke the press for the Lions to tie the score at 2-2, it was the closest it ever got to a contest.
Then the Jay Fraser show started. The senior guard scored nine points, leading the Engineers on a 13-0 run. Defense and rebounding were the keys, as MIT hustled more on both sides of the court. If the Lions were able to get through the press, they'd get stuffed inside by the taller Engineer frontcourt. MIT's starting front court -- the three seniors, center Sean Casey and forwards Mike Casagrande and Doug Cornwall -- plugged up the middle, rejecting the 5'-8" Richard Cresta every time he made the mistake of trying to penetrate. While Emerson could only get one shot at the hoop, MIT grabbed as many as four or five offensive rebounds on a single drive before eventually finding the hole.
And the Engineers didn't rely solely upon their obvious physical advantages. Offensively, they never got cocky, passing the ball around patiently until it found an open man. Down in Emerson's end, the Engineers' hustle led to numerous fast break opportunities.
During one brief stretch late in the half following a DellaGrotte basket, guard Chris Sonne '91 stole the ball back and fed DellaGrotte for a layup. Then DellaGrotte stole it again, missed a layup, got his own rebound and scored. Finally, Sonne took it back from Emerson, missed a three-point attempt, and forward Mike Casagrande '89 grabbed the rebound and sank both free throws after getting fouled.
When Fraser hit a 15-foot jumper with 2:54 remaining, Coach Leo Osgood sat him down to a standing ovation from the crowd; Fraser had become only the 12th Engineer to score over 1000 points in his career. For the 17 minutes he was in the game, Fraser -- who had scored exactly half of his team's 54 points -- outscored the entire Emerson team, which had only 24.
He only made a very brief appearance in the second half, opening up the scoring in the period -- fittingly, on a layup off of a Casagrande steal -- before sitting down for the rest of the game with 29 points.
Osgood put the team's second squad into the game early in the period, giving the reserves a chance to play in the team's final game of the season. Facing the Lions' first unit, they held their own, and in the end managed to extend the Engineer margin.
The play on both sides of the court grew sloppy, as the Emerson frustration manifested itself in fouls and turnovers. No one -- not the Engineers, not the Lions, and certainly not the crowd -- seemed to care very much about the last 20 minutes. There was, however, one brief five-minute stretch when -- if you could ignore the 75-26 score on the board -- the Lions actually appeared to take control of the game. Emerson hit four three-pointers in a row to go on a 12-0 run, led by Mike Isenberg -- their center, who connected on three long jumpers -- to cut the lead to 37.
A Wojnowski jumper with 3:25 remaining pushed MIT over the 100-point mark, while Emerson had 56. Wojnowski tried to oblige the remaining fans who clamored for a 50-point win, hitting two more baskets to make the score 106-56 with under two minutes remaining. But the Lions clawed desperately, coming back with a basket. Doug Jeffrey '92 countered, making it 108-58. Free throws were exchanged, as both teams sank one of two to get to 109-59. When Emerson sank a basket with only a few seconds remaining, it looked bleak for MIT, until Lawrence's three just beat the buzzer.
The Engineers set a number of milestones in the game, a fitting finale to their best season in over 20 years. The 112 points was the most points ever for the Engineers in the team's 82-year history. Fraser's performance pushed him over the 1000-point mark for his career, as he ended up 11th on MIT's all-time scoring list with 1005. He was named to the Eastern College Athletic Conference weekly honor roll for his effort.
The team's 14-8 record was last bettered during the 1967-68 season, when the Engineers were 16-9. The most victories ever in a season for the team is 17, set in the 1961-62 season. That team finished the season with the best winning percentage in the history of the program (17-4, .810). The team is nationally ranked in several categories including rebound margin (fifth) and scoring defense (13th) among NCAA Division III schools.
In women's basketball action, at the New England Women's Eight Conference Tournament, coach Corinne Gulas was named conference coach of the year. Center Maureen Fahey '90, who finished the season as the NEW 8's leading scorer (averaging 22.1 points per game) and the second-leading rebounder (13.4 per game), received a spot on the conference all-star team. She was named to the Eastern College Athletic Conference weekly honor roll three times, most recently for the week of Feb. 18.